Part 2 of Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #14 bunkers

Eric J. von Hofen, Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club with Golf Course Architect Brian Silva working in the fairway bunker complex on hole #10.  Brian has worked on and restored many Donald Ross courses throughout the United States.  Brian has a great approach to each project. He believes there was an oversimplification of style or character on what a Ross bunker was or was not. The vast majority of the bunkers at Riviera had to be restored because they merely had grass faces down to the sand level. As more and more vintage photos and plans of Donald Ross bunkers become available, the plans and “as built” photos suggest bunkers that are more involved in shape and style. And the bunkers that result from this study do a good job of what bunkers should do – they grab the attention of the players and suggest alternatives of play as one stands on a tee or in a landing area in preparation of an approach shot.

Eric von Hofen and Brian Silva

We had four sets of teams working on the bunkers at Riviera.  The first team was in charge of removing the old sand and old liner.  The second team removed the sod in the areas that were going to be impacted by the new design so we could tie in the new contours to the existing grades. During this phase the new bunker was painted out and rough shaped.  The third team, also known as the finish crew, came back to do the hand work.  The fourth and final team consisted of in-house Riviera employees that installed 419 Bermudagrass sod from Pike Creek Turf.
Eric von Hofen
Originally we had bid an average of 4 to 5 inches of sand that had to be removed in each bunker.  This picture shows that some bunkers actually contained 18 to 24 inches of sand.  This created problems for us and for Ryan Golf.  Together we worked through this obstacle and thankfully this happened on only a handful of holes.  Removing the large volume of sand from the bunkers produced a completely different appearance, giving them a much deeper look.
eric von hofen
The decision to use bunker liners, and the actual installation of the liners, requires quite a bit of research.  The design of the bunker demands protection from washouts.  A thicker liner is required to hold the sand in place, allowing the water to run behind the sand so it does not wash out.  A softer and more shallow bunker design allows for a thinner liner to be used.  A thinner liner translates to a lower material cost but not necessarily a lower installation cost. When it comes to liner installation, labor is labor and the contractor will need to be paid for his time, regardless of how thick or thin the liner may be.  As stated earlier, the design of the bunker needs to protect the bunker from washouts.  This goes for greenside bunkers as well as fairway bunkers. This can be a challenge depending on the area you have to work with. Adding fingers and noses to the bunkers helps with this process by adding more surface area of grass to break up the water flow. The drawback to the sexy shapes and sizes to the fingers and noses is that it will require more bunker liner material to be installed.
Eric von Hofen
The odd angles suck up the liner material because it’s hard to make the tie-ins work and fit together. This process creates a lot of waste of the liner material. The cost can sky rocket if you get too crazy. Then you have the process of deciding to install liner in just the faces or the entire bunker. Here at Riviera we had to do every bunker on the golf course because of the coral rock base the course is built on. We went with a thinner liner to control cost and paid a lot of attention to the design and flow of the surface water. We were then faced with another problem, and that was, “How do we attach the seams of the bunker liner together on a coral rock base?”.  We could not just install a metal staple every few inches because the staples would bend and break when we would hammer them into the rock and sand base. A Liquid Nails product rated for extreme heat was used for attaching the seams of the liner together. A small bead of glue was placed on one side of the liner and the two edges were placed together. Ryan Golf’s, Buddy White,  came up with that idea and it worked. With the liner in place, staples were then hammered in and the bunkers were then ready for sand.

The video below captures the restoration of #8 greenside bunker at Riviera Country Club.

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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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Golf courses feeling the cold in Florida early this year

Eric von Hofen new #17 green
This year’s golf season in the Sunshine State kicks off to a cold reception in December.  Over the last two mornings, golf course superintendents have arrived at work to find temperatures in the 30’s and frost in some areas.  Normal temperatures during this time of the year are in the mid 70’s during the day and low 60’s at night.  But not this year.  I’ve received reports that courses in the Palm Beach and Jupiter areas were covered with heavy frost and play had to be postponed until it melted.  The Naples area was hit just as hard.  Greg Norman’s Shark Shootout kicks off Thursday at Tiburon in Naples with another fun field of PGA TOUR players, including Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Fred Funk, Matt Kuchar and Anthony Kim.  Thursday morning might be interesting if we have another night that produces a heavy frost.
Eric von Hofen and green temps

Last winter Florida was knocked around by cold fronts that swept through the state on a weekly basis.  We had four days that produced frost on golf courses in Miami, which is a rare occurrence in South Florida.  Bermudagrass loves to grow when soil temperatures are above 58 degrees.  As you see in this picture, we are well below that.  I have not mowed greens for the last two mornings, trying to keep the turf we have.  Green speeds have increased to above 12 on the Stimpmeter even without mowing. So stay tuned this weekend to the Shark Shootout to see quick greens and the affects of the cold weather.

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Close it down!


In many parts of the US, it’s that time of the year for golf courses to close up their doors for the winter. For some of these courses it might be forever. It was another tough year for business at local golf courses in northern Ohio. These golf courses have seen rounds of golf drop and memberships dry up. Ohio has been affected very hard by the results of Ford, GM, US Steel, BF Goodrich and BP closing down factories and laying off people. I tour this course and show you how a course in Ohio looks this time of the year.

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The Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii

Eric J. von Hofen surveying the land of the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii. The Ritz-Carlton is located near the course and is absolutely a wonderful place to stay. The Course will host the PGA TOUR’S SBS Championship January 2-9, 2011

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El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Eric on a site visit with his brother, Superintendent Kurt von Hofen at his Greg Norman designed El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

This one of a kind course will host the PGA TOUR’S Mayakoba Golf Classic, the only PGA TOUR event outside of the United States, February 23-27, 2011. Make your travel plans now so you can get out of the cold weather and enjoy the Cancun area.

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Top Vacation Destinations

Indulgence is all about taking your vacation in style and living life as a fantasy. A must to escape from daily grind and give beat to burnout, choose any luxury packages to luxurious hotels and retreat in the world where you will live a life like a dream come true. Just make a fantasy of your desires and wishes and list down below are bound to make it real and oh so happening and the world of this place is for you to take at some price and your every whim shall be taken care of.

• Vacation destinations: Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain

Imagined yourself where there is wine and more wine wherever you see. Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain will let you live a life of wine connoisseur, which is hidden deep in Rioja region. Here there is indulgence in elixir, from the vineyards view surrounding the retreat and have the pleasures of tasting best wines. Since 1980, designed by architectural brilliance Frank Gehry, this is wine’s love haven from the time you check in and to time you check out, you will be in kicked in world of fantasy. You won’t even think about spirits and mixers, but will enjoy delicious meals served with wine sauce. And then move on to the The Wine Bar Vinoteca for nightcap or two and gulp in some more delectable wines. And on waking up there is sore head, The Caudalíe Vinothérapie® Spa will take care and there you again indulge in exclusive wine therapy massages and treatments. Don’t drink their spa dry!

• Vacation destinations: Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil

Fantasy of living like some President or Prime Minister will cease and become alive here. Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil which offers this dream package at $5,500 and live Like A Mogul. Immerse yourself in presidential lifestyle, beginning and ending with helicopter ride to and fro from São Paulo and ending at drop at Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport. On arrival you will be welcomed with Champagne and chocolate and then presented with key to Presidential Suite. Award winning chefs serving you dinner for romantic two, and sleep on Fretté sheets for such a good night. And in morning you need not do anything of presidential duties , but have a presidential breakfast and then wrap in Hilton dressing gown head on to having a presidential treatment in Sensory Spa, done by masseuses who are Brazilian beauty and indulge in massages, foot treatments, body scrubs and facials, as many as you like. When going for sight seeing, your personal chopper will be awaiting ready to ferry you round the city and have power trip.

• Vacation destinations: Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur India

Want to be a Maharaja- that’s emperor and live life king size and sleep in a bed that can accommodate some four to five couples and yet there be space? In a very picturesque location of Udaipur, Rajasthan in India, A palace like hotel which is set afloat in Lake Pichola, an abode of Taj Hotels, resorts and palaces. Feel like a maharaja- king of world, in the palace hotel amidst the Aravalli Mountains. Gleaming white marble structure, with majestic suites having stunning murals, exotic carpets, sweeping arches, claw-foot bathtubs and maharaja-size beds. And this can be seen and experienced only in India. And you will love and have the pleasure of ‘Hookah’ or being fanned by pretty Indian girl in sari; laze on chaise lounge and everything there are vibrant. Take a ride on decorated camel; pamper yourself with princely massages at Taj Spa. At night admire the brightly lit palace and take a romantic walk in the fountain lined courtyards. You will feel like Alladin and there will be so many genie’s out there to serve to your every need. Also enjoy the traditional folk and dance performed for you and dinning on exotic cuisine of India will be do delectable and you may ask for fireworks to go to show your princess jasmine and have a romantic and passionate night in your candle lit suite.

• Vacation destinations: ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

You may live in New York or California or Paris or Singapore but you may have dreamed a life where you are an Eskimo, living in such a cold place and keep on snuggling to feel cozy and living in a place made up of ice. Wow, that’s not a fantasy or dream because this has been made possible and into a reality. Enter yourself into the world famous and brilliant marvel of design and idea that’s ICEHOTEL which is in Jukkasjärvi, some 200 km in northern of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Absolutely amazing and mind blowing fantasy retreat. Well I have only one word for it and that’s Astonishing, mimicking the construction idea and methods of nose kissing ancestors, the place is completely made up of ice. I mean, every thing, from the reception desk that shall greet you to the bed of ice for passionate love on it. The whole place is made up of ice from River Torne. As you check in, you shall be wrapped in warming furs. But its not just eyes blocks that makes the hotel, the décor of hotel is done in breathtaking and beautiful arts which are dotted around hotel. Heading on Icebar is first thing people do after donning on warm garbs, sipping on cocktails in the glasses made up of ice. As you may start feeling too cold and cannot even feel as if you have your feet below, go to warm up in ICEHOTEL restaurant which is only structure there which is not made up of ice but serves delicious local delicacies on ice slabs. You may unwind here, in a very elegant stylish restaurant before heading to cold or hot accommodation as per your choice. The retreat also has exciting and fun filled activities like ice sculpting, ice fishing, snowmobile rides and snowshoe excursions. But the best and most romantic sight is to watch the glittering northern lights in the sky together.

• Vacation destinations: Samudra, Byron Bay, Australia

Surfing paradise and Yoga retreat, Samudra, Byron Bay, Australia will serve your desire to ride on waves and feel the solidarity within. One of the best places on earth to catch the waves is Down Under, despite of Great Whites intimidating under the surface yet the water is lovely with such a panoramic view of vast and deep ocean. Byron Bay Manor, a retreat that combines surf and yoga at superb place of Samundra, you will be flying to relax as well as for having surfing adventure at the luxurious and lavish Byron Bay. This fantasy retreat is situated in New South Wales, Australia in some twenty seven acres of verdant grounds. The place has a distinct ambiance, a student bohemian vibe and suiting to surfer dude’s lifestyle. Here you may get a good training on surfing, initially you may not stand up but by the time you are about to live you may be doing like Kelly Slater. Invigorating Yoga in early morning is ritual of Manor, and then heading on the pristine golden sandy beach!

. Other then Surfing and yoga, you can simply relax at solar heated pool, which has just the right temperature which will sooth your nerves and in spa for treatment and massage that will take away all your anxious worries. You can even unwind with a book or sit in the ocean view veranda while seeing the sun going down in Samundra. Also a very good chance to improve on your billiards technique and challenge people back home.

Vacation destinations for fancy retreats will rejuvenate and reinvigorate you for back to daily life and memories of these exotic destinations will be like a talisman that will keep making you go on other fancy retreat on the list.

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