7178 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 75.6/137
COURSE ARCHITECT: George C. Thomas Jr. (1927)
COURSE WEBSITE: http://therivieracountryclub.com/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: August 23, 2007.
LOW SCORE: 83 (+12)
– Golf Club Atlas 147 Custodians of the Game: #19
– Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in the World 2020/21: #28
– Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in the United States 2017: #19
– Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2019/20: #23
– Golfweek Best Classic Courses 2019: #18
– Top100GolfCourses.com World’s Top 100 2019: #37
– Top100GolfCourses.com Top 100 in the U.S. 2018: #21
As a country club, Riviera enjoys a history second to none. It has been known throughout the years as the golfing home of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars, the venue for the Nissan (formerly L.A.) Open and the host of several major championships. Called “Hogan’s Alley” after the Texan captured the 1947 and ’48 L.A. Opens as well as the 1948 U.S. Open at Riviera, the course’s artfully undulating fairways and greens, its wiry rough and cavernous bunkers have supported the cleats of golf royalty from every era.
Jacky and I rented a car on Tuesday August 21st and made the lovely drive up the #1 Pacific Coast Highway through Los Angeles and into Pacific Palisades, a tiny community nestled inbetween Santa Monica, Bel Air and Brentwood.
Funny enough, I completely forgot to get directions or even a street address to Riviera so we were forced to wing it. We drove up the meandering Sunset Boulevard and eventually came up on a brick wall marked with the words “Riviera Tennis Club”.
“That’s got to be it!”, I exclaimed.
Indeed it was. There was a manned electronic security gate down the road and I told the guard I was a guest at the club for a few nights. He smiled, opened the gate and said “you can drop your bags off at the clubhouse and bring your car back here once you’re finished”, as he pointed out the guest parking lot just off to the side.
We were in!
And boy oh boy, what a beautiful site it was.
The security guard in the clubhouse welcomed us and checked us in, giving us room 232.
We took the elevator up to the second floor and made the long walk down the expansive corridor to our room. The walls were decorated with fantastic old shots of the course and the clubhouse, with most originating from an old newsletter from the ’20s called “Mercury”, the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s main publication.
There were a number of rooms that had nameplates on them right below the room number, signifying the famous guest that usually stayed there back in the day. We passed by three such rooms on the way to our own: the Bobby Jones suite, the Dean Martin suite and the Walt Disney suite.
After opening the door to our room, it took all of five seconds for me to say the following:
“This is SO worth the money.”
This was the view outside of our room.
The first shot is of the uphill par four 18th hole, which was directly underneath our room while the second shot is of the famous short par four 10th hole.
What a panoramic!
The room itself was charming in an old school way. No real frills in our modest room, just a queen-sized bed, a modestly-sized television and an empty bar fridge.
We got unpacked and then got dressed for dinner, as it was approaching 6pm. Before heading out, I had to take a bit of a tour around the clubhouse first.
The lobby in the clubhouse is absolutely stunning, with a grand piano, large fireplace, couches and trophy cases everywhere.
We then made our way out from the lobby to the gorgeous balcony-top patio overlooking the 18th hole.
The balcony goes all the way around the building and offers great panoramics of the entire golf course. Just amazingly beautiful.
From there, I couldn’t resist getting a few staged shots in on the famous downhill opener with driver in hand and some decidedly non-golfing attire.
I LOVE that clock on the first tee. Just gives the course even more of a classic feel.
What made this whole experience surreal was that we seemed to be the ONLY ONES OUT THERE. Not a person to be found! The pro shop was closed so my attempts at talking to someone about possibly walking the golf course with my camera would have to wait until the next day.
We left the club and went out to dinner that night in Brentwood, a quaint community just east of Pacific Palisades. We dined at Amici Brentwood and I had one of the best Chicken Parm dishes of my life. Just a tremendous night…we almost went back to the same place two nights later but resisted…barely!
I woke up relatively early on Wednesday morning and made my way to the pro shop to introduce myself to the pro, who I had exchanged a couple emails with the week before arriving in California.
He mentioned that he’d be willing to get me on another course if I was in the area more than a day but I didn’t want to impose too much during my time there. Plus, I didn’t want to tick off the wife by playing golf the entire time in the LA area.
So I went down with intentions of seeing whether I could walk the course in the early evening when things calmed down a bit. I guess it’s not something they traditionally allow but he smiled and gave me the go-ahead, as long as I didn’t get in the way of any members.
Oh my…I could barely wait!
Jacky and I spent the day shopping in Santa Monica and driving around Bel Air and Beverly Hills, looking at the larger-than-life houses. I can’t even fathom what some of these places are worth but it was a fun day.
We finished our afternoon in the Malibu area and took a quick tour of ‘Surfer U’, or Pepperdine University. I don’t know how any of them can concentrate on studies when they have this view…
We got back to Riviera around 6:30pm. Jacky retreated to the room to watch television while I grabbed my camera and headed for the course!
If you can believe it, I had the entire golf course to myself! Little ole me walking Hogan’s Alley in my slacks, dress shirt and shoes, a camera and a huge grin.
There wasn’t a single golfer on the course!
I basically walked the course in reverse order, starting on the 18th and working my way west towards the back end of the property, where you find the fifth green and the famous par three sixth with the bunker in the middle of the green.
I hate waxing poetic but I have to do it here – the hour or so I spent walking around and taking pictures was as thrilling as almost anything I can remember doing in my life. It would only have been topped if my wife had come out for the walk – something she definitely regrets missing.
I somehow was able to compose myself enough to get a little sleep that night. I had an 8:15am tee time the next morning at the Riv!
I’ll be back tomorrow with an extensive course review and pictorial of Riviera, along with a shot-by-shot recap of my round on one of the world’s greatest tracks.