LACC gets a chance to show off its Major credentials

Los Angeles Country Club, 2023 U.S. Open host site,Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Country Club, 2023 U.S. Open host site,Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) is being given a rare opportunity next week, a chance to showcase itself as a fresh U.S. Open site.

The United States Golf Association, which runs the national championship, ran against its own profile in siting the tournament at Los Angeles Country Club. In the past half century – that’s since 1973 – LACC is only the eighth course to host a U.S. Open for the first time.

In that same period, it’s only the sixth to host an Open as its debut major championship.

If history is any indicator, it’s also a make-or-break opportunity for LACC to establish itself as a credible Major championship site. Of the seven courses that have hosted a U.S. Open for the first time since 1973, four have become staples on the Major circuit. But the other three appear to have disappeared from the Major radar screen.

LACC has several things going for it that tend to appeal to the USGA.

First and most obviously, it is situated near a major population center. The USGA loves that; since 2000 it has taken its flagship championship to New York, California, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., or Boston 15 times in 23 opportunities.

It very much helps that LACC is near a coastline. The USGA loves to put the Open near an ocean; it’s done so 13 times since 2000.

Still, if LACC’s goal is to make its relationship with the Major rota more than a one-night stand, it will need to make a very positive impression. History suggests that the USGA can be an unforgiving suitor.

In 1976 the championship landed at Atlanta Athletic Club. The experience was not universally lauded, and the Open has not been back since…not to AAC and not even to Atlanta in general.

Chambers Bay outside Seattle (2015) and Erin Hills in Wisconsin (2017) both got their Opens, and have since fallen into the category of ‘one and done.’ It may seem hard to say that about sites that debuted less than a decade ago. But keep in mind that U.S. Opens sites have been determined through 2027 and for all but 10 years through 2050. As of today, neither Chambers nor Erin are scheduled to get a second chance.

It’s also possible for the USGA to fall in love with a new venue, and when it does it falls hard. That happened at Bethpage Black in 2002, which subsequently hosted the 2009 Open.

And it very decidedly happened with Pinehurst, which debuted as an Open site in 1999. The USGA returned in 2005, again in 2014, and will make a fourth visit in 2024. Pinehurst has already been locked into the Open rota for 2029, 2035, 2041, and 2047.

Torrey Pines got its first Open in 2008, and did well enough to earn a return visit in 2021.

Finally, there’s the matter of Shinnecock Hills, which as a practical matter hosted its first U.S. Open in 1986. That’s not technically true; the Shinnecock club actually hosted a U.S. Open played in 1896.

But that was at a different course in a different location. On its current course, Shinnecock earned repeat visits in 1995 and 2004, and is on the USGA calendar again in 2026.

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As the open comes to LACC, then, the question is whether the course will prove as attractive as Shinnecock, Pinehurst, Bethpage, or Torrey Pines.

The other option is to be cast aside as Atlanta Athletic Club, Erin Hills, and Chambers Bay all appear to have been.