One of a Kind: Getting to know the Riviera Country Club
It is no secret that The Riviera Country Club is a unique destination for the world’s greatest to display their skills. Home to the Genesis Open, Riviera provides golfers with the ultimate test, while showcasing its natural beauty for guests in attendance. But what exactly separates Riviera from other courses?
Stepping up to the first tee at Riviera is truly a unique experience. The first tee is elevated over 70 feet above the fairway, overlooking the course and beyond, with the stunning clubhouse towering directly behind it. The par-5 opening hole gives golfers a glimpse of the beauty and challenges that lie ahead of them. In front of them is a fairway lined with trees on the right and the left is out of bounds. The 500-yard hole is a perfect way to begin a tournament on the historic course. It is simply breathtaking for both the spectators and players. Pros repeatedly express how incredible this first hole is because it plays like a par-4 where the golfer can begin with a birdie or eagle.
Riviera’s 10thhole is often described as the best, short par-4 on the planet, with architect George C. Thomas giving the PGA TOUR’s stars at the Genesis Open a variety of options on the 315-yard gem. Players can lay up short of the cross bunkers with a mid-iron, but that leaves a tricky short iron onto a green that slopes hard from right to left. Going for the green isn’t necessarily easier, with only a small flat area to land and many shots funneling to a collection area left of the green. Players have to land it on what has been described a “table size flat area,” making it a true test of skill. Landing in the bunker has proven to be a difficult task to recover from, making it very entertaining to watch. It’s the definition of an exciting, risk-reward hole: anything from eagle to double-bogey is in play here.
One of the unique features at Riviera is its Kikuyu grass, a thick, wiry type of grass that originated in South Africa and isn’t often seen on American courses. In the fairway, it will often give a perfect lie, but the longer Kikuyu rough is a monster to hit out of because it’s so dense. Mowing it can even present a challenge. It’s uniqueness forces players to adapt to it. Strategically, good players tend to avoid hitting bump-and-runs off Kikuyu grass thanks to its propensity for stopping the ball.
Another unique feature of The Riviera Country Club’s 93-year-old course is its abundance of Eucalyptus trees. The trees are perfect for Los Angeles weather where the climate does not change dramatically. The mammoth, white-barked trees are prevalent throughout the property, and in addition to looking and smelling great, they play a strategic element on several holes. For instance, more than one TOUR player’s golf ball has been completely swallowed by the giant trees on the long par-5 11th hole. They also come into play on the difficult par-4 12th, lining the right side of the fairway, and again on the 13th, where the club had to plant the trees along the left side of the hole to soak up water after years of flooding issues.
You won’t see any water hazards at Riviera, but there is no shortage of bunkers. The infamous green on the 6thhole contains a bunker in the middle of it. With several bunkers and a strong change in elevation, this hole has proven to be a difficult task for experienced players. The beauty of this hole is that there are several options available to recover if the ball lands on the wrong side of the bunker. Anything from chipping over the bunker to putting around it are options to consider. The bunkers at 10 and 14 also provide a challenge to the player. These bunkers are strategically placed to ensure both difficulty and multiple playing options for the golfer. The bunkers on course have been reconstructed since the 2018 Genesis Open, so expect beautiful sand traps at this year’s tournament.