Grouchy Golf Blog

Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 1:15 PM

Riviera - My Great Expectations

The boyz of the PGA are playing in my 'hood this weekend for the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club in beautiful Pacific Palisades, CA. Opened in 1926, the course is well-known for the dominance of Ben Hogan. Over a span of 16 months, Hogan won 3 tournaments at Riviera. He won the 1947 L.A. Open, the 1948 L.A. Open and the 1948 U.S. Open. As a result, Riviera is also called "Hogan's Alley." Other notable winners at Riviera include Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Nick Faldo, and Ernie Els. But Riviera is also known for it's "Hollywood" club members. Some of those include Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, and Gregory Peck.

With all of this rich history, Riviera is considered a legendary golf course. This is especially true amongst LA-area golfers. It is one of the local courses that all LA golfers would die to play, but the majority can't because it's a private golf club. Luckily, I had the rare opportunity to play Riviera as a guest 2 summers ago.

I had circled the date of my Riviera tee time on my calendar weeks in advance like it was a major milestone in my life. The course already occupied a special place in my heart because it was the site of the first professional golf tournament that I attended as a spectator. Watching the pros play Riviera in person was one of the main reasons that I took up the game seriously. Needless to say, my expectations to actually play the course were astronomical.

But like that blockbuster movie that you've been dying to see for months, my expectations for Riviera grew to such lofty heights that only golf nirvana would have satisfied them. My actual round got off to a bad start when I learned on the famous 75-foot elevated tee of the opening hole that it's green was under repair. So the first green that I played at Riviera was a chalk outline in the fairway!

I knew that my round was bound to improve, but somehow it just didn't improve enough. I just couldn't help but think throughout my round that Riviera was like a really nicely manicured $25 green fee LA muni. I realize that it's sacrilege to write that, but that's truly how I felt and still feel to this day. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice course, but not one that blew me away.

I realize that my grossly over-inflated expectations ruined my Riviera golf experience. Since that time, I try to play all new golf courses with an open mind. I don't try to read up too much about a new course or ask people for their opinions. I've learned that, like many things in life, golf is usually best enjoyed free of hype and expectations. Remember this the next time you're invited to play Augusta National!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like you have had the richness of an anticipated "dream round" go unfulfilled. Last year I had the opportunity to play the BLUE MONSTER at Doral and brought my dad along, for what I thought would be a once in a lifetime memorible round of golf. Unfortunately, Doral had 10 days of severe rainstorms prior to and right up to the "the day". The course was NOT up to snuff. They had not been able to mow the fairways or rough for over a week so conditions were not even close to perfect. Although we had a great day, we fumbled our way around and got some souveniers, but, we didn't come home with that "We took on the the BLUE MONSTER glow in our eyes." Don't get me wrong, the layout was awesome but the conditions rattled our nerves and the it did not live up to the "dream" I had manufactured in my mind. It played as hard as any muni after 10 days of rain with 6" rough. It taught me a valuable lesson! Any golf can be GREAT golf if it's approached with an open mind and with a love of the game. Some of my most memorable rounds since then, became memories because I enjoyed my playing partners, the outdoor surroundings and the game itself. It really had nothing to do with the "prestige of the course".

Don't get me wrong, I won't give up a chance to play a famous course, but I will approach the opportunity with more focus on the game and the people rather than the locale!  


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