How golf architect restored some L.A. Country Club history

The biggest star of the 2023 U.S. Open isn’t Scottie Scheffler or Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka, it’s the Los Angeles Country Club, playing host to its first major championship and opening its doors to the golf world.

Architect Gil Hanse has a special affinity for the place, having brought it much closer to the original design of George C. Thomas in a 2009-10 restoration.

“Architecturally, there’s very little we can do to challenge these players with distance and the physical part of the game,” said Hanse, surveying the course from the clubhouse deck. “But George Thomas was a genius at challenging the mental part of the game. I think the players are really finding that out.”

Hanse worked with architectural partner Jim Wagner, and they brought on Geoff Shackelford — author of Thomas’ biography, “The Captain” — to provide historical background on the design concepts.

A major part of the restoration was returning holes 2, 6 and 8 to their original layout, removing several non-indigenous trees to create a more wide-open layout and reshaping the bunkers to emulate the look of natural erosion.

This week, Hanse has been all over the course, speaking with club members each morning, observing the setup team cutting the holes, and listening to the observations of players, many of whom are seeing it for the first time.

“Because Jim Wagner and I spend a lot of time on our projects, we definitely become attached to them,” said Hanse, whose other restorations include U.S. Open courses Merion and Winged Foot. “There’s not a sense of ownership, but there’s definitely a sense of pride and stewardship as it relates to the work that we do.

“Because we were so actively involved, it’s probably a little more personal than maybe some others.”