The game of golf is about to see some long-awaited changes at the Westchester Golf Course.
Nothing involving the rules of the game is changing, but at Westchester it’s about making golf the way it is played at most any other regulation size course — with 18 holes.
An oddity in the golf world, the Westchester Golf Course near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has been short three of its holes for nearly two decades, making avid golfers feel that their round was incomplete.
The neighborhood course was originally built in the mid-1960s with the standard 18 greens but it was transformed into a 15-hole course when the airport took some land to construct Westchester Parkway.
Airport officials are now looking to change that after the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners voted Monday, June 22nd to award a new ten-year lease to Westchester Golf Partners LLC for the restoration, operation and maintenance of Westchester Golf Course.
The agreement will add three holes on about 23 acres of vacant airport land located east of the southern half of the course along Westchester Parkway, returning the golf course to its original 18-hole design. The lease includes a 20-year extension option and is subject to City Council approval.
“We’re very happy that people will be golfing on an 18-hole golf course next year,” airport spokes- man Tom Winfrey said of the project to complete the course. “We very much appreciate the cooperation of Westchester Golf Partners and their eagerness to proceed with the project.”
Westchester community members who have been pushing for the restoration of the course for years noted that when Westchester Parkway was being constructed, airport officials at the time pledged to the community that the removed holes would be restored, along with other improvements. Longtime golf course player and Westchester resident Bill Skura said he is pleased that the airport is finally able to fulfill its commitment to bring the three holes back.
“I feel release and gratitude that the Airport Commission and all of the people who put forth an effort are finally able to get it done,” said Skura, who has been advocating for the course’s completion for years.
Skura referred to the lengthy process, saying that a number of Westchester golfers who played on the former 18-hole course are no longer alive, but those that are able to see the commitment fulfilled are eager to tee off on a full course.
“Those who are still here are very thankful that the course will become a regular 18-hole course,” Skura said.
The avid golfer acknowledged the efforts of the airport commissioners, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, airport planning staff and community groups in following through on the project.
“The community advocated for it and we’re glad to be able to keep the commitment to the community so the golf course can be a full course,” Winfrey said.
Following the approval of the request for proposals in November, Airport Commission Vice President Val Velasco expressed excitement to have a complete golf facility once again.
“Our community has been waiting a long time for the restoration of the three holes, so I’m excited that it’s finally going forward,” Velasco said.
Rosendahl explained that Lindsey understood the message “loud and clear” when he told her that fulfilling the golf course pledge for the community would be a good gesture. He said he is thrilled that the project is moving forward, calling it a “huge plus for the community.”
“I’ve learned that if you stay focused, no matter how long it takes, things can come your way,” the councilman said of the commitment. “This is another example where if the community and LAWA can work together, amazing things can happen.”
Under the agreement, Westchester Golf Partners will invest at least $2.1 million for the restoration project and will be required to complete the restoration within 180 days following City Council and Federal Aviation Administration approval. Officials anticipate that construction could be complete by early next year.
Westchester Golf Partners consists of National Golf Properties LLC, David G. Price Westchester Golf LLC and Community Golf Partners LLC. Under the lease terms, Westchester Golf will contract with American Golf Corporation to restore the three holes and will continue to manage the daily course operation. American Golf has been operating the course since 1965.
According to maps released along with the request for proposals, the three new holes will include a par 5 — which has previously not been contested at Westchester — at the 15th hole, a par 3 at the 16th, and a par 4 at the 17th. The new 18th hole will be the former 15th and it will be extended to become a par 4.
Skura said the new par 5 will be a welcome addition that should make Westchester a competitive course. He joked that the new design will make golfers’ games either better or worse, but he already has his sights set on one of the rarest scores in golf for one of the new holes.
“I’m looking forward to getting an eagle on that par 5,” Skura predicted.