Los Angeles boasts of plenty of golf courses and country clubs that deliver the full luxury and pampering experience. Of these places, only a few live up to the stature of LA’s most distinguished residents and celebrity A-listers. Enter the Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades, the favorite stomping ground of LA’s elite and the world’s top golfers.
The Riviera – or the Riv, as some like to call it — features a par-71 course with a great natural layout, made more desirable by top-tier amenities: an excellent restaurant, pro shop, top-of-the-line tennis courts, and beautifully maintained meeting rooms and guest suites. What’s more, this country club is where the prestigious Genesis Invitational (formerly the Los Angeles Open) is held every year – convening top pro and amateur golfers in a stunning competitive environment.
Whether you’re looking to hit the course or interested in learning about available homes in the area, this comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about this internationally renowned country club.
ABOUT THE COURSE
The Riviera has a 18-hole championship course, with a primary rough consisting of the spongy kikuyu, a type of grass that excels at stopping ball momentum. The greens are mostly populated with the true-rolling poa annua grass. Throughout its history, the course has only undergone one major renovation (bunkers were redesigned in 1992), a testament to its consistency and durability through decades of top notch golf tournaments and championships.
The course has a length of 7,322 yards and a slope rating of 137. Highlights of the course include the par 3s, 4s, and 5s:
- The 6th hole (par 3, 175 yards) is arguably the most famous from this course. It features a bunker square in the middle of the green and is particularly challenging because only PGA Tour players are allowed to use a wedge on this particular green.
- The short 10th hole (par 4, 315 yards) was designed for players to get creative in all sorts of ways. Jack Nicklaus even once said that there was no other par-4 hole that gave you as many options as this one. There’s seemingly no optimal strategy and difficulty can greatly vary, depending on the day’s weather conditions.
- The 1st hole (par 5, 503 yards) is widely considered as the easiest opening hole among PGA Tour players as it can be done in two strokes. Carding a birdie is fairly achievable for the non-pros as well, making it an exhilarating start to the round.
- The culminating 18th hole (par 4, 451 yards) is notorious for its blind landing area and the amphitheater-like positioning of the green, which consists of the stubborn kikuyu grass. It’s the toughest hole at the course by most standards and it’s not unusual for even professionals to card a bogey or worse.
THE GENESIS INVITATIONAL
Every February in the Pacific Palisades, the Riviera Country Club holds The Genesis Invitational, an annual PGA Tour event where the pros always strive to make a good showing. Top golfers who have competed and won it all include Ben Hogan (1942, 1947,1948 ), Arnold Palmer (1963, 1966, 1967), Fred Couples (1990, 1992), and most recently, Jon Rahm (2023). Fun fact: Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods never took home the tournament trophy.
The Genesis Invitational didn’t always go by its current name. When it was first held in the Riviera in 1929, it was known as the Los Angeles Open. Prior to the 1970s, the tournament bounced around more than a handful of times. Organizers brought it to other courses in Los Angeles like Wilshire Country Club, Valencia Country Club, and Rancho Park. But by 1973, every LA Open – save for the special events of 1983 and 1998 – had been held at the Riviera.
The tournament name changed a few times as well, as main title sponsors came and went. It was briefly the Nissan Open and the Northern Trust Open, before Genesis came into the picture and stabilized the brand.
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER
The best way to secure a playing spot at the Riv is to become a member. For the initiation fee, you’ll need to cough up anywhere between $250,000 and $300,000.
Here’s the catch, though: you can’t just walk in the club and write them a check to cover the cost of membership. According to insiders privy to parts of the application process, you’ll need to secure sponsorships from two active members (in good standing for at least 12 months) who have known you for a minimum of three years. Their letters of recommendation are reviewed by the membership committee, before being sent to the board of governors for the final approval.
Once you’ve successfully signed up, you’ll also be expected to pay around $25,000 to $40,000 in annual dues.
FOR NON-MEMBERS: HOW TO BOOK TEE TIME AT THE RIVIERA
It’s not easy to book a game of golf at the Riviera. Unless you’re already a member, there are a few ways to do so if you’re determined to experience what this one-of-a-kind country club has to offer.
Option 1: Get connected with an existing member
It’s best to know someone who is already among the 1,500 or so members. Alternatively, you may know a friend or acquaintance who is connected to a member. But even when you become a guest of the club, you’ll still need to shell out anywhere between $350 to $500 for green fees – not to mention tips and a caddy fee.
Option 2: Get a charity sponsorship
Sponsoring a charity supported by the club is another viable option. Choose from among the nonprofit organizations that regularly collaborate with the Riviera to organize fundraising tournaments or exhibitions. Beneficiaries have included Big Brothers Big Sisters of LA and Jewish National Fund USA. Buying a charity sponsorship to participate in these events will usually set you back a few thousand dollars.
Option 3: Play alongside top golfers at the PRO-AM Genesis Invitational
If the idea of playing with some of the top golfers in the world is beyond your wildest dreams, it’s not as far-fetched as you think. Joining the PRO-AM division of the Genesis Invitational may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Visit the event website and sign up to join the wait list by providing a few personal details. Though the site doesn’t publish joining fees, it usually costs several thousand dollars to participate.
TENNIS CLUB AND OTHER AMENITIES
The Riviera also has one of the oldest and largest tennis clubs in the West Coast. The tennis area used to be polo grounds where the 1932 Olympic polo competitions took place. In 1963, the site was converted into a space for racquet sports. Today, the club has 22 hard courts, two clay courts, and two machine ball courts. Professional tennis coaches and hitters are ready to provide expert instruction and assist with practice.
The Riviera has meeting and function rooms for wedding receptions, birthdays, and other private events. For those who wish to stay the night, there are guest suites on site, with several rooms named after golfing and entertainment legends who were guests at the Riviera, like Bobby Jones, Dean Martin, and Walt Disney.
LA in the 1920s was rapidly urbanizing. It was a time when Hollywood began to shine and industries like manufacturing, banking, and aviation boomed. The Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) envisioned an exclusive outdoor facility that would provide respite from the increasing traffic and congestion in the city. Thus, the idea for the Riviera Country Club was conceived.
LAAC tapped the design expertise of renowned golf-course architects, George C. Thomas and William P. Bell. The rolling foothills of the Santa Monica canyon was selected as the location of the country club. It took nearly two years and about $240,000 (or 4.9 million in today’s dollars) to complete the project. The ingenuity that Thomas and Bell introduced in the design of the course was the usage of road-grading equipment to create swales or depressions on the canyon floor.
When it opened to the public 1926, the facility was initially known as the Los Angeles Athletic Club. In the 1930s it became a training ground for many equestrians. It was also the venue for the 1932 Polo Championship of the Los Angeles Olympics.
But it wasn’t until the post-war period that the Riviera truly prospered. In 1948, Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open at the course (he bagged 10 tournaments that year). The win was also his third consecutive at the country club in just a span of 18 months. Which is why the Riviera is sometimes referred to as “Hogan’s Alley.”
From the 1960s to the 1990s, more golfing greats would make their mark at the Riviera Country Club, including Jack Nicklaus and a 16-year-old high school sophomore named Tiger Woods.
By the end of the 1990s, the Riviera Country Club held four major US championships and dozens of PGA tour events. Today, the Riviera epitomizes the pinnacle of golf and continues to attract and cultivate the next generation of high-caliber talents.
FAMOUS MEMBERS AND GUESTS AT THE RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB
Celebrity sightings are a common occurrence anywhere in Pacific Palisades or elsewhere in Los Angeles. And the Riviera is no exception. It’s where many of Hollywood’s elite and various industry titans love to take a break from the limelight, including:
- Glen Campbell, country singer, guitarist, actor, and TV host
- Larry David, co-creator of the sitcom, Seinfeld
- Tom Brady, recently retired NFL quarterback
- O.J. Simpson, who played for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, and considered as one of the greatest NFL running backs
- Actor Jack Nicholson
- Actor Adam Sandler
- Actor Mark Wahlberg
REAL ESTATE SNAPSHOT: RIVIERA
Next to the country club, the eponymous Riviera residential community is one of the most expensive to live in all of Los Angeles. This hillside enclave has about 700 houses in the multi-million price range (around $13 million). The community has two homeowner associations: North Riviera and South Riviera.
The neighborhood is bordered by Amalfdi Drive to the west and the north, San Remo Drive to the east, and Napoli Drive to the South. It takes just minutes to drive from Riviera to any part of the Palisades, including beaches facing the Pacific Ocean.
Nestled amid generous lots, homes occupy a minimum of 3,000 square feet. Not only do they provide plenty of room to stretch out, tall and well-manicured hedges ensure the privacy of the homeowners as well. The trees that line Riviera’s streets make it a pleasant community to go for a walk or a run at any time of the day.
If you’re buying a home in the neighborhood, you can choose from a mix of architectural styles such as Italian, French Renaissance, Contemporary, and Hamptons and Nantucket styles.
EXPLORE THE REST OF THE PACIFIC PALISADES
The Riviera Country Club and the Riviera residential community sit in a breathtaking location. They are part of California’s Pacific Palisades, a coastal neighborhood that has become synonymous with discerning homebuyers who value privacy, plenty of space, and understated luxury.
The Palisades has one of the lowest population density ratios in the LA area. It only has 24,000 residents living in an area that stretches for nearly 23 square miles. Many consider it a true retreat from congested urban centers and unwanted public attention. Brimming with a polished small-town vibe, the neighborhood also offers a plethora of exclusive amenities and fun activities to enjoy. Here’s a glimpse:
- Outdoor attractions. Will Rogers State Beach is a favorite spot for those looking to avoid large crowds. Even during the summer, it never feels excessively crammed. Temescal Canyon Trail runs for either 2.5 or 4.6 miles, depending on the route difficulty.
- Great dining and shopping options. Grab tasty bites from Porta Via Pacific Palisades and Cafe Vida. The Palisades Village is a go-to indoor/outdoor mall for clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and other lifestyle must-haves.
- Renowned cultural spots. Drop by the world famous Getty Villa, one the lavish homes of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. This estate sits on 64 acres with the 66,000-square-foot home now having been transformed into a unique cultural attraction showcasing thousands of artifacts and artwork from the classical era.
Get in touch with Realtor James Respondek
If you’re in the market for a new home in Los Angeles, consider exploring your real estate options with nationally recognized Realtor, James Respondek. With more than $1 billion worth of real estate transactions under his belt, James is one of the top agents specializing in luxury real estate in Southern California.
With James’s negotiation skills and local market insight, you’re in the best position to find your dream home by the canyon or facing the ocean. Book a private real estate consultation with James. Call him at 310.488.4400 or send him a quick email today.