L.A. North's 11th & 12th
The Quad's tour of George Thomas and Billy Bell's design work continues with a famous long par 3 and blind par 4 expected to play key roles at the U.S. Open. Plus, a Memorial Day weekend wrap.
Greetings on this weekend when Americans remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Among the class of patriots to survive the ravages of World War I was Captain George Thomas of United States Army Air Squadron 96, architect of the 2023 U.S. Open course.
In this Quad we’ll continue the ongoing deep dive into Thomas’ post-WWI golf course design work soon to be on display next month at the 123rd U.S. Open. But first, a quick recap of the weekend golf as we track player form heading into the big event June 12-18:
Emiliano Grillo took the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in a playoff over Adam Schenk. Scottie Scheffler and Harry Hall finished a stroke out of the playoff.
Pablo Larrazábal birdied the final two holes to win the KLM Open by two over Adrian Otaegui. The win is Larrazábal’s second in his last three starts.
Rasmus Højgaard and Deon Germishuys shared third place.
Harold Varner captured the LIV event at Trump National. A shot back was Branden Grace. Mito Perreira finished two back.
Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand beat Ayaka Furue 3 & 1 to win the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play at Shadow Creek.
Steve Stricker took home the Kitchenmaid PGA Senior Championship after winning a playoff over Padraig Harrington in the inaugural event at Frisco’s Fields Ranch East.
Kensei Hirata, Keita Nakajima, Takumi Kanaya and Kazuki Yasumori qualified for The Open at Royal Liverpool through the Mizuno Open. Hirata won a three-hole sudden death play-off against Nakajima.
Matteo Manassero claimed the European Challenge Tour event at the Copenhagen Challenge presented by Ejner Hessel. The win came a decade to the week the next Seve captured the BMW at Wentworth.
Our journey around the 2023 U.S. Open course continues with the most audacious creation yet—at least in the Constructed From Nothing division—followed by what may be an unpopular hole despite having one of California’s most artfully sculpted greens.
Los Angeles Country Club’s eleventh has long been the most photographed on an otherwise lightly captured course. The par 3 with the city as a backdrop is followed by the least seen hole of the North Course. This odd-couple of right-in-front-of-you-grandeur and annoying deception represents a vital cog in the North’s 1927-28 reformulation by architects George Thomas and Billy Bell. But enough with the teases.
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Also, since it’s been a few weeks so here’s a little sense of place reminder given that so few people have seen the venue. The North Course overhead with the 11th and 12th sitting in the center:
The 1921 version of L.A. North started its back nine journey over the same footprint of today’s 10th, then continued due north over ground that is now a maintenance road bisecting a wild intersection featuring the 11th tee complex, 15th green, 16th tee, and today’s 12th green.
The old 11th hole was a heavily-bunkered but rudimentary hole that played slightly uphill to a natural land peninsula about 120 yards off of today’s 13th tee. But this meant the sequencing prior to the 1927-28 renovation passed by a giant area of acreage left abandoned by Fowler and which became the famous 11th:
Armed in 1927 with the cutting edge road scrapers that were used to great success in making Riviera, Thomas and Bell manufactured today’s famous par 3 and followed it with a blind shot par 4 to an imaginative green made out of dead flat ground.
The photogenic 11th green is an entirely artificial creation. Keep that in mind when you see it on television or in person this year.
Some combination of carving, cutting, lifting and filling was undertaken to place the putting surface at a high-enough level to receive the shot envisioned. The chosen spot in the center of the valley was far enough from the 12th and 16th fairways to be safe. But to be attractive and functional a lot of dirt was moved. And in case you Gram-types were wondering if the location was selected based on visuals, the downtown L.A. skyline was not there in Thomas’ day. However the tee location undoubtedly provided a glimpse of the nearly-complete L.A. City Hall in downtown and certainly offered views of the new Beverly Hills Hotel to the northeast and the often snow-packed San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
To this day I marvel at the effort needed to create the 11th green. As with all things Billy Bell pulled off in his construction and engineering work with Thomas, the 11th’s green site looks both barely elevated and “found” when standing on the tee. Only when glimpsing it from other angles is there any hint of manufacturing.
Here is the view if you turn around from the 16th fairway revealing how much earth was moved:
Alright, on to one of the more incredible par 3’s in golf!
U.S. Open Yardage: 290 yards
Elevation Change: -56 feet from back tee to the green front edge.