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Not surprisingly, that other public 18-hole course on the Palos Verdes Peninsula—the one run by a certain former President—tends to get all the press. But if you've played both Trump National and Los Verdes, you know the latter is the better golf course. Los Verdes may not have a waterfall behind any of its greens, and sure, the most you can pay to play it is about 60 bucks. But those are good things, right? In addition, its sprawling layout atop the peninsula provides both a more diverse set of holes and more dramatic ocean views. Shame about the sometimes glacial pace, but it's such a pretty venue that even the long waits ultimately feel worthwhile.
Pros & Cons
World-class ocean views, no two holes alike, exceptional value, did we mention the views?
Infamously slow pace of play.
Los Verdes would be the ultimate affordable muni if it weren't overrun with slow-motion fivesomes. It kind of is the ultimate muni if you tee off before dawn with a glow-in-the-dark ball to beat the crowds.
Intro to Los Verdes Golf Course
Ever since its grand opening in late 1964, Los Verdes Golf Course has been an LA favorite. Designed by William F. Bell, whose father, Willam P. "Billy" Bell, was the leading architect of early-midcentury SoCal golf, Los Verdes won immediate acclaim for its value and its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Burton W. Chace was involved with the project throughout and turned up on November 13, 1964 to hit the ceremonial first tee shot, which "sliced off into no-man's land," according to the local Daily Breeze newspaper. Today, the course is a fixture on the LA golf scene, revered for its stunning vistas despite the persistent problem of slow play.
Playing Los Verdes Golf Course
Blue Tees (6,617 yards)
The front nine at Los Verdes can be a blur when you're reflecting after the round, simply because the ocean views go to a whole new level on the back. But that's not to say the front isn't rewarding. The opening par-5 first (489 yards) is a nice way to ease into the round, playing as a straightforward three-shotter with a dogleg left off the tee. You can try to cut the corner with a big drive, but the elevated green makes it hard to get on in two in any case, and cutting the corner brings OB left into play—you're not allowed to play an errant drive from the adjacent 18th hole.
The par-4 second (370 yards) keeps it simple, offering only a right-to-left sloping fairway as resistance, while the par-3 third (180 yards) has some tricky areas on its green but not much else standing between your uphill tee shot and a routine par.
Hopefully you got through the first three holes unscathed, because the par-4 fourth (441 yards) is the number-one handicap hole on the scorecard. Your drive must be played up the right side, as everything kicks and rolls left. Big hitters can get to the top of the hill for a clear view of the green down below, but if you do the math, even a 270-yard stripe show leaves a 170-yard approach that's no sure thing. Many will need to hit three shots here before grabbing the putter.
The par-3 fifth (189 yards) is a picturesque hole with a treacherous green that slopes right to left. Between the tough green and the challenge of getting it up there from nearly 200 yards away, it's a double waiting to happen if you're not careful. It's also often the site of a major traffic jam, but at least there's a restroom by the tee in case you need a pit stop.
Hole six (556 yards) is a dogleg-left par 5 that often leaves a significant third shot due to its length. The main issue there is that the green is quite small, so if you're not coming in with a short iron, it's easy to miss and be facing a ticklish pitch for your up-and-down.
The par-4 seventh (380 yards) is another characterful hole, playing straight away but uphill to a green that, like many at Los Verdes, can be slippery if you're on the high side. Then the par-4 eighth (352 yards) limits the length of your drive with a dogleg right, setting up a longer approach than the number suggests, while the par-4 ninth (410 yards) rounds out the front by demanding an accurate drive down the left side—everything runs to the right, but miss left and you're up by the driving range in a race against double bogey.
Although the front nine at Los Verdes affords plenty of face time with the Pacific, it's the back that packs the postcard views. The par-4 tenth (377 yards) kicks it off with a stern uphill test, though your reward is a first-rate vista beyond the back bunker. Walk up the concrete steps to the short par-4 eleventh (305 yards) and there it is—the top of the golf course and a commanding view that neither Trump National (situated much lower on the peninsula) nor probably any other course in the area can match.
The eleventh hole itself is almost a footnote to the scenery, but it actually plays far tougher than its 18-handicap rating on the card. Bunkers are everywhere around the green, and the inevitable downhill lie on your approach adds a degree of difficulty. In our book, it's one of the harder holes on the course despite the diminutive yardage.
Get ready for the return climb after hitting your tee shot at the par-3 twelfth (153 yards), another challenging hole that features threatening bunkers and a large green with lots of twists and turns. And whatever you do, don't lose it right on the formidable par-4 thirteenth (420 yards), though that's much easier said than done. The steep hillside will take a drive hit straight down the middle and turn it into a wayward shot right that requires a brutal uphill recovery. Par here verges on the heroic.
Quite an inward nine already, right? The next two holes take you down the hill a bit, although the dogleg-right par-4 fourteenth (417 yards), which runs parallel to the thirteenth, asks for a left-to-right tee ball that carries around the corner to set up your approach. Just as you can't hit it right on the thirteenth, you can't hit it left on the fourteenth—the slope is simply too punishing. You'll walk away from fourteen having had a hard look at your ability to work the ball, or lack thereof.
Then comes the hole that's probably featured on more postcards Instagram profiles than any other: the par-4 fifteenth (442 yards). The downhill dogleg left is as inviting for a right-to-left ball flight as the fourteenth is frightening—catch it flush and the hole will play significantly shorter than the number. From there on in, just try not to get distracted by the gobsmacking convergence of green and ocean.
More distractions await on the par-5 sixteenth (488 yards), an uphill, right-to-left bruiser that plays longer than that, especially if the wind's not in your favor. Expect side-hill lies on your second and third shots—it's easy to yank one left and donate a ball to the native shrubbery if you lose focus.
If you're thinking that the par-3 seventeenth will let you catch your breath, you'll think again when you see it plays to 225 yards—one of the longer par 3s in the region. Much depends on the wind, but par is a tall order in any conditions. Heading back to the clubhouse now, the par-4 eighteenth (420 yards) provides a dose of normalcy after the otherworldly views that started on the tenth.
Hold your drive to the right against the left-sloping fairway to set up a fairly routine approach, then putt out, take one last look at the ocean, and head for the on-site restaurant to geek out over its midcentury modern design and reflect on an unforgettable round of golf.
Conditions & Pace of Play
The Palos Verdes Peninsula's temperate climate and morning mist are a boon for course maintenance, and the crew at Los Verdes mostly hold up their end of the bargain. The fairways and tees can be a little ratty in places, but generally not to the point of hurting your score, and the greens are typically smooth and well-watered.
As for the pace of play, well, yes. There's the rub. It's pretty much all fivesomes all the time at Los Verdes, and the course is hard enough that it slows down many of those groups even more. We won't sugarcoat it: the pace can be frustrating. But unlike an inland LA muni like Rancho Park, for example, where the relentlessly slow play can leave you questioning your choices in life, Los Verdes almost always has a nice view for you to take in while you wait. In short, it's worth it, even if it doesn't always feel that way at the time.
Two factors keep Los Verdes from ranking even higher: we've covered the pace, but there's also the geographical remoteness of the property. Unless you live on the peninsula or happen to be staying there, playing Los Verdes probably means spending a lot of time in the car. Of course, remoteness can be a strength if it means that it keeps the crowds away, but that's obviously not the case here.
Nonetheless, Los Verdes Golf Course's combination of value and views is quite possibly peerless among public golf courses in the United States. It's an absolute must-play if you've never tried it, and it remains a must-play for many SoCal golfers no matter how many times they've been around.
Los Verdes Golf Course Details
Los Verdes Golf Course Photos (14)
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #13 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #1 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #2 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #6 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #10 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #11 Tee
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #12 Tee
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #13 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #14 Tee
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #15 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #16 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #18 Green
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #17 Bunker
Los Verdes Golf Course: Hole #17 Green