THE Riviera Golf and Country Club has always been a favorite golf destination of both Filipinos and tourists alike. What’s not to like? The club features golf courses designed by two of the greats of the modern game, the German meister Bernhard Langer and sweet-swinging Freddie Couples. Located in Silang, Cavite, both courses traverse the foothills of Tagaytay and demand memorable shots from the golfer in some of the best golf weather in the country. The Langer course has featured consistently in the top 10 golf courses in the country.
The stretch of 14 through 16 represents the most interesting holes on the Langer; the serene settings mask the enormity of the task at hand. Fourteen is the 2-handicap and after the second hole, it’s the longest of the par 4s. All of its 456 yards play uphill, dead into the stiff Cavite breeze. The green is miniscule given the hole’s prodigious length and sits hidden to the left guarded on two sides by a ravine.
Fifteen is one of my favorites on the golf course. At 345 yards, it’s short and the green is reachable off the tee from the forward tees but that’s where the genius of the hole lies. A ravine sits on one side of the green while a phalanx of bunkers defends the others. It’s a tricky little hole that offers the golfer several ways to play it.
Sixteen is the most beautiful hole on the golf course. The 577-yard par-5 doglegs to the left to the double green shared with three. The tree that defends the ideal placement of the second shot has fallen victim to years of typhoons but that has only slightly diminished the degree of difficulty the hole dispenses. The aesthetics are certainly worth it.
The middle of the second nine on the Couples is similarly intriguing. It’s a magnificent stretch of holes that mimics a course on the garden isles of Hawaii. It’s as good a stretch of golf holes as you’ll find anywhere in the country. I have an affinity for 13 and 15, a pair of strong, very beautiful par 4s.
At 441 yards, 13 will test you from tee to green. The fairway doglegs to the left but the path to the dogleg is defended by the fairway bunker at the corner of the dogleg. The approach into the green requires the utmost precision to avoid the hazard short and right of what seems to be the smallest green of the lot.
Fifteen is stunning; a long sweeping 459-yard monster. Yet, another forced carry to a fairway that sweeps to the left to a green very heavily defended on the left side. Use the contours of the fairway to find the heart of the green. A fantastic golf hole.
But, alas, all was not well with the Riviera. Issues surrounding management of the golf course plagued the club and naturally the golf course suffered. We aren’t going to speak to the issues that the club faced. Suffice it to say that the new board has set things straight and is hell-bent on getting the club back on the right track.
But it wasn’t going to be easy. Years of neglect mean a lot more to do to set things right again but you have to do what has to be done and so the rehabilitation of the club began.
The first order of business was to assess the work in front of them. Neglected golf courses need a huge infusion of love, care and money. The maintenance equipment was old and unreliable so they started there with the first major investment in the golf course in many years.
The second priority was housekeeping. A lot of it. The club set about to clearing the undergrowth and the bamboo thickets to allow air and sunlight to reach the greens and fairways. This was a major task unto itself, particularly on the Langer course.
Then there were the bunkers. The old, compacted sand was replaced and the faces of the bunkers were trimmed and manicured. The club started on the Langer and with most of the bunkers there done, they’ve turned their attention to those on the Couples as well.
The new equipment has arrived and thus attention turned to the greens and fairways. Riviera has had relatively few issues here and this really solved most of them. It took a relatively short time until members noticed the improvements.
There remains much to be done at the club. The clubhouse could use a new coat of paint and the lockers remain untouched since the club opened. But management did the right thing by prioritizing the golf courses. They are the heart and soul of the club and a good day on course forgives a few sins elsewhere in the club.
We wish the new board well. We commend their efforts thus far and look forward to seeing the fruit of their labor. From what we’ve seen so far, everything’s been done in the best interests of the club, its members and everyone concerned. Things look good moving into the future.
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