Golf’s Big Game Returns to Los Angeles

Golf’s Big Game Returns to Los Angeles
The 15th hole of Los Angeles Country Club's, north course. (USGA/John Mummert)

One of golf’s biggest events is taking place in Los Angeles this week for the first time in 75 years: the United States Open Golf Championship. 

It is being held at the Los Angeles Country Club for four days beginning on June 15 and is expected to bring in millions of dollars to the area economy.

The venue may be surprising to those familiar with the ultra-exclusive club, which has been enclosed in a virtual cone of silence for decades. Ivy-covered walls hide from public view one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the area – the club doesn’t even have an entrance sign for the small driveway leading to its main gate. But attitudes have evolved, culminating in the club hosting the open.

The event could be a big boon for others as well.

The United States Golf Association, which operates the U.S. Open, said host cities can expect about $120 million worth of economic impact from the tournament. The USGA is separate from the PGA Tour, which was the subject of controversy last week when it combined its business with the Saudi Arabia-led LIV tour as a global partnership.

When San Diego hosted the 2008 U.S. Open at its municipal-operated Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, there was more than a $140 million injection into the local economy, according to a study from San Diego State University. But when the event returned to the course during the pandemic in 2021, the economic impact fell well short of matching previous numbers.

Tourism impact

Travel costs, high hotel occupancy rates, food and beverage sales, transportation, parking, tickets to the event and merchandise sales are all expected to bring money to the area.

Kathryn Schloessman, president and chief executive of Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, said her staff plans to release its financial assessment of the event after its conclusion. The commission has been instrumental in the recent boom of high-profile championship sports activity in the region. It helped secure the 2022 Super Bowl LVI and the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and uses the gatherings to ramp up L.A.’s integration into the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Gene Sykes, a former Goldman Sachs executive and current president of the country club, can look out onto the course through the window of his Wilshire Boulevard high-rise office and give a big-picture assessment of how to quantify what success will look like for this week and beyond.

“I can safely say we’ll generate more interest than any previous U.S. Open,” said Sykes. “And part of the planning of this over the last decade, in our view and the USGA’s view, is how this would especially be popular with local business organizations and leaders who appreciate how special this opportunity is and creating an environment unlike any major golf tournament, let alone a U.S. Open.”

USGA often hosts U.S. Open tournaments at larger resort courses in suburban areas of major cities.

The iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links, 120 miles south of San Francisco, has hosted eight times in the last 50 years, most recently in 2010. It has become a USGA “anchor site” with U.S. Open plans for 2027, 2032, 2037 and 2044. 

Los Angeles has been waiting for years to cash in.

The last U.S. Open in Southern California was in 1948 at the Pacific Palisades’ Riviera Country Club, which has been the site of the PGA Tour’s annual L.A. stop (now called the Genesis Invitational) practically every year since 1973. The country club held the L.A. Open five times, most recently in 1940. Its members have resisted opening its doors because of limited space for galleries and neighborhood congestion concerns.

Sykes points out this is a first for the U.S. Open – “having it literally in the middle of a major city – as if it was in New York’s Central Park, except Central Park has no world-class golf course.”

The things offered by the country club, which opened in 1911 with 18 holes and then expanded to 36, is access to a larger hospitality, media, arts, culture and entertainment business community than the event has ever featured.

This U.S. Open will be played on the country club’s north course, while its south course will be used for event parking and commerce space.

Area advantages

The course is surrounded by high-end accommodations such as the Beverly Hilton and the Beverly Wilshire, and the iconic Rodeo Drive is within strolling distance. The Westfield Century City shopping plaza is also nearby. It arranged last Memorial Day weekend for an overhead pedestrian bridge to be constructed over Wilshire Boulevard for easier pedestrian access.

As major sporting events benefit from ancillary fan festival-type commerce opportunities, Westfield Century City will open what is being called a U.S. Open Showcase. 

It will be open Thursday through Sunday during the tournament and will include interactive sponsor exhibits, pop-up shops, musical performances and watch parties on large screens.

“This event will bring the bigness of the U.S. Open to the city’s sports fans,” said Jon Podany, chief commercial officer for the USGA.

Programs offered

LASEC’s partnership with the NFL on the 2022 Super Bowl led to the creation of its Business Connect program. More than 200 Southern California businesses with minority, veteran, women or LGBTQ leadership gained preferred-vendor access to bid on work from a variety of entry points.

J-n-K Services Inc., a Chatsworth-based printing, copying and in-house graphic design company with six employees, has been busy for the last month since its LASEC affiliation led to a successful work bid quote by the USGA. For the U.S. Open, J-n-K has been creating maps, security booklets, merchandise flyers, lunch tickets and business cards. The company is expecting a 20% increase in business for the month as result of the U.S. Open. 

“It’s a fun, business-boosting title to have been streamlined into this with all its connections and networking,” said Jave Tripp, the company’s chief executive.

J-n-K, in its 35th year of operation, managed to survive during Covid by moving from its previous North Hollywood shop and staying active with the LASEC lifeline for business networking.

“Now when I tell people we’re involved with the U.S. Open, they ask: Can you get tickets?” said Tripp. 

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