Top options for public golf in and around Los Angeles | California Golf

L.A. story: Where to play golf if you're in the city of Angels

Everybody knows about Bel-Air Country Club, Los Angeles Country Club or Riviera. All are great places to play if you're in Los Angeles. Trouble is that most of us can't get on at these clubs unless we know a politician, an actor or a socialite. They're all very, very private.

So if you're visiting downtown L.A. either on business or pleasure, where do you play daily-fee or public golf? The truth is most of the stuff within fairly easy driving distance of downtown -- and L.A. traffic is legendary -- is private. But there are a few public options, including munis and daily fees, for those who are checking out the Lakers at the Staples Center or the clubs downtown. Here are several options, most of them quite affordable.

Municipal golf in L.A.

There are seven 18-hole golf courses and seven par-3 or nine-hole courses run by the city of Los Angeles. Eight of them are in the city of Los Angeles, including four at the famous Griffith Park, which has been the perennial home of the L.A. City Amateur.

The longest course at Griffith Park is the Wilson Course at 6,954 yards, but you shouldn't overlook the other 18-hole course there, Harding, which is now almost 6,700 yards in length. As one employee said, "It all depends on who you ask" as to which one is really better. Both can be somewhat tight and certainly challenging.

The Wilson Course, named after President Woodrow Wilson, has small greens. Designed by Tom Bendelow, this 1927 gem has plenty of water hazards and bunkers, too. The Harding Course was originally called Riverside Course and was renamed in 1924, a year after it opened, to honor U.S. President Warren G. Harding.

There are also two short courses at Griffith Park -- Los Feliz Par 3 and the Roosevelt Municipal executive course. The location is ideal for families since the Los Angeles Zoo, Planetarium Observatory and the Gene Autry Western Museum are also in Griffith Park. But make your plans to play in advance; the courses tend to be very busy and rounds can run a little long.

As for other 18-hole munis in the area, you might want to consider Woodley Lakes in Van Nuys or Balboa and Encino golf courses in Encino. All three are championship length and provide good tests at affordable rates.

Daily-fee options around the city

Of course, if you'd like a little less crowded option, you can expect to pay a little more. One good option is Rustic Canyon Golf Course, located in Moorpark northwest of L.A. Designed by Gil Hanse -- architect of the new Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro -- Rustic Canyon is a links-style course that plays more than 7,000 yards from the tips. As you might expect, wind is almost always a factor.

About the same direction, Los Robles Greens Golf Course in Thousand Oaks is also a terrific play. Built on the same terrain as the more famous Sherman Oaks Country Club, the course features plenty of rolling terrain, eucalyptus trees, streams and quick, excellent greens. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is the service and the prices, which are among the best in the area.

The only Jack Nicklaus Design golf course in Los Angeles County is Angeles National Golf Club, located at the base of the Los Angeles National Forest, less than 30 minutes north of downtown L.A. in Sunland. It's got all the stuff you would expect from a top-notch daily fee -- four sets of tees, great conditions and big, impressive Spanish style clubhouse. This desert style layout plays almost 7,200 yards from the tips around two lakes and a creek with 54 bunkers.

If you make your way to Burbank, home of several TV and movie companies, and you might want to check DeBell Golf Club, which has two pretty well maintained golf courses, including a 5,633-yard par-71 William Bell design that opened in 1959.

DeBell's par-3 course is perfect for beginners, and both are inexpensive to play, perhaps one of the better bargains in the Los Angeles area. In addition, the club got a new award-winning clubhouse in 2009.

A few more L.A. area options

Head west to Malibu and you can check out Malibu Golf Club, which up until a little more than two years ago was not open to the public.

"It's really a hidden gem in the hills," said pro shop manager Cole Pensanti. "A lot of people don't know about us or think we're still private."

This 6,614-yard Bell design is situated in valley just a couple of mile from the exclusive Malibu Beach coastline (setting for the TV comedy "Two and a Half Men"). The greens, which are well maintained, have plenty of undulation, and there are great views throughout.

And finally, if you're looking for a couple of cool par-3 courses, head to El Segundo or Pasadena. The city-owned nine-hole Lakes at El Segundo opened in 1994 and has been well received over the past two decades, although there has been talks with TopGolf to come in and take over the operation. Meanwhile, Arroyo Seco Golf Course in Pasadena, designed by William H. Johnson and opened in 1955, works its way around a flowing creek and small lake. There are plenty of magnolia, sycamores and palm trees, and if you're lucky, you might even spy a wild parrot or two that make their home in the area.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Hello Mike,
First off, thank you for taking the time to help out all of us that are not club members. My daughter and I would like to surprise my husband with a golf trip near, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills. We would like to go in June. I am told that he is considered to be a pretty good player. Unfortunately/fortunately we are self employed, (restaurant) and he works seven days. We would like to take him to something REALLY special. Grounds, Club house etc.etc. BY the way, my daughter and I won't be planing. What would you suggest. We would like it to be something really MEMORABLE and SPECIAL! Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Isabella & Marty

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I would like to suggest another Executive course, Heroes Golf Course.  It is in the West Los Angeles VA property, and it is open to the public.  It was built by the folks at Hillside Country Club for veterans in 1946, and has been recently refurbished.  Entrance is off Wilshire by the 405 fwy, follow the signs to the north end of the property.  A hidden gem and very affordable.

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L.A. story: Where to play golf if you're in the city of Angels