Riviera - California - USA

Riviera Country Club,
1250 Capri Drive,
Pacific Palisades,
California (CA) 90272,
USA


  • +1 310 454 6591

  • Rebecca Brunk

  • George C. Thomas Jnr., Coore & Crenshaw (1993)

  • Todd Yoshitake


The Riviera Country Club is undoubtedly an important course, not just because of its magnetic appeal to many famous members including Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, and Gregory Peck but because this is a masterpiece in architectural design.

George C. Thomas Jnr. designed Riviera, or should we say manufactured Riviera. When the course opened for play in 1926, the construction bill was almost $250,000 and this was one of the first courses where literally the earth moved in mysterious ways. Thomas was perhaps the most underrated architect of his time and much of his work has been lost through the perennial remodelling programmes and the same is true to a greater extent here at Riviera. Fortunately some holes do still play in the strategic spirit that Thomas intended where he who dares and wins will be rewarded.

Riviera was one of Ben Hogan’s favourite courses and it’s sometimes referred to as “Hogan’s Alley”. Perhaps so named because Hogan took the tight but more rewarding driving line here at Riviera, just as he did on the 5th hole at Carnoustie during the 1953 British Open. We suspect it may be because is was here that Hogan set his Open record of 276 or perhaps it was because he made his historic comeback at Riviera after his horrific car crash in 1950. Does anybody know?

The Los Angeles Open was first played at Riviera Country Club in 1929, but the event began a long-term relationship with the club in 1973. Since 1973, The LA Open has been played here every year except 1983 and 1988 when Riviera played host to the PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open respectively. Jack Nicklaus won his first pay cheque here at Riviera in the 1962 LA Open. His 50th place banked him a modest $33 but the Riviera Country Club remained one of the few courses on the Tour where the Golden Bear never claimed a victory.

There are few courses with no weaknesses, but Riviera can take the moniker. It’s a truly remarkable course routed across less than ideal terrain. Hats off to Mr Thomas.

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Reviews for Riviera

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Description: There are few courses with no weaknesses, but the Riviera Country Club can take the moniker. It’s a truly remarkable golf course routed across less than ideal terrain. Rating: 5.4 out of 6 Reviews: 9

This is a marvellous course I was fortunate enough to play As a guest on a number of occasions whilst working in LA. Challenging, in exquisite condition, perhaps somewhat “corporate”, it is a US country club not to be missed, and of course a championship course of major importance. In my view eclipsed as a course and club by LA country club North.

5 / 6
Riviera
November 11, 2018


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It would simply be redundant on my part to repeat what others have said about this magnificent course in the greater LA area. Set in a canyon the layout is marvelously routed -- a constant change of strategic calculations need to be made. The roster of events and the champions crowned at Riviera over the many years is a testament to the genius of architect George C. Thomas, Jr.

The variety of green sites is truly wondrous. Players need to get to certain positions at all times in order to maximize their scoring opportunities. Being out of position at Riviera will certainly put additional pressure on players. A classic case study is the all-world short par-4 10th. Arguably, there is no finer short par-4 in all the game.

The collection of the par-3's is no less stellar. Each asks for different shotmaking elements from the player.

If I had to cite a slight weakness it's the collective nature of the par-5 holes. They are good -- but not equal to what you see with the other holes at the course.

My only personal pet peeve with the overall course is the involvement of kikuyu grass found there. The grass is literally "sticky" and it does have an impact on the ground game dimension. Over the years Riviera has had issues with the turf quality of the greens but that seems to be an issue more and more in the past than in current times.

This year the US Amateur will come to the storied layout and it's great to see the best of amateur golf will test themselves on the Thomas design.

Riviera last hosted a major when serving as site for the 1995 PGA Championship. The one and only time the US Open was played there was in 1948 when Ben Hogan claimed the title. Each year the PGA Tour does play there and it's clearly a venue both the players relish and the television viewers cannot wait to see again.

Interesting little fact few might realize when Riviera hosted the '48 Open, Babe Didrikson Zaharias because the first women to attempt to qualify for the event, but her application was rejected by the USGA. The organization stated the championship was intended to be open to men only. That policy has since been changed and Michelle Wie became the first, and, thus far, only women to get to the sectional qualifying stage when she did so in 2006 at Canoe Brook CC in Summit, NJ.

Anyone who relishes architectural grandeur needs to have Riviera on their bucket list. The time spent there will long be remembered.

by M. James Ward

6 / 6
Riviera
July 28, 2017


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Many people are familiar with Riviera from the PGA Tour’s annual stop here. Admittedly there is always something special about playing a course for the first time that you have seen on TV many times. That anticipation is all the greater when that course happens to also have some of the world’s best architecture.

Riviera is most certainly a special place, from its location in the middle of Beverely Hills and Santa Monica Pier to its iconic first tee shot right in the front of the club house. Indeed the first tee shot is a doozy. The tee is Riviera Golf Course - Photo by reviewerhighly elevated and lends itself to going for the biggest swing of your life. A solid drive will afford a go at this green in two. The deep front bunker makes for an all too easy target and as I learned a very challenging up and down.

On the second hole, you better hope to be warmed up because both the drive and the approach to the elevated and well guarded green are exacting. The gentle handshake is a thing of the past.

What follows is a wonderfully challenging and near perfectly routed course utilizing all available natural features to perfection. Riviera requires every bit of your “A” game. The ability to shape drives is also very helpful in setting up the best angles of approach to many of the 2 shot holes.

The iconic par 3 6th hole with the bunker in the middle of the green felt different than I initially expected. We played to a right pin position and it felt like the hole basically had a left and right green. Nonetheless a very interesting feature that also left me wondering how much impact sand Riviera Golf Course - Photo by reviewersplash has on the green over time.

The 10th is one of the most (in) famous short par 4’s in the world. I played it totally wrong and left myself with a 40 yard shot from right in front of the green with the flag right in front me. For those that don’t know this hole it may have one of the smallest and most narrow greens on the PGA Tour. I guess from the angle I was coming in it may have been 10 paces wide with a ridge in front and sloping away from me. One of the best 60 degree wedges of my life allowed me a rare shot at birdie from this out of position drive, don’t try this at home or in a medal round as it could of just as easily been a 6 or 7 instead of a 3. Luckily the scorecard doesn’t show foolishness except in high numbers.

The back 9 is every bit as strong as the front and finishing with a mighty blow in the dogleg right, uphill and long par 4. A strong drive on this hole leaves a hybrid or long iron approach for all but the longest hitters. The green is two tiered and quite long making judging the distance correctly one of the toughest challenges.

Riviera is indeed a great experience and one hardly needs to recommend it. Still jump at any chance to play, it would be worth a long flight for the opportunity. It’s that good.

6 / 6
Riviera
November 30, 2016


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The first tee at Riviera is memorable, a 503-yard par five that plays from an elevation of about 100 feet down into Santa Monica Canyon below. The course is defined on both sides by the canyon and The Most Expensive Real Estate in The World. The first tee gives a hint that Riviera will be much more about strategy than anything else. The tee box lines you up away from the line of play so you have to aim left to hit the straight fairway. Get used to this here, as there are many little deceptions that make Riviera a great course that forces you to think your way around it.

During my second time around the course, three holes in particular struck me as truly one-of-a-kind, and among the best in the world. The first among them is the 419-yard par four fifth; the seventh and the tenth are the two others. The fifth hole is a tree lined dog-leg left where a tee shot should favor the right side to give a better view of the green, which is located down on a lower tier of land than the fairway. The challenge on the seventh, similar to another great hole with a ravine, the eleventh at Shoreacres, is to decide how aggressive you want to be. Shots played to the left are safer, but leave you further from the green. Shots played aggressively and further to the right will be rewarded with a shorter shot to the green.

I won't belabor the virtues of the tenth hole since most people are probably familiar with it from the annual coverage the hole receives when the PGA tour plays at Riviera. It may be the best example of how a hole does not have to be long to be great. It is a par four of 315 yards. It is visually intimidating, with great risk/reward options and a small and treacherous green that all add up to make it a standout. When you stand on the tee, it looks like there is no room to hit the ball on the left. However, the reality is that there is plenty of room on the left side, which only becomes obvious when you walk toward the green.

Riviera is made even more interesting by virtue of the majestic houses sitting on the commanding promontory above the course, with views of the Pacific Ocean. Scold me for being shallow and easily impressed, but it is pretty cool.

John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs

5 / 6
Riviera
November 19, 2016


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Riviera was designed by George Thomas in 1926 and sits in a valley surrounded by the expensive homes of Pacific Palisades perched on the cliffs above. The grass is kikuyu, which I had never played on before. It’s a very coarse grass with stiff, strong blades (so stiff that your ball sits up beautifully in the fairway, almost like it’s teed up). The rough, however, tangles around your club mercilessly.

My playing partner and I came around the corner to Number 6, the most famous hole on the course. It’s a par 3 of 142 yards with a sand bunker right in the middle of the green – that’s right, in the middle of the green! Pros have been known to chip over the trap when necessary, but the sign by the green makes clear that this is not acceptable. I made bogey here, landing my tee shot on the wrong side of the sand trap and 3-putting around the trap. Oh well! As we left the green, my playing partner pointed to a house high above the 6th green. “That’s where I live.”

Riviera is not a club of celebrities like Bel-Air, but there are a few. O.J. was a member until his trial. And there’s the story about Dean Martin and two of his pals getting ready to tee off when Buddy Hackett spotted them and hurried over to join them. “Sorry, Buddy,” Dean said, “We already have a full threesome.” Larry Berle.
5 / 6
Riviera
October 03, 2014


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Response
Keith Baxter
October 03, 2014
The above review is an edited extract from A Golfer’s Dream, which has been reproduced with the author’s kind permission. A Golfer’s Dream, by Larry Berle, tells the story of how a regular guy conquered America’s Top 100 Golf Courses (following Golf Digest’s 2001/2002 list). Larry has exclusively rated for us every course in the hundred, using our golf ball rating system. However, Larry did not rate the 100 courses against every golf course he has played, but instead he rated them in relation to each other within the hundred. Consequently, in some cases, his rating may seem rather low. A Golfer’s Dream is available in Kindle format and also on Kindle Unlimited via Amazon... click the link for more. 
Captain George Thomas designed Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles Country Club (North) and Bel-Air Country Club within a few years of each other and practically all within a 5 mile radius. Among the many aspects that separate “The Riv” from the rest of the pack is the mind-blowing, yet impressive, growth of kikuyu grass throughout the property. When the country club and course opened in 1926, it was known as the Los Angeles Athletic Club Golf Course. Alister MacKenzie and William Bell helped Thomas in the design and planning of the course. They were in charge of assembling a labour force to build the course from scratch in the Santa Monica Canyon. The course has been modified a few times, most notably in 1992 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore redesigned the bunkers to look as they did when the course opened. Although the course has 3 alternate greens in play (6th, 10th & 16th) and an unusual aeration schedule (they punch much later in the year in order to have the greens perfect for when the PGA Tour arrives in February), I still think that The Riv is the most enjoyable and impressive layout in the Los Angeles area. The routing is wonderful and the positioning of the bunkers frame the visuals so well. The stunning par four 9th hole bringing you back towards the magnificent clubhouse is always my favourite hole and represents the brilliance of Thomas’ imagination. All of the holes at The Riv has a unique story to them, each so well designed and fitting perfectly into the flow of the landscape. The par four 10th hole may well be amongst the most famous on earth for its devilishly small putting surface running away from the approaching play. The club is moving towards a smaller membership, facilitated by tougher membership criteria and higher initiation fees ($250k). The conditioning is world class, as is expected from a facility of this nature. Watch out for the Hollywood celebrities and famous sports stars, this is where they play golf.
5 / 6
Riviera
December 09, 2013


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Special courses deserve distinction among their peers, Riviera should be noted.
6 / 6
Riviera
October 27, 2011


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We walked into the pro shop at Riviera thinking they were not going to let us play. We did have permission, but I could not believe it was true. We got to the first tee and was waiting for the pro to say hey guys, but we all tee'd off and once we got to the bottom of the hill I knew we were on.It started off with a pretty easy hole and would have continued that way if I would not have gotten into the rough on #2. 6 was great and 7 and 8 were tough. 10 should be an easy hole, but everyone says if ou don't use driver you are a wimp. I don't think I used any less than a 6 iron on any of the par 4's and eighteen is alot more uphill than I thought and the green on TV makes it look 3 times as big as it really is. Greatest course in the US I have played so far.
6 / 6
Riviera
July 09, 2010


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Played this golf course in 2002 and i was blown away by the nature of this course. It is set in very few acres and as a result the fairways are close to each other and the tees and greens are close by which is unusual for a US course. The grass is very different from your average course and it makes ball striking crucial otherwise the club gets stuck and the ball goes about a yard. The CH is probably the best I have ever seen with so many facilities inside it was unreal. Look out for all the houses on the cliff tops on the edge of the fairways on the front nine, Tom Hanks and Lionel Richie in particular have amazing pads. A truly great American golf course!
5 / 6
Riviera
July 11, 2006


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