Located across the West Pico Boulevard from the 20th Century Fox studios, Hillcrest Country Club was opened in 1920 to cater for the Los Angeles Jewish community, with tennis courts, an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course to keep the members occupied on the sporting front.
Willie Watson designed the original course on a 140-acre site where the front nine holes were routed around a valley that runs next to a hill on which many of the back nine holes were laid out. That all changed when Kyle Phillips was appointed in 2018 to redesign the existing layout, adding six new holes to the set-up.
Central to the new configuration was the integration of two portions of property that had previously only been used as turf nurseries. The old netted range, the par four 10th and part of the par five 11th were all converted into a new 6-acre practice facility, leaving enough room to reposition the home green and create new tees for a new 1st hole which runs alongside the 18th.
The total number of trees on the property remains the same but a process of prudent tree management has resulted in the opening up of interior views after undesired species were removed, sought-after specimens were relocated, and new trees placed around the perimeter. Green-to-tee walkways were also improved with grass paths added to smooth the transition between holes.
The par threes are real feature holes, especially the new 155-yard 2nd, with a sunken green, and the monster 12th – playing all of 260 yards from the back markers – which plays to an enormous Biarritz green. Three of the par five holes are wonderfully strategic (and really challenging to reach in two shots) while the 18th can be stretched to 600 yards, finishing with a fantastic new green complex.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Danny Thomas was the first gentile admitted to the once exclusively Jewish club, to which Groucho Marx and Milton Berle belonged; Jack Benny quipped that if they were going to admit a gentile, they should at least let one in who looked like a gentile.”