Golf if not, as has once been suggested, a good walk spoiled.
Not when there’s a PGA Tour event happening and you’ve got a cold beer in your hand.
And that’s exactly the way it is at Riviera Country Club each February (17-20 in 2022).
Riviera provides the setting and beautiful Pacific Palisades the backdrop for the annual Genesis Open (formerly the Northern Trust Open) an open event for spectators who are looking to see pro golfers, have a few beers and enjoy, well, a good walk.
Walking In Ben Hogan’s Footsteps
The course has hosted tournaments for decades and is known as “Hogan’s Alley” for Ben Hogan’s back-to-back wins in 1947 and 48. Hogan also won the U.S. Open here in ’48.
Additionally, Riviera has hosted the PGA Championship, so it’s most definitely a “major” course. It’s spiky kikuyu grass penalizes long hitters who don’t hit the fairways.
The late, great Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray once wrote that Riviera is “like a coquettish woman who winks at you behind her fan. Gives you the come-on. But just when you think she’s all yours, wham! You find yourself sitting on the curb with a wilted bouquet, wondering who’s kissing her now.”
You don’t have to see every hole to enjoy the LA Open, and that’s the beautify of being at the tournament. After all, there’s socializing to do and beer to drink. But to fully enjoy Riviera and the Northern Trust – er, Genesis – Open, it’s helpful to know exactly which holes are the best ones for viewing the action.
There’s no water on the course. Unless it rains. Which it has on occasion in Los Angeles in February. For spectators, Riviera shines most brightly when the sun it out and it’s warm, as is the case most of the time.
So grab a beer from the Grove or one of the concession stands and take this “Ultra” walk around the course. Related post: Fans Party Guide.
NO. 1 – The first tee is at the top of a hill, elevated high above the fairway. If you’ve used the side entrance instead of coming in through the clubhouse, you’ve got to climb that hill. You’ll be rewarded with an elevated view of about half the course. Because golfers start rounds from the 1st and 10th tees, there’s continual action here throughout the day; those starting on 10 come through in the afternoon after they’ve made “the turn.” You don’t even have to leave your spot to see the rest of the hole and you might even see a player make an eagle. The view here is spectacular.
NO. 6 – Most of the best viewing holes are on this side of the course. After you’ve finished at the first tee, head down the hill to the right past the 18th green and fairway. Go to the end of the course. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you look up and see a flagstick on the roof of a house high above the hole. That’s not the sixth green but the one below is just as tricky, for there is a sand trap right in the middle of it. Stand on the side by the green and you’ll actually see golfers chip over that trap to the hole. Great viewing. This is a 199-yard par 3, so from the vantage point by the green, you can also see the tee shots.
NO. 10 – This is a fairly short, 300-year par 4 that many golfers try and reach with a drive. That works – sometimes – but it can also invite trouble. That’s why it’s so exciting. There’s palm trees to the left and sand traps front and back. Phil Michelson wound up in the back trap in the 2012 playoff and never had a chance to counter Bill Haas’ tournament-winning 45-foot putt. The best viewing spot is to the left or behind the green.
Again bowing to Murray’s eloquence: “This is a shameless little harlot that just sits there at the end of the bar in her mesh stockings and miniskirt and winks at you. It’s only a little over 300 yards long and looks as drivable as the 405 Freeway. Don’t go for it. Take your four-iron and hit it safely and sensibly left. The peninsula green will open up from there. If you try to drive it, you will find the green as narrow as a burlesque runway.”
NO. 11 – On you way toward The Grove to get another beer, stop at this hole, ideally just past the path. That’s the landing spot of tee shots on this Par 5; then watch the golfer soar the ball toward the green. And behind the adjacent 8th and 13th holes, note the houses high on the hill that look down over Riviera. One once belonged to Mel Brooks.
NO. 14 – This testy little Par 3 is one of the top viewing holes on the entire course. First of all, it’s located right next to The Grove, the tournament’s mid-course bar. It’s also surrounded by hospitality tents, making it the liveliest place on the golf course, Stand on either side just down from the tee box, or go between the hospitality tents by the left side of the green.
NO. 18 – One of the great finishing holes in all of golf, the 18th is Riviera’s signature hole. The tee box is just steps from The Grove and the 14th, so the location could not be more convenient. Stand either just down from the tee box to see those shots fly over a huge hill – something some club member golfers only dream of doing – then walk up to either the second shot spot or around the green.
If you’re lucky, you can find a spot to sit on the hill to the left of, or behind, the green. Note that the 18th is the most popular hole and is usually crowded, especially on Sunday. The 18th can provide dramatic birdies – Michelson sank a long putt here to make the 2012 playoff, followed immediately by Keegan Bradley, who did the same – or the “thread the needle” approach shot can lead to bogeys.
For fans, the hilly landscape makes for great views.
Buy Tickets: www.genesisopen.com