Connect with us

Reviews

Ari’s Course Reviews: Riviera Country Club

Published

on

Riviera Country Club was designed by George Thomas and opened in 1927. Construction was done by Thomas’ right hand man, Billy Bell, whom he worked with on all of his great projects in California. Instantly regarded as a top test of golf, Riviera Country Club has hosted 3 major championships. When the pros tee it up this week at Riviera for the Genesis Open (formerly the Los Angeles Open), it will be the 55th time the course has played host to this now annual test of the best in the world.

Related: Our photos from this week at the 2018 Genesis Open

The clubhouse is one of the most amazing in golf; it sits up on top of a hill with the golf course (other than the first tee and 18th fairway/green) laid out in the lower canyon, continuously bisected by a set of barrancas that are integral to the strategy of the course. The first tee is right next to the pro shop and is one of the most unique and best in all of golf. Literally feet away from the pro shop and the starter shack, each player gets their name and home town announced as they prepare to tee off, an experience that gives the place an even more special feel. Sometimes it’s the little details that matter. The first tee shot drops 75 feet to the fairway, giving you the feel of standing on the edge of a cliff as you tee off on the first hole.

George Thomas was all about strategy and angles in his course design. It was a constant theme in the courses he designed, as well as the books he wrote. This can be seen in most of the holes at Riviera. The best angle into the green is almost always the angle off the tee with the most trouble. You can see this on holes 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 17 and 18. If you challenge the fairway bunker, or barranca, or stay tight to the tree line, you get a much more open angle into the green. If you play out to the open side of the fairway, you have a much more difficult shot into the green.

The view of the first tee, and first fairway down below

There are only two or three par 5s on the course, depending on if you’re talking about member play or the PGA Tour. The first hole is just a shade over 500 yards and sometimes plays as a par 4 for the Tour. After the extremely memorable drop-shot tee shot, you descend into the valley that most of the course occupies. A barranca crosses the fairway at about 300 yards. The green is wide and wraps around a deep centering bunker.  There is a deep fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway past the barranca that does not really come into play for the Tour, but for the members if you can challenge this bunker you generally get a better angle into the green, unless the hole is cut on the far right side of the green. The 11th hole is tight between two stands of trees and crosses another barranca on the way to the green with a deep bunker guarding the right side. The 17th is a long, challenging, uphill par-5. The fairway is heavily bunkered on the left side. The right side is up tight to the tree line with only a single bunker back in the fairway. The green is large and double tiered. It is open on the left and guarded by and extremely deep bunker on the right. The best angle into the green is as close to the fairway bunkers on the left as possible.

Riviera has a great set of par 3s. The 4th hole was called the greatest par 3 in America by Ben Hogan, and it’s a long, Redan-style hole with a huge bunker short of the right-to-left sloping green. A shot out to the right with a draw can catch the contours on the right side and send the ball close to the hole just as easily as a high spinny shot right at the hole. The 6th is a true Thomas original and one of the most unique holes in the world. It’s a mid-to-long iron uphill to a large green with a bunker in the middle. The genius in this green is that it is contoured in such a way that you can get the ball close to the hole from just about any spot on the green to just about any hole location. The 14th is a mid-to-long iron to an elevated green that is wider than deep, and fronted by deep bunkers. The 16th is a gem of a shot hole, just 166 yards from the tournament tee to a very tiny, almost island of a green surrounded by sand. Besides being tiny, the green is fantastically contoured for its size and seems to fold up on itself. Hit the green and have a great chance to make birdie… miss into one of the deep green side bunkers and good luck making par!

The par 4s are nicely varied in length and challenge. Hole No. 2 is very difficult and plays uphill to a green banked into a hill that is long and skinny. Challenge the fairway bunker on the right for the better, open angle into the green.  Hole No. 3 plays slightly downhill to a fantastic fallaway green. Challenge the fairway bunker on the left for the better more open angle into the green. Hole No. 5 is a standout hole with a semi-blind tee shot that bends softly to the left around the edge of the property. Its unique feature is a large grass mound that extends out into the fairway short and right of the large back to front sloping green.  Hole No. 7 is a very tight driving hole; the fairway is tightened severely at about 275 yards by a huge, winding bunker that cuts in from the left side. The more you challenge this severe hazard, the better your angle into this very narrow green protected by a barranca and deep bunker on the right. The left is a bailout area cut as fairway, but the slope up to the green is steep and the up-and-down from there is not an easy one.

The 8th hole starts one of the most interesting 3-hole stretches in PGA Tour golf. It’s a split fairway par-4 with two distinct fairway sections that are bisected by a deep barranca. Depending on the hole location and ones preferred shot shape, and what fits the eye, the hole can be played any number of different ways. In general, the left fairway is a little more demanding to hit, but sets up better to most hole locations. The right fairway is a little more accessible, but leaves a more demanding shot into the green. This was one of George Thomas most famous holes and the right fairway was originally washed away in 1938. It was brought back in play around the recent turn of the century, and, while not an exact replica of what was there, provides the strategic design that Thomas intended when he designed the hole.

The 9th is one of the most difficult holes on the course and plays uphill to a deep, narrow green that falls hard from back-to-front. The tee shot is pinched by a pair of bunkers, but in true Thomas strategic fashion, they are staggered by about 55 yards so the player can plot their best line and try to execute on their strategy.

An aerial view of the 10th hole

The 10th is simply one of the best holes in golf. An absolute masterpiece of a short par 4… maybe the best short par 4 in golf. The player is presented with a multitude of options off the tee. The easiest shot off the tee again yields the toughest shot into the green. A mid-iron just short of the cross bunkers carries very little risk, however, the player is then left with an extremely difficult short-iron shot into this tiny sliver of a green from absolutely the worst angle. The safest way to play this hole is to take this route from the tee and then hit your second shot short left of the green. This will give you a chance to get up-and-down for par from the best place, but intentionally missing a green on a par 4 that is barely over 300 yards is not a choice most are willing to make. The next safest option off the tee is a long iron or fairway wood down the left side towards the far left fairway bunker. This leaves a shorter shot into the green from a much better angle. Then there is also the play of hitting driver between the bunkers right at the green. Pull this off and leave yourself the best chance for par or birdie, but miss the tee shot at your peril. There are a lot of big numbers waiting on this hole for the aggressive player. The green is extremely narrow and slants hard from right-to-left. It is extremely difficult to hit from any distance. This is a hole that has perplexed the best players in the world for 90 years and has been studied by anyone that is interested in golf course architecture. Truly deserving of its reputation as one of the best in the world.

Hole Nos. 12 and 13 play along the edge of the hill that defines the property line across the valley from the clubhouse. A line of Pacific Palisades mansions look down on these holes as the land slopes gently towards the ocean. Hole No. 12 bends to the right and crosses the barranca, while 13 bends left and is tight and is lined with trees. Hole No. 15 is a hard dogleg right with a deep bunker guarding the inside of the dogleg. Play out to the safe left side and the hole plays longer but more open. Fly the fairway bunker and get into the fairway and shave some yardage off the hole. The green is huge, bisected by a large swale, and is my personal favorite on the course. The 18th is one of the most difficult and famous finishing holes in the game. A long, uphill par 4 with a blind tee shot over a hill that bends gently to the right along the tree covered hillside.  The closer to the tree line on the right you find your ball, the better angle you get into the small green that is set into a natural amphitheater in the shadow of the clubhouse.

A view from behind the 18th green

Aside from a great collection of holes, Riviera is one of those courses that is more than the sum of its parts. The routing is tight and extremely walkable, and the greens and tees are all in very close proximity to each other. Other than walking down the big hill off the first tee, and up the big hill after 18 tee, the course meanders up and over some nice rolling terrain, but there are no strenuous walks. The bunkering is stunning and fits the sense of place that you get from the course and the site well. They give the feeling that every square inch was sculpted perfectly as intended. They have lips that are built up and over which makes them extremely deep and difficult.

The site is fantastic too, ringed by mansions of the rich and famous up on the hillside and laid out mostly in the canyon below that cascades gently towards the ocean. The barrancas that run through the property are used strategically over and over again by Thomas and they add immensely to the character of the course. Unfortunately, George Thomas did not design that many courses and equally tragic even less of them are in existence today. Fortunately, Riviera is still there today, so George Thomas can still show us how much fun a course full of strategy, beauty and challenge can be.

A day at Riviera is a very special one and this is one of the PGA Tour events I most look forward to watching every year.

If you liked this review, read Ari’s review of Oakmont Country Club!

Your Reaction?
  • 44
  • LEGIT7
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Ari Techner has been obsessed with golf since he was a kid. His first job was at Carls Golfland picking the range as a 14 year old. He attended the University of Michigan and then the Professional Golf Management program at Ferris State University. At 23, only a little more than a year after graduating from college, he founded Scratch Golf Clubs where he served as President/CEO for 13 years. He is one of the world's most accomplished Club HOs having once completed a 4 round tournament with 4 different putters and finishing in the top 5. He is happy to be free of the shackles of Scratch Golf, giving him the opportunity to HO more than just drivers and fairway woods again! The only thing Ari loves more than golf clubs is golf courses. He has traveled all over the world playing golf, having played most of the USA Top 100 and most of the great courses in Ireland, Scotland and England. He is currently the Director of Business Development for King Collins Golf Course Architecture an up and coming design firm responsible for Sweetens Cove Golf Club the 59th ranked course on Golf Week's Top 100 list and only the 2nd 9 hole course to ever make the list. When he first played Sweetens Cove he was so impressed with the work that King Collins had done that he became a part of the ownership group when the opportunity presented itself. He is also a member at 4 courses in the USA Top 100 including 2 in the Top 20 and a Royal club in the UK that was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1864.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Frank Perry

    Sep 22, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Why review a course that 99.9% of golfers have no chance of getting access?

  2. Joro

    Feb 16, 2018 at 11:50 am

    IT is a great place. The Friday night Seafood Buffet is wonderful and the course is not bad either. I think one of the best holes is the short #10 a sneaky sucker. For a “short” course it has a lot of tough holes and that is what makes a course, not the Bombers wide open long courses. You can see from the scores they are not eating it up, not even the bombers who have to hit quality shots, not just long.

  3. Noonan

    Feb 14, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    One of the most over-rated courses ever

  4. Shad Goldston, DDS

    Feb 14, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Outside of Augusta, “The Riv” is the yearly tour stop I covet playing the most. The tightness, angles to the green, risk/reward, etc. This place is off the charts. I think it leaves places like Pebble (which I’ve played) and Sawgrass in the dust, as far as design and strategy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Equipment

Review: Miura MC-501

Published

on

Pros: The most forgiving blade you’ll ever hit. Miura has made what seems like the hugest oxymoron in golf clubs that we club buyers have been dreaming of!

Cons: The Miura MC 501s are only offered to right-handed golfers. My lefty friends again are going to have to wait and hope that Miura will bring this superior work of golf art to life.

Bottom Line: The Miura MC-501, the newest weapon from Miura golf in their blade line, is the newest weapon for more than just the better golfer. If you’ve been loving the look of Miura blades and have felt that you just weren’t good enough to play them, this might be the model you’ve been waiting to try. All the superior looks Miura has been famous for, the butter-soft feel and a touch of forgiveness in an amazing package!

Overview

Miura has famously made some of the most gorgeous irons ever produced in the world. Their muscle back blades have garnered cult status and many of the better players have always gravitated towards their designs. They have made cavity back irons but the models that have drawn the most attention from all skill levels are the muscle backs. Unfortunately those muscle backs weren’t for everyone but the very low handicaps.

The MC-501 is the muscle back model that was made to change that. It is the longest heel to toe blade model they’ve ever made. Through engineering they’ve repositioned 20 grams of weight to the sole, which not only made the sole wider but moved the center of gravity to allow ease in getting a higher trajectory. The MC-501 also incorporates Yoshitaka Miura’s iconic Y-grind sole that blunts and softens the club head’s leading edge and improves turf interaction.

Precision forged from S25C carbon steel in Miura’s factory in Himeji, these clubs were developed under the most stringent and fastidious craftsmen that you could only wish were making your set.

The MC-501 is are available from authorized Miura dealers/fitters worldwide. They carry a suggested retail price of $260 a club, though the prices may vary with different shaft options.

Clubs tested

  • Miura MC-501 iron set
  • 4-iron through pitching wedge
  • KBS CT95 shafts/Japan Exclusive Model, Black Finish
  • Elite Y360SV grips from Japan

Entire set custom fit and built at Miura Authorized Fitting Center, Aloha Golf Center Las Vegas.

Performance

My initial test with the MC-501s put an immediate smile on my face. My favorite muscle back and club line from Miura has always been the MB-001. There were a few shortcomings in the MB-001, but the looks and feel always made me forget them. The MC-501 seemed to address the shortcomings of the MB-001 perfectly — particularly in the missed shots. Users whose misses tend to be thin will find the movement of weight toward the sole generously allows them a bit of forgiveness and help in trajectory usually lost than other traditionally shaped muscle backs.

Users who want to work the ball will also find the MC-501s play similarly to the MB-001s despite that added forgiveness. I had to work them a little harder but I was able to move the ball either left or right with no issues. They were a little more similar in playability to the CB-57 line than the MB-001.

The Yoshitaka Miura Y Grind sole allows the usual clean strike at impact and great interaction with the turf. There is no digging and it gives a very positive thump sound to your shots. This sole grind also helps to thin the look of the wider sole. Probably the widest sole offered on any Miura muscle back. Although wide, the MC-501 never played clunky, as you might expect upon an initial look, they instead played just like all the other pure Miura blades.

The long irons were where the MC-501s particularly shined. I have never hit a Miura muscle back 4-iron with such ease. Naturally, the design of the head afforded much more forgiveness in launch, yet I was still able to knock down shots when I needed to. The MC-501, being longer heel-to-toe than any other Miura muscle back, also assist it in having much greater forgiveness in the long irons.

The short irons were definitely precision tools. From PW to 7-iron, the distance with them were consistent and playability perfect. There were no hot spots on the face and Miura’s pure forging made solid shots particularly delightful. I marveled at how accurately these clubs hit their distances once you dialed them in. This is a feature I have not been able to replicate in the filled hollow head irons from many other brands.

Forgiveness was much greater in the MC-501 versus other muscle backs from Miura like the Tournament Blade, MB-001 or Baby Blades. This was immediately obvious upon using them. The loss in yardage with thin shots was lessened, and the trajectory was much more consistent due to the design of the head.

Looks and Feel

The MC-501s have a look all of their own in the Miura lineup. The X-like design on the back almost makes you feel like they have superhero qualities! They will definitely take some getting used to if you’re a long-time user of Miura blades, but for those who aren’t as familiar, the look may appear as an exciting change to the standard muscle back.

The beautiful satin finish, which Miura has come to be the standard bearer of, appeals so much to my senses. Miura clubs are one of the few lines that I can sit and just stare at the head, marveling at the beauty that was once just a raw piece of steel. Miura’s ability to produce golf art is something many club companies strive to meet, but some miserably fail at.

The black Miura logo and name prominently in the main middle muscle of the head and a simple MC-501 stamped towards a toe just continues the classy look of Miura. There’s no need for screw heads, fancy colored paint fill, decals, and other fluff. This is just a pure Japanese forged golf club at its highest level.

For what Miura has touted as its most forgiving iron, the top line at address does not make you feel like you’re playing some huge cavity back. It’s as thin as you would expect a Miura muscle back to be. For blade lovers, and past Miura blade users, the top line will not disappoint you. The toe on the MC-501 appears more square than past muscle backs. I personally like a rounder toe, but the squareness does give a look of a bigger face — something that might please those who want a bit of a more forgiving look. The squared toe and shape of the head frames the ball well, and its easy to align the clubs.

The MC-501 design transitions very well through the set. When you line them up on a wall and look at the heads as they transition from the short to the long irons, the shapes blend perfectly. I think Miura is one of the finest makers when it comes to the transitioning of irons in their sets.

The MC-501 is a joyful feeling in your hands. Once you hit a pure strike with them, that clean, pure feeling of the ball striking the face will take your breath away. I don’t know what they put in the steel in Himeji, Japan, but I’ve yet to feel any other brand of club that makes me smile so much after hitting its clubs. The MC-501 in my humble opinion is one extremely fine feeling line of clubs.

The Takeaway

Katsuhiro Miura’s philosophy is one of not just making a new club to come out with something new, but to improve on what the company already offers. The MC-501 is the amalgamation of all his past irons and the top of their club evolutionary chain. With its eye-catching looks, superior feel, and added forgiveness, the MC-501 is a great gateway club for people wanting to try their first Miura club.

The MC-501 is also the club for current Miura muscle back users who would appreciate more forgiveness in their current set and are just not ready to move to full on cavity back irons. I, for one, am getting older and it has occurred to me to switch over to more forgiving shapes and jacked up lofts. The MC-501 is the club that will keep me playing a few more years in the designs I love to look at!

 

Your Reaction?
  • 267
  • LEGIT22
  • WOW19
  • LOL3
  • IDHT3
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK14

Continue Reading

Accessory Reviews

Top-3 men’s golf polos at the 2018 PGA Fashion Show in Vegas

Published

on

GolfWRX’s fashion expert Jordan Madley picks her top-3 favorite men’s polo shirts from the recent 2018 PGA Fashion Show in Las Vegas. Enjoy the video below!

Your Reaction?
  • 45
  • LEGIT11
  • WOW10
  • LOL3
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP16
  • OB6
  • SHANK68

Continue Reading

Equipment

Review: Ping Sigma 2 Putters (TG2 Video)

Published

on

Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss their opinions of the Ping Sigma 2 putter line, along with the new technologies, in this episode of Two Guys Talking Golf (TG2). Enjoy the video review below, and click here for more photos and the full write-up on the new designs.

Click here for photos and tech.

Your Reaction?
  • 30
  • LEGIT4
  • WOW0
  • LOL2
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP4
  • OB1
  • SHANK15

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending