RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB: A PURE GOLF EXPERIENCE
If you truly appreciate the creature comforts of home such as sleeping in your own bed, wearing those same old slippers, or lounging on your favorite couch, that’s the same feeling that golfers get when they play the Riviera Country Club (www.rivcc.com; 386-677-2464) in Ormond Beach, Florida – located adjacent to Daytona Beach. Originally opened as a nine-hole course in the 1930s but later expanded to 18 holes in 1954 and now listed as one of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail, Riviera has established itself as a place where golf is treasured, celebrated, and enjoyed every day of the year. As the club’s brochure states, the Riviera Country Club (500 Calle Grande, Ormond Beach, FL) has a “relaxed, comfortable atmosphere” which “welcomes golfers from around the world to enjoy.” And, where no tee times are required. Yes, just show up, pay and play.
As recently as 2008-2009, Riviera was named by Golf Digest as one of the “Best Places to Play.” It remains that way today. And, with all 18 greens having been replaced in 2014, Riviera is better now than it has ever been. The greens are in absolutely perfect condition – true, consistent, firm, quick, smooth, and fair. And every green has as many as nine different pin positions.
There is a reason why Riviera is such a great place to play golf, and it all stems from the top.
“We have great owners in Eric and Charlotte Meyers. And, it trickles down from there to everybody on staff,” notes Mike Boss, the Director of Golf at Riviera. “We put the needs of our customers and members first. It’s all about customer service. The key word is ‘tidy.’ Our attention to detail is what makes the Riviera experience so special for golfers.”
Riviera’s commitment to courteous customer service is sincere and second to none. It makes every player feel ‘at home’ — starting in the restaurant at breakfast, continuing in the pro shop, extending to the starter’s shed next to the 1st tee, and finishing up in the clubhouse lounge. That’s why Riviera is called The Friendly Club.
Another element of Riviera which adds character to the course are the many old oak trees that have Spanish moss dripping from their branches like icicles. With a few ponds on the course that serve as a home for turtles, fish, heron, cranes, ospreys, and a few errant tee shots, Riviera could just as easily have been named ‘Old Florida.’ While the presence of large, leafy trees adds an acceptable degree of difficulty to each hole, they also provide shade throughout the round, a great fringe benefit on a warm, sunny day. And, with the course’s close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean – just a few miles to the east – you often enjoy a refreshing breeze off the nearby ocean.
In addition to the breeze from the ocean, Riviera also attracts a passionate group of golfers from the area. In local golfing circles, it could be said that ‘all roads lead to Riviera.”
“Anybody who plays and excels in the game of golf in the greater Daytona Beach area seems to come through this club,” says longtime area resident David Baliker, who has played at Riviera since the 1980s. “It’s a great place to learn how to play all the shots in golf.”
Two other aspects of Riviera that make it such an appealing golf destination are its history and tradition. This par 71-layout is not exceptionally long – less than 6,300 yards from the back tees – but it has enough nuances, twists, and turns to test golfers of all abilities.
From a historical perspective, Riviera hosts the longest running mini-tour event in the nation. It’s The Riviera Open, which began in 1960. Some of the notable winners of this annual 36-hole event, held each December, include former PGA Tour regulars J.C. Goosie, Jim Dent, Morris Hatalsky, Barry Jaeckel, Ken Staton, and Slugger White, who is now a PGA Tour rules official. Other past and present PGA Tour players who have played in the event, known as “The Riv,” include Larry Ziegler and local product Matt Every, who played junior golf at Riviera. It’s also worth noting that former Canadian golfing legend Moe Norman used to spend his winters practicing at Riviera. He also played in the Riviera Open.
From a tradition perspective, Riviera has dedicated a portion of the walls inside the clubhouse to its “Holes in One Club.” The details of each hole-in-one at the course since 1960 are listed. All prior winners of the men’s and women’s club championship – won by Every on four occasions – are also proudly on display. Everything that takes place at Riviera seems to be documented on the clubhouse walls.
As for the course record, it’s held by Staton, who is also the men’s golf coach at Embry-Riddle University, located in nearby Daytona Beach. On July 11, 2015, he shot a 28-29, a 14-under-par round of 57. And, that included a double bogey on the par-four 11th hole. Staton had shared the previous record of 59 with two other golfers.
“We think this record may hold for a while,” declares co-owner Charlotte Meyers.
When you visit Riviera, it is a one-stop golf shopping experience. Come for breakfast (enjoy the Hole-In-One), warm up on the driving range or the chipping/putting area, visit the pro shop for fairly priced golf accessories and necessities, play 18 holes, and then have lunch. Order the Riviera Club Sandwich. If you have the time and energy, go play 18 more holes and then have dinner at the club. Order the Riviera Grilled Chicken. It’s a perfect way to spend the day, especially if you want an outing that is golf’s version of experiencing the creature comforts of home. Just make sure that your tee shot goes past ‘Sissy’s Ridge’ when you hit from the 18th tee.