I’ve been privileged to have played in the L.A. Open (now the Northern Trust Open) at Riviera Country Club numerous times.The most important lesson I learned competing here at Riviera is that the key to success rests in driving the ball onto the tight fairways. A view of past champions in this great event proves that the winners have been good drivers of the ball. This means putting the ball in the fairway with adequate length so that the approach shots can be negotiated and spun with shorter irons.
Perhaps the greatest challenge at Riviera, aside from the wonderful course design, is the Kikuya grass surface the players play on. Kikuya is a strong and “heavy” grass that makes up both the rough and the fairways at Riviera. A missed fairway at Riviera often means having the use a high lofted club (9 iron or wedge) just to try and get back into play in the short grass.
An example to cite is Riviera’s 10th hole, which is no more than 300 yards in length. This hole is the consummate risk reward proposition and often is the hole that determines the winner. Going for the green is possible but more likely disastrous because the small firm green, shaped like an hourglass, is beautifully bunkered on three sides by designer George Thomas.
Discretion on #10 is definitely the better part of valor.
Ideally a “layup” tee shot with a long iron or hybrid off the tee, leaving some 40-80 yards from the hole will give players a good lie in the Kikuya fairway with the chance to spin the 2nd shot to a halt near the cup.
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