Golfers who have ventured onto L.A. County's public golf courses no doubt have confronted the handiwork of William P. Bell.


Bell and his son, William F., designed the eight busiest public golf courses in Los Angeles County, including the La Mirada Golf Course, which topped the list with 124,858 rounds played in 2004.


The Bell designs span from Rancho Park to Long Beach. Combined, father and son built more than 400 public and private golf courses during their lifetimes, mainly in California, Oregon, Hawaii and the Southwest.


William P. Bell, known as Billy Bell, was born in 1886. He started out as golf superintendent for architect Willie Watson, who designed the Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, the Brentwood Country Club and other courses throughout California.


Bell later teamed with the prominent golf course architect George C. Thomas Jr. in the 1920s. They designed the Los Angeles Country Club, Bel-Air Country Club and the Riviera Country Club.


Eventually, William P. Bell established his own practice. Flash-faced bunkers are the Bells' most distinctive design characteristic. When viewed from the fairway, the sand traps jut into the air.


"Billy Bell was very good for municipalities," said Bob Thomas, senior director of communications for the Southern California Golf Association. "Bell and his son were straightforward architects and created quality golf courses."


William F. Bell (1918-1984) took over the practice when his father died. Billy Bell Jr. designed more than 200 courses, including Los Verdes Golf Course, No. 2 on the list, and Recreation Park Golf Course, No. 3. Each hosted more than 120,000 rounds in 2004.


The La Mirada course was built in 1953, the year the elder Bell died. County officials credit its design to father and son. Located near the county's southern border, the course draws players from Covina, Whittier, Cerritos, Fullerton and other surrounding areas.


Contributing to the popularity of La Mirada is its 45-stall driving range, which stays open until midnight. "We are one of the few night-lit driving ranges in the area," said Mark Kuramoto, interim general manager. The facility also has a banquet hall that seats up to 375 people.


Overall, the 25 largest 18-hole regulation golf courses in L.A. County accounted for nearly 2.5 million rounds of golf played in 2004, down less than 1 percent from 2003.


Of the largest courses, only six saw increases in the number of rounds played in 2004. The biggest increases were at No. 6 Lakewood Golf Course and No. 7 Whittier Narrows Golf Course. Twelve of the courses on the list are owned by Los Angeles County. The city of Los Angeles owns another seven.

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