124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


U.S. Open 2023: The underrated pace of play tactic pros will use at LACC

June 14, 2023
6th Hole

The driveable par-4 sixth hole at LACC's North Course might create a logjam of groups on the tee.

John Mummert

Emulating professional golfers is prudent for players looking to improve their own games. Usually. Pace of play? Maybe not. Pros don’t exactly set the best example for ready golf and efficient routines (remember way back, say two months ago, when the slow-play epidemic dominated pre-tournament discussions?). Yet this week at Los Angeles Country Club, amateurs should pay attention, as we’re likely to see a common pace of play tactic pros use all the time but is rarely used in weekend play.

What makes the North Course at LACC so appealing from a golf course architecture standpoint—namely, design variety with very long and very short par 3s, a driveable par 4 and reachable par 5s—also makes it a nightmare for pace of play. These are the holes that create logjams on the course, where groups pile up and slow play has a compounding effect, much like a highway traffic jam. Making the situation this week even more dire is that many of these holes are back-to-back.

Los Angeles Country Club: North
Los Angeles Country Club: North
Los Angeles, CA, United States
236 Panelists
It’s on the edge of Tinsel Town, but the architecture of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club has been solid gold ever since its 2010 restoration by architect Gil Hanse, his associate Jim Wagner and their colleague Geoff Shackelford. It matters not that Hanse’s team didn’t replicate the bunkering style of original architect George C. Thomas, but rather the more visually exciting style of Thomas’ associate, William P. Bell. The first nine plays rustically up and down a shallow canyon with holes switching back and forth across a dry barranca, and the second nine loops across a more spacious upland section with one par 3 (the 11th) that can stretch to nearly 300 yards and another (the 15th) that often plays just 90 yards. The hole strategies reinstituted by Hanse provided an intriguing examination when LACC's North course hosted the 2023 U.S. Open.
View Course

Take holes six through eight. Much like Riviera’s driveable 10th, the 330-yard par-4 sixth is a George Thomas masterpiece, and as our Luke Kerr-Dineen breaks down in this video, it will elicit a variety of strategies off the tee, including players going for the green. Even if there’s just one player in a group going for it, the group will have to wait until the green clears to get off the tee. Logjam suspect number one.

Check out our aerial tour of the driveable par-4 sixth:

The seventh doesn’t help matters. The par 3 can tip out just under 300 yards and plays to a small target, with trees lining the left of the green, a barranca short and bunkers right. Players will take a long time to finish out, through no fault of their own. Suspect number two. What’s more, the eighth is a reachable par 5, where players going for it in two will face a lengthy wait for the green to clear. Suspect number three.

Check out our aerial tour of the demanding par-3 seventh:

Put all these together and players could face multiple 15- or 20-minute waits in a three-hole stretch. To combat the logjams, we’ll likely see players step aside once they reach the green on the sixth, allowing the group behind them to hit up. It’s a sort of “playing through-lite” that we see every year at Riveria’s 10th hole and many other short par 4s on tour. When players are waved up, it cuts down on the wait time on the tee, and the group on the green can finish out as the trailing players walk to their balls. Most importantly, it keeps the spacing between the groups more even, preventing the long waits on the tee that have a compounding effect.

It's a common strategy in all levels of competitive golf, especially in the junior ranks on the AJGA, but is rarely used in everyday play. We need to change that.

But there’s hardly a driveable par 4 for any average golfer, so this doesn’t apply to us, right?

Wrong. Hitting up on long par 3s is just as effective. On difficult par 3s that are seldom hit in regulation, golfers are going to take a long time to finish out. You wait and watch and soon the group behind you joins as spectators. Once this logjam forms, it’s nearly impossible to fix.

But if the first group waves up the trailers once they reach greenside, then they can chip up and finish out as the group behind is walking up. The first group will be off on the next tee, and the next trailing group is waved up. You’re not letting the group play through (though if no one is in front of you, by all means)—you’re just keeping the space between groups even.

So pay attention this week as you watch the U.S. Open to see this tactic in action, and then next time you’re on the course, take a peek behind you to see if waving a group up can keep things moving. It’s proper etiquette in the competitive game, and we need more of it around our local courses.

• • •