Riviera Country Club – The Only Thing Missing Is The Sight Of Koalas In The Gum Trees.

Pacific Palisades, CA  … 

Returning this week to Riviera Country Club located off Sunset Blvd in palatial Pacific Palisades brings back memories of a very first visit to the course in 1995.

It was the staging of the annual PGA Championship 23-years ago this year.

Steve Elkington defeated Colin Montgomerie in a play-off after coming from six shots behind third round leader, Ernie Els to post a last day 64 while Monty, who had been five off the lead, tied Elkington at the end of regulation with a 65.

The duo headed back to the 18th and with Elkington holing a 20-foot birdie putt to defeat the hapless Scot.

I was fortunate to play the course the next morning in the company of my late friend and AGW colleague, Dai Davies and clearly enjoying walking the course less than day after an Australian-born compatriot had reigned supreme.

It would be 23-years till I again walked the fairways of Riviera with a golf bag over my shoulder and bizarrely it was on a day another Aussie golfer was writing his name into the history books with Jason Day winning out in a Monday play-off at Torrey Pines to win the Farmers Insurance Open.

Movie/TV stars gather at Riviera Country Club – Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby

In speaking with Day on the practice range at Pebble Beach, and venue for the AT & T Pebble Beach, I mentioned to him that it was either remain at Torrey Pines and cover your victory or take-up the invitation to play Riviera in a Genesis Open media outing.

“So, congratulations on your win and sorry I was not there to shake you hand,” I said to Jason.

He was already smiling in responding:  “Thanks, Bernie but perhaps you should stay away more often”.

Katherine Hepburn a regular at Riviera Country Club

The Riviera Country Club was founded in 1926 with the clubhouse, course and grounds costing around $244,000, and at the time, one of the most expensive in golf history.

The club has long been the ‘home course’ to many of Hollywood’s greatest box office stars headed by Humphrey Bogart, and who is remembered fondly by ‘Bogart’s Tree’ a large gum tree guarding the left side to the 12th green, and where ‘Bogey’ is believed have sat often watching on as the pros played the course.

Other Hollywood stars who took to the course included Gregory Peck, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Douglas Fairbanks, Walt Disney, Hal Roach, Dean Martin, Fred McMurray and Glen Campbell.

Bernie on the 1st tee at Riviera and soon to split the fairway and walk off pleased with a bogey ‘5’.

Conrad Veidt, who played the part of a German officer in Casablana, a movie that last year celebrated its 75th anniversary, died at age 50 from heart attack will playing Riviera a year later in starring alongside Bogart in 1943.

Leading actresses who were members of Riviera included Katherine Hepburn, Mary Pickford and Elizabeth Taylor.

Riviera may be laid-out in suburban Pacific Palisades and just a short drive off famed Sunset Blvd and also close to the Pacific Ocean shoreline at Santa Monica and lined by some stunning multi-million dollar residences perched high that tower over the course below, but it is quintessential Australian.

The famed par-3 6th hole at Riviera Country Club with multi-million dollar homes perched high and overlooking the course

It is a golf course with towering gums lining the fairways and Kikuyu fairways and just as you would find in the suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth.

“The only thing missing is Koala’s in the gum trees,” a fellow Australia-born journalist once remarked to me.

Playing the course on this Genesis Open media outing was like walking the fairways of Royal Sydney, Royal Canberra, Bathurst Golf Club, any of the Melbourne ‘Sandbelt’ gems or Lake Karrinyup in Perth that hosted the recent Perth 6s.

‘Bogart’s Tree’ guarding the left side of the 12th green.

Find the fairways and the golf ball just sits up so nicely while if you start ‘spraying’ your drives then you find yourself more of than not blocked-out by the gums.

If I played a ‘Shot of the Day’ it was at the par-4 12th hole and where Bogart’s Tree guards the green.

I hit my drive right of the fairway into the rough but with my ball coming to rest where a motorised cart had flattened the grass.  There is a grassed rainwater ditch running across the front of the green.

Bernie take a par on the 12th guarded by ‘Bogart’s Tree’.

“You’ve got 178-yards to the flag and I think your best shot is to lay-up and then just play a wedge into the green,” said my caddy for the day.

It had been mentioned to me on the tee that Bogart used to often hang-out on this hole and used the tree to lean against as his admired how the pros played the hole in the days Riviera hosted the Los Angeles Open and this week the Genesis Open.

I stood looking at the shot facing me and knowing I had a rescue club in the bag that, if I hit the ball as best as I could, I could get 175-yards from the shot.

The famed par-3 6th hole with multi-million dollar abodes overlooking the quint-essential Riviera course.

“No, I didn’t come here to lay-up and besides what would Humphrey say if he saw me laying-up,” I said.

I took my stance and hit the club just as I would have liked, clearing the grassy ditch and hitting the front edge of the green, and with the ball coming to rest just off the left of the green.  I putted to about three-feet and holed my first par of the outing.

“Thank you, Bogey”, I said in taking off my cap off and looking in the direction of ‘Bogart’s Tree’.

The only Koala on the Riviera Country Club course was Bernie’s headcover and perched atop of the 18th hole flagstick.


  • Thanks to Genesis and Riviera Country Club … it had been a long 23-year wait and so thrilled to again walk the fairways of a Hollywood golfing star.



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