After returning to Torrey Pines in 2021, the U.S. Open returned to Southern California this year, with the best in the world set to taking on The Los Angeles Country Club. Riveria has been selected as the 2031 host and LACC will once again host in 2039, but with so many amazing courses in this place we call home, it got us thinking: where else in SoCal would we want to see the U.S. Open played?
Now before we jump in, here’s a few caveats for the people who read the title and clicked over ready to tear this list apart. Yes, I’m aware that the U.S. Open is developing a rotation of courses and there are world-class courses around the country, so the it’s unlikely that any of these courses will actually be added. Also, obviously there are plenty of considerations with regards to infrastructure and hospitality when it comes to the host city, but I’m ignoring those for the sake of this list. Maybe a more accurate title would be “5 SoCal Courses That I’d Like To See The Best In The World Play So Us Hackers Can Feel Bad About Our Game”, but that’s a little wordy.
One final caveat to this list that’s based on a personal opinion: the U.S. Open is best when it’s played on a public course. No disrespect to the long list of amazing private tracks in SoCal, including this year’s host, but you won’t see any of them on this list. It’s the most “accessible” major to U.S. amateur golfers, provided you make it through a series of qualifiers, so it makes sense that it should be played on a course accessible to the public.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start listing:
Length: 7259 yards
Course Rating: 75.8
Slope Rating: 134
Why it works: We’ve already seen the Torrey South host, so why not try it out with the North Course? It may not be the beast that is the South Course or even the most difficult course on this list, but we already know it’s capable of hosting PGA events with the Farmers every year, and I’m sure they have the capability of making the conditions as difficult as possible to make the major a test. Plus, if you’re complaining about getting another weekend of drone shots along the coast, maybe check to make sure you still have a pulse.
Why it might not happen: If the U.S. Open is coming back to La Jolla, it’ll be on the South Course. It’s the more challenging track and that’s what the USGA wants, but we can dream right?
Length: 7300 yards
Course Rating: 75.8
Slope Rating: 148
Why it works: Another PGA TOUR veteran as one of the host courses of the annual American Express, the Stadium course is easily one of the toughest courses in SoCal. In fact, when it was initially introduced as one of the courses in the inaugural Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1987, the pros petitioned to have it removed from the rotation because it was too difficult and it was shelved until 2016. Between the 18-foot-deep bunker on 16, an island green on 17 and a water-lined 18th, it would be sure to make for some fascinating, and potentially heart-breaking, finishes.
Why it might not happen: La Quinta in June isn’t exactly ideal weather-wise, but other than that, this sets up as the most likely option on this list.
Length: 7232 yards
Course Rating: 75.4
Slope Rating: 141
Why it works: A recent addition to Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Courses in America, Rams Hill is one of the most unique courses in the region. Deep in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and located next to a whole lot of nothing, this course feels like it’s on another planet. It would also present a true test against the elements: the average temperature in Borrego Springs in June is over 100 degrees. But don’t let all that distract you from the course itself: it features a number of risk/reward holes and conditions are excellent. There’s a reason SCGA members voted this as their favorite public course 2 of the last 3 years.
Why it might not happen: Location and timing. It’s a trek to get to the course, and the weather this time of year is likely too severe to actually attempt to play a major (the course actually shuts down for the summer in June). That said, it’s becoming a popular location for amateur tournaments and I wouldn’t be surprised if some circuit makes their way there when the conditions are more favorable.
Length: 7105 yards
Course Rating: 75.4
Slope Rating: 142
Why it works: This course may not be always be included in the conversation of “world-renowned SoCal golf courses”, but those who’ve played it can attest that it’s certainly one of the most difficult. Just ask Golf Digest, who ranked it as one of the 50 toughest courses in the country and called it the “Bethpage Black of the West Coast.” Littered with tight lines, hazards galore and rolling fairways and greens, it’s not difficult for scores to skyrocket in no time flat here.
Why it might not happen: As mentioned before, it doesn’t quite have the name cache to enter the discussion of potential U.S. Open sites. It’s also the shortest course on this list, which is a big factor in site selection.
Length: 7628 yards
Course Rating: 76.3
Slope Rating: 138
Why it works: This one might raise some eyebrows, but if this course is known for one thing, it’s that this sucker is loooooong. Playing from what’s known as the “Jack’s Black” tees, the driver plays a huge role on this course, and isn’t that what everyone wants to see? The course opens with back-to-back par-5s, and features three par-3s playing over 200 yards and six holes over 500 yards, including the signature 677-yard(!) 18th.
Why it might not happen: Aside from the length, this course probably doesn’t have enough challenging features to meet the USGA’s standards. Also, part of the catch with the length of this course is that it’s a rare par-74, although they could probably turn a couple of the shorter par-5s into long par-4s to get it to 72. The conditions don’t exactly scream “U.S. Open quality”, but don’t let that stop you: it’s still one of the best courses in the Inland Empire.
Is this list too short? Is it too long? Would any of these actually happen? Hard to say for sure, but if there’s one takeaway, it’s that there are plenty of top-notch courses in your backyard that you can go play right now. If you haven’t played one of these courses yet, time to check it off the list; if you have, go play it again. And while they may never host a major, there are certainly opportunities for you to play in a tournament at one of these tracks and get a taste of what how the pros play.