When you think of private Los Angeles golf what comes to mind? For most people it starts with Riviera and ends with Los Angeles Country Club. The one man who links those two courses together is George C. Thomas who also designed another tremendous Los Angeles course, Bel-Air Country Club.
The first hole of Bel-Air is very much in that Riviera vein with an elevated tee shot par 5 which then cross a stream to a great green with an amazing bunker complex.
To me, what really sets Bel-Air apart are the bunkers that guard the holes and make for devilish outs on the fairways.
They seem to be almost like rolling waves on the ocean and god help you if you get in one. On one hole our caddy suggest I get out of the trap with a wedge. Like a fool, I didn't listen to him and tried for a 7 iron only to bury it in the lip and then chagrined, got my wedge out.
Speaking of caddies, it was the first time I played with one. I was very lucky in that my caddy was full of history and very laid back so I didn't feel any pressure about playing with him or anything. I chose the clubs, he read the putts and so we went around.
The course was built in 1925 and it does have that classic MacKenzie, Ross feel to it and the members like the overall shape as the tee markers are basically welded into the ground (No 4 will always be 448 I think!).
Like Riviera (and like LACC from what I hear), there are a lot of elevation changes on the front side from par 3's
To par 5's
Above are pictures of one of my favorite holes, a long par 5 and infamous for Howard Hughes landing his plane to court Katherin Hepburn. Once you crest the hill, its a long downhill to a narrow throated green. Making par here was one of the highlights of my day.
The course really turns it on on the back side, first up, the most famous hole on the course, the par 3 10th across the gorge and taking the swinging bridge over.
The rest of the backside has what I can only describe as an Augusta-lite feel to it. Fascinating tee shots
Picturesque approach shots
and all leading up to 17,my favorite hole on the course.
A long par 4 with Augusta-like fairway slope, a large bunker guarding long and left shots and then a still a wood in to a green with an almost cliff on the right right hand side (the red stakes for out of bounds is so close to the right side of the fairway its basically left or death. If I could play one hole over and over again at Bel-Air it would definitely be 17.
18 ends the round with a longish par 4 underneath the swinging bridge with a very difficult second shot. The course is undergoing significant renovation which you can see in multiple places and the greens, while rolling true, will also need that renovation TLC at some point. However, BACC is a top quality track and while not mentioned in the same breath as Riv and LACC, deserves to be and if you are every lucky enough to be invited to play, you should definitely jump at the chance.
For more info about BACC, check it out here: https://www.bel-aircc.org/