Pitch 'n' Putt, but Don't Gawk
Where can you find Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and George Clooney together? Not accepting statues at the Oscars; action heroes get shut out there. Instead, drive 10 minutes west from Hollywood to Studio City, where you can hit a bucket alongside the Terminator, Rocky or Batman as well as Kevin Costner, Will Smith and Heather Locklear.
Nestled among the vast Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. lots in the San Fernando Valley, Studio City Golf is a ramshackle par-3 course with a 20-stall driving range. It was built in the '50s by Joe Kirkwood Jr., who played Joe Palooka in the movies. Clark Gable, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby played there; today it's Denzel Washington, Joe Pesci, Richard Dreyfuss and Damon Wayans, in addition to the names dropped above. "We treat 'em all the same. Golf is the great leveler," says Studio City pro Ron del Barrio. "Celebrities may be successful in their own field, but in golf they're nobody." During one lesson with del Barrio, Stallone got so frustrated that he smashed a club on a wooden post. A flustered Schwarzenegger flung his driver onto the range, then told the pro, " Sony, it slipped."
For the famous, the charm of the place is its unwritten rule: Don't bug the celebs. When 14-handicapper Costner, Tin Cup himself, works on lengthening his fairway wood shots or Clooney presides over a high-pressure putting tournament, the regulars know better than to stare or ask for autographs. Nobody gets star treatment at Studio City. "The idea is, Shut up and play golf," says del Barrio.
He calls four-time Bel-Air Country Club champion Jack Wagner of Melrose Place his best student: "Jack can play with anybody, and he doesn't think twice about playing for $10,000 a round." Still, for sheer wattage, Wagner doesn't make the leader board at Studio City. Not that anyone at the home of stellar ball strikers admits to being starstruck.
Hey, isn't that Dweezil Zappa?