A hole-by-hole guide to Riviera
Boasting an incredible list of champions, The Riviera Country Club is one of golf’s ultimate tests. From tee shots that require accuracy to approach shots directly into the ocean breeze, Riviera can test a player’s game from the first shot to the last putt. See how the course stacks up against golf’s biggest stars.
The Riviera Country Club
HOLE 1: par 5, 503 yards
Name a more iconic first tee shot in golf; we’ll wait. Sitting in the shadow of the clubhouse, the first tee is elevated 75 feet above the fairway and tempts players with what appears to be a wide fairway. Big hitters beware, driver is too much club on this opening par 5. Most players choose an iron off the tee to set up their approach shot. With 24 eagles and 214 birdies in 2020, the first hole played as the easiest hole on course. Players need to look to score on their first hole to get their round off to a fast start.
2020 hole rank (1 to 18 – hardest to easiest): 18
HOLE 2: par 4, 471 yards
The second hole at Riviera exemplifies how players can be rewarded for hitting good shots. An extremely narrow fairway leads to a very narrow green, only 25 feet wide at its widest point. The green is protected on the left and right by bunkers that nearly meet on the front of the green, forcing two consecutive precise shots. Players were nearly twice as likely to make bogey as they were a birdie in 2020.
2020 hole rank: 10
HOLE 3: par 4, 434 yards
If the wind is blowing at Riviera, the third hole plays a lot harder. Designed directly into the wind, the 434-yard hole might seem like a straightforward left to right tee shot, but with overgrown areas straight ahead and to player’s right, finding the fairway is a necessity off the tee. The shallow green slopes away from the fairway but can hold an approach shot when struck well. Birdie is gettable, but so is bogey, so walking away with a par is a good thing on the third.
2020 hole rank: 14
HOLE 4: par 3, 236 yards
The first real test on the front nine comes at the par 3 fourth. Wind conditions can make a hard tee shot nearly impossible when the gusts are blowing. The green, guarded by a large bunker in the front, slopes severely from right to left. Long putts are common on the fourth hole, which led to players making only 25 birdies compared to 102 bogeys in 2020.
2020 hole rank: 3
HOLE 5: par 4, 434 yards
The original George Thomas tee location is perched up on a small hill and tests player’s ability to play directly into the wind. Players will favor a slight fade when the tee location is in the original George Thomas location. When the tee is lowered to the tee box sitting at the bottom of the small hill, the hole plays shorter, not because of yardage, but because tee shots can stay below the wind, allowing for a draw to be hit off the tee. Expect most tournament rounds to find the tee box in the original location atop the hill.
2020 hole rank: 7
HOLE 6: par 3, 199 yards
Some rounds, the sixth hole is a straightforward par 3. Other rounds, it shows its teeth. The two-tiered green is enough to cause problems for players as landing your tee shot on the right level is of utmost importance. Add in the difficulty of the island bunker. Positioned perfectly in the center the two-tiered putting surface, avoid having to putt around the bunker in the middle of the green.
2020 hole rank: 12
HOLE 7: par 4, 408 yards
Accuracy is the name of the game at the seventh. Off the tee, players need to hit the center of the fairway. A little left and you bring the bunkers into play. A little right and the tee shot could find the barranca. Finding the fairway means the odds of making par increase significantly.
2020 hole rank: 13
HOLE 8: par 4, 433 yards
When looking from tee to green on the eighth hole, it would appear the fairway is split. And in fact, it is. But come competition, TOUR players almost universally play from the left fairway, most opting for hitting a power fade that takes the left fairway bunker out of play. From there, a simple wedge into wide green can cause for an easy hole. But miss the fairway off the tee and pay the price. Scrambling on the eighth can lead to bogey or worse.
2020 hole rank: 6
HOLE 9: par 4, 458 yards
When George Thomas originally designed the ninth hole at Riviera, two crossing bunkers, a shorter one on the right followed by a longer one on the left, were meant to cut down the width of the fairway. Today’s player can remove both bunkers from play simply by hitting driver. With views of the iconic clubhouse, the approach shot into the green must find its shelf as missing can lead to long birdie or par putts on the large green.
2020 hole rank: 9
HOLE 10: par 4, 315 yards
Riviera’s most iconic hole, the 10th has been called ‘one of the best 10th holes in major championship golf’ by Jack Nicklaus, a winner of a record 18 majors. The drivable par 4 measures only 315 yards but the mental games it plays on a player can have lasting effects on their round. Sure, eagle and birdie is possible, but nearly just as easy is bogey and double. Players have expressed thinking about the 10th hole as early as the eighth green, a mental giant for a short par 4.
2020 hole rank: 15
HOLE 11: par 5, 583 yards
Coming off the 10th hole, the 11th provides players with an incredible scoring opportunity. In 2020, the 11th hole gave up 146 birdies, second only to the first hole. Again, Riviera rewards accuracy off the tee. Find the fairway with a good drive and reaching the green in two is a possibility. Without a good tee shot, a layup is inevitable.
2020 hole rank: 16
HOLE 12: par 4, 479 yards
As Riviera giveth on the 11th, it taketh away on the 12th. The second hardest hole in 2020 surrendered the one birdie for every four scored over par. Only the 15h allowed more scores over par in 2020. While Bogart’s tree guards the left side of the green, a bunker on the right side wraps around the front of the green, calling for long iron shots to find the narrow putting surface.
2020 hole rank: 2
HOLE 13: par 4, 459 yards
Off the tee, players need to move the ball from right to left to find the fairway. Lined on both sides by large eucalyptus trees, the fairway slopes up just so slightly to add a club length to the approach shot. A large green can lead to long putts and missed pars.
2020 hole rank: 8
HOLE 14: par 3, 192 yards
The 14th hole isn’t the longest par 3 on course. And it didn’t surrender the fewest birdies in 2020. But it did play the hardest of the four par 3 holes. with an extremely wide green, tee shots often can often miss their mark on a green that isn’t very deep. Add in the two large bunkers guarding the front and errant shots find their way into trouble.
2020 hole rank: 4
HOLE 15: par 4, 487 yards
The most difficult par 3 on course in 2020 was followed by the most difficult hole. The tee shot requires a power fade to turn the corner of the doglegged fairway. The approach shot is made more difficult down the stretch as the hole plays into the setting sun later in the day. A two-tiered green can give players trouble even once they find the putting surface. While it’s unlikely players find a birdie on the 15th to win the tournament, a bogey on the 15th can lose the tournament.
2020 hole rank: 1
HOLE 16: par 3, 166 yards
The final par 3 at Riviera is both its shortest and statistically best chance to not make bogey on a par 3. Completely surrounded on all sides by steep, deep bunkers, the small green requires an accurate tee shot. Find the green off the tee and par is almost certain to follow. Finding a bunker doesn’t mean bogeys as a clean out from the sand can come to rest near the pin position.
2020 hole rank: 11
HOLE 17: par 5, 590 yards
While it might be the longest hole at Riviera, the 17th plays into the strength of the modern TOUR player. A powerful drive followed by a long iron makes the green reachable in two. Being on the putting surface with a chance for eagle provides insurance from the two-tiered green that slopes from back to front, creating difficult downhill putts. If you can play from below the hole location, your chances of scoring increase significantly.
2020 hole rank: 16
HOLE 18: par 4, 475 yards
Riviera starts with an iconic hole and it ends in the same fashion. The 18th is one of golf’s most unique and recognizable finishing holes. a blind tee shot from drastically below the level of the fairway means players must carry the hill to reach safely. If the drive can also turn a corner at the top of the hill, the approach shot becomes much easier. The natural amphitheater below the clubhouse provides the ultimate stadium-style finish to the round and tournament.
2020 hole rank: 5