Riviera is a special place. It starts off with the setting: a golf course fit into a valley which eliminates visual and audible distractions. You’ll occasionally hear hammering or weed whacking as workers build and maintain the $15M+ houses on the rim, but primarily you’re treated to the calls of the local parakeet population. The 284 days of sunshine, most of them warm, add an additional level of enjoyment, and then the aesthetic of the towering eucalyptus and sycamore trees, whose trunks contrast with the kikuya fairways and poa greens provide a cohesive and beautiful environment. Every time I walk past the first tee at Riviera, soon after arriving and on my way to the driving range, I take a deep breath of that fresh Riviera air as I pause to recognize the gratitude I feel for having the opportunity to experience such a treat.
The true treat, of course, is the course itself. A masterpiece. As many previous reviewers have stated, there are no weak holes. Each hole offers multiple options of approach, requiring strategic analysis and self awareness if one wants to score well. The course is highly playable as there are few locations where a player can lose his ball, but penalties abound if the player is out of position and makes either a poor decision or effort for the recovery shot. Personally, I appreciate the kikuya, with its unmatched (incredible) fairway lies and tough-to-predict (not quite unpredictable) influence on short game shots. I think the greens are exceptional, but punishing. It is almost impossible to die a putt into the hole at Riv as the cups are always set just the tiniest bit above the green surface. Many a putt of mine has been rejected at the rim because I did not imbue enough speed. The greens require confident, uninhibited putts, if the intention is not to lag.
The best compliment I can offer Riviera is that it’s the most enjoyable, best designed obstacle course I’ve experienced in golf. Every tee box has the player consider ‘what will I do here?’ If you succeed with your intended approach, the sense of accomplishment is significant. There are few places in golf that can match the fulfillment one feels when playing well at Riv, or the desire to return, whether having scored well or not.
Date: May 27, 2021