When people talk about playing golf in L.A. it is always the posh private places like Riviera and L.A. Country Club that get mentioned. But right in the center of town, just off West Pico Blvd above Santa Monica is one gem of a municipal course called Rancho Park.
The fountains are period pieces…reminder of a less posh time in L.A.
The current course at Rancho Park was designed by William “Billy” Bell in 1949 on the site of an old Herbert Fowler design that preceded it. The course was the home of the L.A. Open back in the 1960’s and has the distinction of being the first place Jack Nicklaus won a check as a professional….around $33 and change.
It also has the infamous distinction-memorialized by a meditation bench and a plaque behind the 18th tee-where Arnold Palmer made 12 of the finishing Par 5 in the L.A. Open after splitting the fairway with his tee ball and then hitting four balls O.B.
The meditation bench behind 18..chill while waiting for the driving area to clear
Original plaque details Arnie’s 12 in the final round of the 1963 Los Angeles Open-two into the range and two on to Patricia Ave.
The updated bronze memorial put up in 2017 after Arnie’s passing
PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Senior Tour events have all been held on this track. The list of winners in the L.A. Open at Rancho Park during the period from 1956 to 1972 is a who’s who of great players from the era. They include Lloyd Mangrum, Doug Ford, Frank Stranahan (amateur), Ken Venturi, Arnold Palmer (3 times), Bob Goalby, Dow Finsterwald, Charlie Sifford, and Billy Casper.
Wall of Winners in the hallway to the Rancho Park Restaurant
In spite of it’s municipal conditioning-it’s location means it gets over 100,000 rounds a year-this course has the bones of a championship layout. The back nine in particular has some incredibly cool holes that will challenge you skill set.
Three putting greens out front…you can lose serious change to a hustling local
This was recommended to me by a number of guys who have played the best L.A. has to offer as a place well worth spending an afternoon of adventurous golf. They were not wrong….it is worth letting your hair down, renting a hand cart, and walking this most enjoyable track in the middle of Los Angeles.