California in general and Los Angeles in particular hosts some of the finest golf courses in the United States and indeed the world.
What is more, it offers both private and public courses aplenty, ensuring that everyone who enjoys the sport can be involved, whilst preserving the exclusivity for those who like their playing experience to be a little outside of the ordinary.
Indeed Tiger Woods and Phil Mickleson are just two of the great players to have emerged from the Golden State, which accounts for an eighth of the population of the entire US. The landscape and the more than agreeable climate only serves to add to an appeal which already is quite irresistible.
Of course, California is most widely known as being the center of the film industry, where the cream of Hollywood both lives and works, but the two areas of activity are by no means unconnected.
At the high-end courses the monied elite can oft be found relaxing and fraternizing whilst off-set, and with the distractions provided by the sheer enjoyment of the sport it would be easy to overstate the amount of industry business which is conducted whilst out upon the greens.
Alongside Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, the upmarket Riviera Country Club is one of the best known private golfing venues to be found anywhere in the state.
History and Legacy of Riviera Country Club
The Riviera Country Club first opened in 1926 as the Los Angeles Athletic Club Golf Course. An exclusive private club, it offers its well-heeled members a championship level golf course as well as tennis courts.
Located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of LA, it is the primary host of the annual Genesis Invitational competition, on the PGA tour.
On other occasions it has hosted the US Open, the PGA Championship and the US Senior Open, and is soon to provide the venue for the US Women’s Open and the 2028 Olympics.
George C. Thomas Jr. and William P. Bell were the original designers of the course, which at the time it was built was the most expensive to construct anywhere in the world.
Since then it has been modified a number at times, including in 1992 when Bill Coote and Ben Crenshaw restored the bunkers to their original settings. In the 1930s it hosted the riding and dressage equestrian elements of the Olympics and was used as setting for a number of film projects including the 1952 movie Pat and Mike, starring Katharine Hepburn.
Famous Riviera members have included Walt Disney, Dean Martin, Glen Campbell, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck and Douglas Fairbanks.
Membership Exclusivity and Benefits
Although most renowned for its golf, the tennis facilities provided by the Riviera Country Club are no afterthought. In all some 24 courts are featured, as well as coaching for players of all ages and abilities.
In fact the Riviera Tennis Club offers some of the most advanced training programs anywhere in the United States. In keeping with the club’s exclusive ethos, this coaching is solely available to club members and their immediate families.
Whilst guests are welcome at the Riviera, their names and identities are required to be submitted to the club prior to their arrival. Reciprocal club members are asked to provide an introductory letter in advance.
Furthermore, a strict dress code is applied – including for those who are not actually playing. No hats, sandals, tee shirts or cargo pants may be worn, nor indeed any clothes soaked in perspiration.
There are also clearly defined rules on the use of cell phones, making allowances for texting but with the watching of videos strictly prohibited.
According to the website, the club aims to “create memorable moments by providing genuine hospitality and personalized service enabling the club to reach its targets.” Its motto, devised by its planner Frank Garbutt, is: “Only the best is good enough”.
By publishing its mission statement and its core values, the Riviera Country Club aims to ensure that its ethos permeates the whole of the organization.
Understanding the Membership Costs
There are ways to get a game at the Riviera Country Club which don’t involve taking out a full membership, but if exclusivity is your thing then you are going to want to be a part of all that the club has to offer.
First off, of course, is the initiation fee, and this is said to be somewhere in the region of $250,000. On top of this comes the annual fee, which will set you back a cool $25,000 dollars per year – or more, depending upon the nature of your membership.
But even at these prices it is not possible to become a fully fledged member without enjoying some form of sponsorship. The endorsement of two members of good and relatively long standing will earn you an interview, before successful candidates are recommended to the membership committee for final approval.
In terms of membership type, there are many from which to choose. These include social membership and tennis membership, as well of course as golf membership. There are also packages available which combine some or all of these options. In addition, an associate membership can be purchased by younger players.
For those just wishing to dip their toe, it is possible to play at Riviera as a guest for a one-off fee of $350. It is also possible to sponsor a charity for a few thousand dollars.
Overall the club has in the region of 1,500 members, making it one of the larger local operations of its kind.
Ownership Evolution: From Hollywood to International Hands
The high-end club was originally founded in 1926 by members of the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
Since then it has been indelibly associated in the public mind with Hollywood celebrities and golfing legends aplenty (the course has been nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley” in celebration oh the three-times LA Open winner).
And yet in 1988 it was a Japanese real estate firm by the name of Marukin Shoji Ltd. which purchased the club for a little over $100 million.
Concerns were expressed at the time but the new owner was quick to reassure enthusiasts that the Riviera would not be sold off for profit or developed, and its sporting traditions respected.
Chair of Governors Joseph R, Rosenberg told the LA Times at the time: “I’ve had conversations and private meetings with officials and there is every indication that it will sit well with the membership.”
Hollywood and the Riviera Connection
The Riviera Country Club is proud of the long list of celebrity notables that it has attracted to its greens.
The walls of the clubhouse are lines with photos of some of the Hollywood greats who have taken out membership, or who have played there.
Some older folks may remember the golf course too as the setting for the 1952 romantic comedy Pat and Mike, which started Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Located at the 12th hole is Bogey’s Tree, so named in honor of Humphrey Bogart.
Unique Features and Facilities of Riviera
As well as its famous Spanish-style clubhouse with its stunning hillside views, the Riviera boasts several guestrooms and suites.
The Grand Ballroom seats 360 and the Crystal Ballroom 240, whilst the Elite Vista Riviera can accommodate up to 500 people. The more compact George Thomas Room is a cosier affair with seating space for up to 70.
It is possible to stay at the Riviera County Club. It has no fewer than 27 guest suites, where the nameplates on the doors betray the identifies of the famous stars who have slept in them previously.
Overall the Riviera is an exclusive private golf and tennis club to rival even the best that California and the United States itself have to offer.
Membership of such establishments is seldom cheap, but when it comes to providing prestige and value to its well-heeled client base it wants for nothing.