2023 U.S. Open Championship – A primer on barrancas at Los Angeles Country Club

A word many will learn or know and use often when talking about this year’s tournament

USGA/John Mummert

Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)


RALEIGH, NC – You should or do learn something new every day, so the saying has been said.

Well today, Golf 101’s definition of terms is focused on the word ‘barranca’.

Barranca? What’s a barranca?

That’s a question many watching the 2023 U.S. Open Championship being played at The Los Angeles Country Club will ask when they hear it said on whatever medium covering the event they will be tuned into.

2023 U.S. Open Championship – Viewing schedule for fans to follow play

Spell it out for me

So we start the lesson to define the term ‘barranca’ in its dictionary-centric form and in lay-person’s jargon.

As described by the USGA in its pre-tournament post, ‘a barranca is a steep-sided ravine, gully, or gorge of varying width and depth that is a common feature of the landscape in Southern California’.

For those in the Triangle area, if you attended the recent 2023 UNC Health Championship, the Korn Ferry Tour event played at Raleigh Country Club, you actually would have noticed a barranca right here in North Carolina, on Hole No. 1 bisecting the fairway about 100 yards out from the middle of the green.

Raleigh Country Club

In non-technical architectural golf terms, and for the sake of audio or video broadcast censoring delay, if you hear on the weekend’s broadcasts that a player has hit their ball into the barranca, they are essentially saying that the player has ‘hit his ball into the sh*t’.

Coming from the average daily-fee muni or club member golfer, that’s the most concise and simple description of what said player just did.

Again, queue the censor delay button in the production truck as needed, but all bets are off from hot mikes on the fairways when players in the field frequent these areas at LACC.

Do I get relief or what?

It’s not a creek, nor a drainage ditch – it’s all and anything it can be – wet or dry, full or empty, with native vegetation, sand, rocks and such – to attempt a shot out of.

Just like at your home course, it will be marked as a penalty area, red and/or yellow staked, and will provide at least one gut-wrenching penalty stroke – or more if attempted to be played unsuccessfully from within – in a valiant attempt to continue to advance the ball closer to the hole.

As much as they appear in natural form, barrancas at LACC have been actually maintained by the grounds crew under USGA oversight to present a challenge, but also an opportunity, to continue play with some luck without incurring a penalty of any kind.

“Especially in a year like this with heavy rainfall, it’s important to, No. 1, maintain their integrity, and No. 2, keep them playable,” said Darin Bevard, senior director of championship agronomy for the USGA.

“You don’t want them to expand in size due to erosion. As far as playing out of them, there are certain areas where, if you hit it in there, you get what you deserve. But in other areas, where you might not have hit that bad a shot, the idea is to let you have an opportunity to recover.”

Just a few more things to think about

So along with firm and sloped fairways, and deep Bermuda rough to play through to the green, just how many holes will the this year’s field encounter barrancas on?

At least seven – on hole Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 17.

So, if driver off the tee is the club selection made to start the hole, such an aggressive choice will provide for a lot of breath holding, exhalation, despair, relief, smiles, cheers, tears and/or four-letter expletives along the fairways from players, caddies, volunteers, and fans alike.

We may not be going streaking

Compared to past finishes at the U.S. Open Championship, course conditions will likely only provide for a handful of contenders in red numbers vying for the U.S. Open Trophy by this year’s Father’s Day.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, “the final score in relation to par for each of the last four U.S. Open winners was 6 under par or lower. It is the longest such streak in the history of this championship. Immediately prior to this stretch, 7 of 14 U.S. Opens were won with a final score of even par or higher.”

As is typical and expected of a U.S. Open, the true test of shot-making ability, course management, patience and luck, along with physical and psychological endurance will separate the winner from the rest.

Considering the plethora of available barrancas to encounter, extending that four-year streak of a winning 6-under par or better score is in jeopardy.

2023 U.S. Open: A Look at the Barranca at The Los Angeles Country Club (Video – USGA)

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