Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers Part 1

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #18 green

Riviera Country Club was designed by Donald Ross in 1924 but it was not called Riviera. The course, located in Coral Gables, Florida, was called the Miami Biltmore Golf Course and was part of a 36 hole design with a resort. The North and South Courses were built at the same time. During the great depression and World War II the resort and courses were abandoned. The government took over the resort and turned it into a military hospital. It was run as a hospital until the mid 1980‘s and then sold to the City of Coral Gables. The City renovated the resort and returned it to its intended glory. In 1948, a group of Coral Gables businessmen, led by Mr. McCormick, set out to purchase 17 holes located south of Bird Road from the government. They were successful and Riviera Country Club was born. The gentlemen had the task of building a clubhouse and adding a hole, successfully completing the 18 hole course.

Over the next 62 years the 105 acre course has been tweaked by some of the best Architects in the business. In 1962 Golf Course Architect Dick Wilson was the first to get his hands on the course and his marching orders were to eliminate a few of the bunkers and make the remaining bunkers smaller. Mark Mahannah worked on a few greens and added some bunkers back. David Wallace worked on tees. Lloyd Clifton worked on bunkers and green surrounds. In 1993, Architect Brian Silva, a Donald Ross historian, came into the picture and Riviera has never looked back. Mr. Silva found room to add a driving range and chipping practice area. He also added a pond, which is the only body of water on the property. The installation of the pond never affected any of the original Ross designed holes. In 2003, Mr. Silva restored several putting surfaces and replaced some of the Ross bunkers that were taken out by Mr. Wilson. At that time the course was re-grassed; the greens with TifEagle Bermudagrass, the collars with TifSport Bermudagrass, the tees with paspalum and the fairways with 419 Bermudagrass.

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #17 green

With 17 years of wear and tear the bunkers had to be rebuilt. Miami receives over 65 inches of rain each year and that rain creates havoc for the bunker sand. Where Riviera is located, coral rock is the main soil make up, not sand like other areas of Florida. That coral rock works its way to the surface in the bunker and contaminates the sand. There were areas of the bunkers that surface water from the greens and approaches washed into, exposing even more coral rock. The coral rock pieces range in size from as small as a quarter to as large as a baseball.

The following video shows you the layout of the course and the design of the old bunkers before the construction started. In the video I show every hole. I also show you #17 Greenside bunker and the damage that takes place after a 2.75 inch rain. Part 2 in this series will be the details of the construction and design work with Brian Silva.

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