Inside the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club: Celebrities, Sustainability and Progress – Hollywood Reporter

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After several decades of a checkered history with Hollywood, the gilded greens of the exclusive Beverly Hills golf course are welcoming the best in the sport, and the rest of Los Angeles, within its gates this weekend.
By Evan Nicole Brown
Culture Writer
For the first time in 75 years, one of golf‘s four major tournaments has returned to the city of Los Angeles.
The United States Open championship, now in its 123rd year, is taking place on the Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course for the very first time (also making it the first time a major championship has been held at the club in general). This lack of major championship presence at the 126-year-old course – some 325 acres in the middle of Beverly Hills — is largely by design; infamous for its discriminatory exclusivity (the club had no Jewish members until 1977, and the first Black member was admitted in 1991), the club has opened its gates to the public to host the Los Angeles Open four times (most recently in 1940) and the 2017 Walker Cup.

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“We are enormously honored and excited to bring golf’s national championship to the best sports city in the world, and to do so in a way that the impact on L.A. will last far beyond this Sunday,” Gene Sykes, president, The Los Angeles Country Club, said in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter.
This year’s U.S. Open comes during a notable run of major sporting events in Los Angeles: last year’s Super Bowl, and the forthcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics (where golf will be played at the Riviera Country Club). And thanks to the cultural cache of state-of-the-art sports venues with luxury suites like SoFi Stadium and Arena, the ‘Hollywoodification’ of sports, which have long been billed as entertainment, is being further established in the entertainment capital of the world.
“LA is an incredible sports town and it’s an incredible community. … In the U.S., we love to bring our championships to the best venues where we have the best fans, and as you can see around here, this is a very large population that loves its sports and we wanted to bring the U.S. Open to the West Coast,” Janeen Driscoll, director of brand communications for USGA, told THR Friday afternoon. “West Coast championships and U.S. Opens are always extremely successful.”
The Los Angeles Country Club, in its current location just next to the Beverly Hilton, opened in 1911, and was redesigned on that occasion by noted golf course architect George C. Thomas, Jr., who is also known for Bel-Air Country Club, Riviera Country Club and Griffith Park golf courses, among others. In 2010, LACC’s 18-hole North Course was restored by golf course designer Gil Hanse and Thomas biographer Geoff Shackelford in an effort to return it to Thomas’ 1921 vision.

“Our champions and all of our players have told us that where they win their U.S. Open really matters, and Los Angeles Country Club has long been a place that our leaders have wanted to bring this national championship because of the quality of golf that it offers and the tests that it provides to the best golfers in the world,” Driscoll says.
The late Sandy Tatum, an NCAA golf champion and former USGA president, advocated (unsuccessfully, at the time) for the U.S. Open to come to the club’s North Course in the 1980s to this end. “I find it so regrettable,” Tatum said. “Just once I would have liked to have had the Open experience that course. It was an absolute marvelous test of golf.”
Though LACC has historically denied entertainment A-listers membership (Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, Victor Mature and Hugh Hefner — whose Playboy Mansion juts up against the 13th green — among them), this weekend’s tournament represents a marked shift in the openness of the club’s gates to the L.A. public and Hollywood.
“There’s a rich history that is more than 100 years old of people that have been in the entertainment industry who have played golf recreationally, and have played it in movies,” Driscoll says. A curated USGA experience within fan central at the U.S. Open features an excerpt from the organization’s golf museum, focused on the Venn diagram of celebrities and golf. “You’ll see in the display Katherine Hepburn and Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and then moving forward you have Justin Timberlake and Macklemore … just a variety of people that really love this game.”

The weekend has already seen a concentration of athletic star power, outside of the elite golf players battling for the trophy through Sunday. On opening day, former NFL running back Reggie Bush and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw were in attendance, and day two welcomed former LA Clipper Blake Griffin and former NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Driscoll says part of the USGA’s mission is to encourage more people to play golf, beyond the focus on competitive, professional tournaments. “If we can use the power of these celebrities and how much they love the game to inspire other people to play, especially in L.A. where you have … more than 20 municipal golf courses that are open to the public, then that is a great thing for golf.” (NBC Sports, the USGA’s broadcast partner, filmed a comedic promotional commercial ahead of the tournament at LACC starring Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.)
Another pertinent priority for the USGA, particularly in Southern California’s drought-impacted environment, is sustainability. (Fortunately, the LACC’s grounds are not entirely verdant.)
“We have been working with golf courses all across America but particularly in the west and the southwest,” Driscoll says, adding, “The U.S. Open for the USGA is a 501c3, it’s our biggest fundraiser. … [Our work] is centered on making the game more affordable, more accessible and certainly making it more sustainable.”
USGA’s Green Section, a separate division focused on sustainability helmed by leading agronomists and turfgrass experts, has long been focused on spreading awareness about sustainable practices on golf courses, with the help of regional golf associations, golf course owners and architects, water agencies and the players themselves. The division, which has just gotten a multi-year, $30 million commitment from the USGA, has researched and developed “drought resistant grasses” designed to retain their green color in the winter and by using approximately 20 percent less water than more common grass varieties, along with turf grasses that aren’t heavily water dependent.

“We’ve also talked about best practices on golf courses: watering in the middle of the fairways instead of watering wall-to-wall carpet [style], just to be able to be really efficient in our water use, and focus on the areas where golfers are most often,” Driscoll says.
These progressive sustainability practices have already contributed to a 29 percent reduction in the sport’s water usage from 2005-2020, according to research published by the Golf Course Environmental Profile in 2022.
“Brown patches … actually create a better experience for golfers, because it creates what we call ‘firm-and-fast conditions.’ Balls roll more, and that’s more enjoyable for a lot of golfers!” Driscoll says. “But the perception that the golf course is brown makes people think that it’s worse than. We need to change that perception. Just because it’s not green doesn’t mean that it’s not great to play on … [and] golfers can help us by saying, ‘It’s OK to play on these [turf grass] courses.’”
In 2023, the browning of country clubs — both the courses and membership demographics — is ultimately better for the game and the culture surrounding it. And this won’t be the last time Angelenos are welcome into the Los Angeles Country Club: it has already committed to hosting the U.S. Women’s Open in 2032, and hosting the men’s U.S. Open again in 2039.
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