Farewell, My Lovely: Will the 2023 U.S. Open Be SoCal’s Curtain Call?
Hooray for Hollywood, as the song goes, and the U.S. Open in its infrequent visits to Southern California precincts accordingly delivered. Its leading men were Ben Hogan in ’48 at Riviera CC and Tiger Woods in ’08 and Jon Rahm in ’21 on the South Course at Torrey Pines.
But hold the applause.
A region once regarded as the entertainment capital of the world has one more U.S. Open curtain call, and it might conceivably be its last. The 2023 Open will be played on the North Course at The Los Angeles CC, after which…roll the credits?
Southern California is a golf mecca of sorts, given its weather — suitable for golf year-round — and a surfeit of quality courses, a small handful of them worthy of hosting U.S. Opens, Riviera CC and The LACC the two most prominent.
Yet the region seems likely to get squeezed out in the wake of recent USGA news that it will now have U.S. Open anchor courses – Pinehurst and Oakmont already have been identified as such, with Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills likely to make it a foursome. Meanwhile, it has hinted that its appetite for taking its showcase event to true municipal courses has diminished based on feedback from players who have expressed a preference for iconic venues.
“The ghosts of the past matter,” John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director, championships, told Golf Digest.
The Los Angeles CC and Riviera qualify as iconic, but they come with caveats. It seems likely that the 2023 Open will be a one-and-done for The LACC, which assiduously guards its privacy, to the extent that it has no signage at the gate-guarded entrance to the club. Its members have shown a legendary aversion to inviting the outside world into its inner sanctum. Once they witness a U.S. Open invasion, they may collectively recoil to the idea of a return visit.
Riviera, meanwhile, is an exceptional course, but its location one block off Sunset Blvd. lacks the infrastructure space required to host a U.S. Open in the 21st century.
That leaves the South Course at Torrey Pines. Indisputably, the two U.S. Opens played there have been artistic successes – great drama, a postcard Pacific Ocean backdrop and worthy champions.
But here’s the rub, according to former USGA Executive Director David Fay: It is easier to work with private entities than with municipalities and their bureaucracies.
“You could be working with a set of officials who weren’t in place when the original negotiations happened,” he told Golf Digest’s Joel Beall. “You could have people just trying to make your life difficult. You have to hold your breath.”