Eddie Merrins’ “The Little Pro” Key to Winning the Northern Trust Open


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.

Riviera Country Club Hole 18

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.

Riviera Country Club Hole 10

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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Eddie Merrins "The Little Pro"

Affectionately known as “The Little Pro”, Eddie Merrins has long been revered as a golf guru. “The Little Pro” has had success at every level throughout his career.

During his 14 years as UCLA men’s golf coach, the team reached #1 and won an NCAA National Championship. Eddie also had a stellar professional career playing in over 200 PGA Tour events including 8 US Opens, 6 PGA Championships, and 2 British Opens. While playing professionally he managed to leave his mark as a Club Professional at some of the most famed clubs in the United States, including Merion and Bel-Air Country Club where he is currently the Golf Professional Emeritus after a 40 year run as the Director of Golf.

Throughout his career he’s had the opportunity to instruct some of the biggest names in entertainment, as well as some of the highest-level professional and amateur golfers. His teaching philosophy propelled him into a class of few peers. He’s listed as a Top 100 Golf Magazine instructor and has been elected to numerous Halls of Fame, and most recently, as an inductee to the PGA of America Hall of Fame.

“The Little Pro” has a unique ability to effectively communicate the golf swing, as he displayed by authoring a best-selling book “Swing the Handle, Not the Clubhead”. This book led to the success of the “Swing the Handle” video series. You can purchase both here.

"The Little Pro" is passing along his knowledge through these articles with the help of his longtime friend Rick Oldach.