Best Ball Bar & Grill: Woodley Lakes GC Gets a Big Culinary Upgrade
The new Best Ball Bar & Grill at Woodley Lakes GC in Van Nuys opened just in the nick of time. Mild-mannered golf starters like Caleb Kelly had been fielding the same question from weary golfers every two minutes for over a year: “Do you guys sell water? Can I buy something to eat? A bag of chips, peanuts … anything?”
Kelly always smiled sympathetically and informed the poor hackers exactly how many drinking fountains were on the course. Or that the food truck would be around tomorrow, but sorry, nothing today. Your humble reporter even thought of hawking Gatorade and Funyuns out of the old Volvo in the parking lot. But for the LAPD cruising through every few hours, I’d have built a black market snack empire to rival El Chapo.
Luckily, hospitality veterans Gregory Plummer and Ryan Woolley put an end to the problem by opening a truly eye-popping venue this fall: a combo sports bar/restaurant with flatscreens everywhere, kitschy sports memorabilia on the walls and shaggy Astroturf carpeting that clicks in around two on the Stimpmeter. I’d suggest a pitching wedge and a cold lager.
Best Ball is the latest in a series of impressive lifestyle upgrades that L.A. City Golf has offered its plastic-cleated clientele. Griffith Park and Penmar have undergone the same kind of rugs-to-rafters renovation, drawing golfers and nearby locals alike, especially at the latter course, where Venice Beach hipsters and moms with strollers sit beside Titleist-capped golf regulars on a balmy evening. Turns out we can all get along.
Woolley and Plummer have a similar vision for Best Ball, a place where disinhibited sports nuts (thank you, Budweiser!) can sit shoulder to shoulder with bet-settling hackers poring over smudgy scorecards. A recent Sunday afternoon found the joint wall to wall with hulky dudes in replica jerseys (and a preponderance of S.F. 49ers fans, go figure), as well as youngsters playing table shuffleboard and impassive bar veterans drinking craft cocktails and staring into the middle distance.
A recent convert to golf — since the pandemic, natch — Woolley “always figured there was a tremendous crossover between people who play golf and also love watching sports, all while hanging out in a casual environment. Selfishly, I just thought that was the kind of post-golf spot I’d like to go to myself. Then, when we saw the space the city was offering, Woodley made all the sense in the world to me as the place to make it all happen.”
The space, by the way, is enormous! The main room could double as a high-ceilinged basketball gym, and the narrower, adjacent bar area affords panoramic views of the 18th green and Woodley’s generous practice area. Honking geese saunter by listlessly, beer-seeking human missiles zoom in as they make the turn and a spacious outdoor terrace accommodates live music and al fresco dining.
Speaking of comestibles, the two partners have three decades of experience in the restaurant game and had a clear idea of what golfers need and want. “Convenience and speed are paramount,” Woolley said, “so grab-and-go hot dogs and breakfast burritos are very popular, but if you have the time to sit and relax, we do chicken wings and French fries, onion rings and sandwiches, with a menu that is always adapting to the day of the week and time of year.”
That means carne asada quesadillas and sliders on football weekends, and golfer-friendly tuna salad and ham & cheese sandos during the week. On a recent evening, I arrived hunter-hungry and with moderate expectations, only to be happily surprised by the high-end sourcing of ingredients and the spot-on preparation. The all-beef hot dog was courtesy of Nathan’s, the crinkle fries hot and crispy and the meaty “lemon pepper wet” wings cooked perfectly. Ryan’s brother Alex prepped the vittles, explaining to me that the wings were an Atlanta craze he’d brought out West. Respect, young son!
Future plans should be no surprise, given Ryan Woolley’s pedigree as a Culinary Institute of America grad. In the best of all possible worlds, he sees legit smoked barbecue and a wood-burning pizza oven on the horizon. “I love seeing people’s reaction when they come here and see that we’re using the best possible ingredients and take a lot of time to actually make their food,” he said proudly. “All that and great local beers like the Mayberry IPA from El Segundo Brewing and a Beachwood Hayabusa lager kind of set us apart from the run-of-the-mill sports bar.”