Max Behr, a native of New York, became the first editor of Golf Illustrated magazine in 1914 but he resigned from the publication four years later after the death of his wife and moved to California, where he continued to write about course architecture and construction.
In the early 1920s he began designing and remodelling courses, believing in wide fairways and multiple pin locations to influence tee shot placements. Alister MacKenzie, no less, was an admirer of his layout at Lakeside Golf Club, which opened for play in 1924. In his book, The Spirit of St Andrews, the doctor described Lakeside as “one of the world’s greatest golf courses”.
Along with Bel-Air, Lakeside attracts the Hollywood elite and has counted people like Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson and Andy Garcia as members. The course is set out on a compact property, with tree-lined fairways leading to small greens, and an overall yardage of just over 6,500 yards.
There are only two par fives on the card (at the 2nd and 4th) and three of the four par threes are played on the front nine. The original long par five 13th is long gone (due to land sold to Universal Studios) but the short par four that’s now in its place is actually a more than adequate substitute.
Lakeside is one of the few golf clubs where the experience will always overshadow the golf course, no matter how good the round is. And the golf course is always going to be good. The greens are in perfect shape; firm and fast (and free of pitch marks).
The routing is unique and a step away from what you typically find on modern designed golf courses. All of the two par 5's on the golf course are within the opening four holes, and the back nine begins with five straight par 4's, which you rarely find on a golf course. But you don't realize it, with 10 & 11 being incredible difficult holes and 12 & 13 being driveable, although my caddie argued that you have to be an idiot to pull driver on either.
The post-round scene in the Men's Grill is unlike any other experience I've ever had. Going shoulder-to-shoulder with the who's who of Hollywood is surreal. It feels like a club. It's a place you want to spend time at. Unfortunately, far too few clubs have the sense of camaraderie that Lakeside possesses. It's a true gem.
Lakeside is one of the best in the area. Always in immaculate condition, you won’t have better greens or fairways in San Fernando Valley. The design is a classic Golden Age. Two par 5s in the first four holes makes a quirky but easier start. Lightning fast greens await on every hole. So do views of the back of Universal Studios. Known as an entertainment club, you will see a few recognizable faces.