History and nature come together at Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills
GRANADA HILLS, Calif. -- When thinking of Los Angeles-area golf courses, Knollwood Country Club isn't one that initially comes to mind.
Sitting above the bustling San Fernando Valley, home of the entertainment industry and its workers, Knollwood C.C., owned by the City of Los Angeles, is what many would consider a tucked-away flag of sorts. It's certainly the way the golf course began.
With roots stemming back to 1956, Knollwood Country Club was a hotspot for the Rat Pack and its cast of golfing characters. Designed by William F. Bell, the Granada Hills area where Knollwood was built was extremely remote in the 1950s, pre-dating the area's suburban sprawl and making it quite a distance from downtown L.A.
But it was that reason the celebrities enjoyed it. It was private and serene, the perfect enclave for those looking to get away.
It wasn't long after, however, that Knollwood Country Club became public, and as a municipal golf course, its popularity flourished. Today, it's a favorite of those who discover it.
"Such a wide variety of players come to Knollwood, from some famous names to folks who've been playing weekly here for decades," said Jimmy Fish, Knollwood Country Club's director of golf. "It's good for many levels of players; and we find people continue to come back after their first time."
Knollwood Country Club: The golf
At 6,373 yards (and a hike from the forward tees from 5,717 yards), Knollwood Country Club is overall a player-friendly layout. Generous fairways -- such as the 585-yard, par-5 fourth hole -- funnel shots into more ideal approach positions, while shots in the rough aren't too badly punished thanks to fluffy lies.
Proclaimed as one of the toughest holes in Southern California, Knollwood Country Club's starting hole is a 429-yard par 4 that although isn't exceptionally long, begins with an elevated tee, then requires uphill approach shots into the green, making it the No. 1 handicap hole on the golf course.
As the course meanders along, pine trees, eucalyptus trees and other foliage drape over cart paths and separate fairways from adjacent holes, providing a bit of an alpine-golf feel far different than other area courses.
Bell employs his characteristic false-front sloping on several of the greens; the par-4 fifth green is almost entirely sloped from back to front so a solid short game can come in handy at Knollwood Country Club. It's these kinds of tests that seem to keep its regulars returning.
"Its one of those golf courses that once you discover it, you don't want anyone else to know about it and want to keep it as your little secret," said Chip Johnson, of Encino, who tees it up every Sunday at Knollwood. "It's just a comfortable place full of good people, which makes for a fun few hours."
One perk for those who have an aversion to water hazards: There's no water on the golf course. Instead, dozens of bunkers front greens and flank the fairways, and the course rolls along nicely, making Knollwood Country Club a good layout for those who like to use a push cart or carry bag.
"You'll see a lot of people walking the golf course out here," said George Gassin, the course's marshal and starter for more than 20 years. "It's not too hilly or difficult to do so, and I always like to see that."
Knollwood Country Club: The verdict
With open fairways, forgiving landing areas and no water hazards in which to lose balls, Knollwood Country Club is a short but enjoyable layout that accommodates riders and walkers alike.
There's some nice scenery with the variety of trees and greenery lining the holes, not feeling like a golf course in the middle of a busy city.
One of the best parts of the Knollwood Country Club experience though? The course offers some of the lowest green fees in the area, ranging from $25 to $33 (a cart will push the price up to $45). And the restaurant, said Gassin, "makes some pretty good soup and has a fun weekend barbecue out front."
Practice facilities and golf instruction at Knollwood Country Club
Knollwood Country Club has a good-sized, two-tiered driving range, with wide stalls and grass aiming areas.
It's located next to the first tee, making for a quick transition from practice to play. Additionally, two large practice putting greens in between the range and clubhouse are a popular gathering place for golfers waiting to tee off.
Knollwood C.C. also offers individual instruction and clinics.