It’s so easy to underestimate the routing of Riviera. The site is a simple box canyon with not a lot of features, but Thomas incorporated the central barranca so effectively on six holes. He then utilizes the side slopes and elevations changes at the edges of the canyon to play a significant role on another six. But what takes Riviera to a whole other architectural level is the excellence in design details on remaining six holes that traverse over the lesser land of the property.
The 10th hole is the game’s greatest creation. Thomas’s used deception, strategic angles, pitch and the juxtaposition of grand and small scale to confuse and confound the player. It is also a testimony that a player’s ego can be used against them to reduce their chances of succeeding. In other holes he relied on dramatic bunkers and creative green contours to play an essential role in how the hole must be approached. In all cases he insists upon constant positional play, which means even when the land isn’t dramatic, the challenges still hold your attention.
There is no course that plays quite like Riviera. You are constantly asked to hit either a draw or fade off the tee. Thomas did this in a variety of ways, including the use of key trees, careful placement of bunkers, slopes of the green, and even the keen use of side slopes that require a tee shot to be shaped to remain on the fairway. The joy at Riviera is the constant flow back and forth between fade and draw, even alternating on the same hole at times (like the 3rd hole). It’s a course where skill and cunning is required to score, but on the occasion where find yourself well out of position, the ball is still easy to find and easy to put back in play. And that ensures it's fun too.
|10th at Riviera - courtesy of Loe Turf|