The Wilson Course at Griffith Park

I got to play the Wilson course at Griffith Park while visiting some family in LA last week- good golf course. It’s been stewing in my mind so I figured I’d share a bit of it. I’ve been trying to find info on it and there are conflicting stories online. Some say it was designed by the same guy who designed Medinah, Tom Bendelow, and was opened in1917- ish, and held the 1937, 38, & 39 LA Opens, one of which was won by Jimmy Dameret. Some accounts have it opened in 1951 or maybe redesigned?.. any info would be cool if anyone knows the details.
It plays just short of 7000 yards off the tips, at 6947, and I took it on with Persimmon(Mac D & 3W), Toney Penna XQ9 blades, and some Titleist balatas that I still have over from the pre Pro V days. It was some of the most fun I’ve had on a golf course in a long, long time. It wasn’t so much the score, which was average enough- 73 with 17 pars and a bogey, and 12 greens hit, but it was the pure joy of playing the course as it was played all those years ago instead of beating it up with a frying pan. All of the par 5’s were out of reach- the shortest of the 3 of them is the first at 540 and slightly up hill. Meeting the course on it’s terms and on my own terms, and seeing who’s going to win is just the best feeling. There were a few dogleg par 4’s around the 400 yd range that I could’ve blasted over the corner with a frying pan to leave a 60-80 yard pitch, but instead it was 1 iron or 3 iron to the corner(I alternate half sets when I play and I had the odds that day) and then a mid-ish iron that has to be played well. Basically it was a real round of golf :slight_smile: I like when courses have 3 par 5’s and 3 par 3’s because heavy on the par 4’s tends to be more of an overall ball striking test I reckon.
I haven’t played a whole lot of full 18’s this year with the neck trouble I had earlier in the year, so it was such a treat to play that kind of course and feel like I was playing it as Dameret or Hogan may have played it back in the day- depending on it’s actual history, but I like that version! There were a couple of shaped drives that I hit that are just not possible with the new drivers. They gave me such a buzz that I can’t even begin to express it but I’m sure you all have a sense of it from playing the old gear. The highlight of the round from a ball striking perspective was a 5 iron from 160 into a slight breeze that I hit so crisply and hung it nicely in the air to about 8 feet- ironically that was my only bogey as I rushed the comeback 2 footer. The greens were fairly bumpy but that’s the joy of muni golf. I was between 7i or 5i and even though a hard 7 would’ve gotten to the middle, the pin was at the back so I took on the shot with the 5. The bogey was disappointing because to the best of my memory, I can’t recall having 18 pars before… oh well.
I was thinking about the 5i shot a fair bit over the last few days, and it struck me that people get so carried away feeling cool when they hit really short clubs long distances(and I’ve been guilty of it myself) but it’s so much harder to hit a good shot with extra club than it is with less club- it requires much more of a player I think, or at least it does for me. It’s fairly easy to decelerate and flub something up there, but to hit a strong, crisp shot with extra club is quite difficult to do which is why that one stuck out to me. Shallow helps that cause no end!
I guess the main reason I wanted to share with you guys was to say thanks to Lag really. It never would’ve occurred to me to go back to playing Persimmon, But since I have, I’ve had so much fun and have learned so much that sometimes I just shake my head and laugh. Reading Lag’s post on the other thread was cool in that regard.
There were a couple of long par 4’s at Wilson- 430+(long for wood and balata!), where I had that sense of real challenge standing on the tee knowing that I HAD to hit a good drive or the hole would be quite a test. The feeling stood out to me because it’s so long since I felt it and I remembered the feeling very well. It’s the kind of challenge we learn from and that has been stolen from us by the modern equipment, the ball in particular. You don’t get more than the strike earns with the old clubs, woods especially when combined with the old ball, and that in itself is a fun challenge. I know for a fact that playing that course with my frying pan and a pro v, the par is 2-3 shots different without even teeing up the ball. It’s easy to miss that when you’re just going along with the modern gear, but when you step back for a while and then see where you could be if you were using the new ball and driver, you see so clearly how much of an advantage it actually is. It’s mind blowing really. For me, it’s 40 yards easily per drive with old vs modern, and most times it’s more. Quite simply, it’s a different game. The image that’s forming in my mind is kind of like playing tennis on a ping pong table.
And the thing that gets missed, or not really talked about, is that you get dumbed down by the new gear, it kills urgency I reckon. It’s like anything, when you don’t really work for something you don’t really appreciate it that much. So when you hit a drive and skank a 3w or hybrid or whatever and miss the green on a par 5, it’s easy to get pissy about it and fall asleep. But when you smoke a drive and still have no chance to get there in two, your brain is forced to switch on and figure out how to make birdie or at least how to ‘play’ the hole. It’s why lay up birdies can feel so much more rewarding than 2 putt birdies- they make you feel clever, and feeling clever is so much cooler than feeling strong imo… for the most part.
I’ve gone on a bit here, and I could probably go on more, but i just wanted to share a bit about a good day on a great course and some of the thoughts that I came away with…

Nice story Bom…sounds like a fun day. The only thing you “persimmon players” are missing in your stories is teeing up by scuffing a ridge in the ground with your heel, or better yet- carrying around a little cup with an supply of sand. :laughing: RR

Great post BOM!
And good to see that you are getting some rounds in!

I especially like your description (of the impact that modern equipment has on the game).

Yeah great post Bom…I really enjoyed reading that. 6947 is a lot of course with a persimmon even at par 72. Reminds me of watching the Shell match between Casper and Sanders at Brookline in the mid 60’s where they both have to hit woods into the par 4 first and can’t get on! Really glad you enjoyed it. Might have to unwrap one of those mint balatas I have stored away and teat myself :smiley:

Cheers, Arnie


I won the LA City Junior in 1978 right there at Wilson. We played one of the rounds at Harding on the same property. (not to be confused with Harding Park in SF) It was a very long golf course. A monster back then and today if you play proper gear.

I’m really glad you had that experience. It’s the right way to play these classic courses, because they were designed with a lot of passion and care from strategic playing by the architect. Par is a score one should always be proud of… no matter who you are… especially on less than perfect conditions. Small greens demand more precise iron play, and you feel rewarded when you hit a green because it leaves you in most cases a reasonable birdie run… especially if you placed the shot below the hole. Unlike today’s courses where you can hit a green with a very poor shot, and have a putt over three elephant humps and two valleys of sin.

73 is a fine score out there… especially if you haven’t been playing much. Good work… look forward to hearing about your next classic round. It can be contagious. :sunglasses:

Cheers, guys, it was a fun day out for sure. That’s cool that you won the junior there, Lag, great stuff. I noticed they had a big photo of Tiger up there winning a junior event, I wonder was it the same one. I may have to add Erickson and Woods to my Demaret and Hogan list!

When I was living in the valley yrs ago there was a good money game on Mondays at Griffith that was always fun. A word to the wise though don’t leave your sticks in the inside bag rack if you go in the restaurant after for a drink, err $300 Gin Rummy game, that’s how my original set of Apexs were stolen. Only one bogey out there is awesome on those greens. That’s a great walking course too, good workout if its hot and keeps your mind off of how dreadfully slow it always is especially around that monster 3 par. Next trip to LA you gotta do both Brookside courses in Pasadena. Make sure to play on a sunny day when all the ‘scenery’ is out jogging around the Arroyo Grande path. :smiley:

Great post about new nice sharing. It highlight the main feature of it that will increase the performance of golfers. Good workout if its hot and keeps your mind off of how dreadfully slow it always is especially around that monster 4 par. Next trip to LA you gotta do both Brookside courses in Pasadena.