Riviera annually hosts the Genesis Invitational on the PGA TOUR and the venerable design will now stage its fourth major event in club history.

Matt Ward reviews the USGA desire to stage its flagship event at another Southern California venue and the related key issues that will need attention in doing so.

After returning to the Los Angeles area for the first time in 75 years, the United States Golf Association (USGA) wasted little time in making sure the next visit would not be so long in coming.

The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades will host the 2031 U.S. Open.

Riviera Country Club

The 6th hole of Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Copyright USGA/JD Cuban)

The announcement came just three days after Wyndham Clark claimed the U.S. Open title at The Los Angeles Country Club. The 2031 championship will be played June 12-15. The location is well known to golfers as the annual site of the PGA TOUR’s Genesis Invitational (formerly The Los Angeles Open).

Riviera is one of three top tier courses created by architect George C. Thomas, Jr. The other two being LACC and Bel-Air.

In 1948 Riviera hosted the U.S. Open won in then record fashion by Ben Hogan with a 276 total. The PGA of America staged its Championship there twice — the first in 1982 won by American Hal Sutton and the second in 1995 captured by Aussie Steve Elkington in a playoff over Scotsman Colin Montgomerie.

Rivera Country Club is a truly spectacular course that holds a special place in the game’s history,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. “We are thrilled to bring the U.S. Open back to the site of such historic moments for golf and the USGA, and look forward to writing a new chapter in 2031.”

Riviera had long sought to stage a U.S. Open again and the Pacific Palisades club was not thought to be a viable location for a whole host of logistical issues and therefore LACC was selected for the ’23 event.

Those logistical issues still remain and there may be the necessity in capping — as was done at LACC — the total number of people able to access tickets for the event. That number at LACC was limited to 22,000 per day.

Parking for this year’s U.S. Open was aided greatly by the inclusion of several parking garages near to the club. That will not be the case with Riviera as the club set in a deep canyon totally engulfed by housing and with no additional golf on property.

However, LACC is situated on 320 acres and had sufficient space for all the related tents and chalets that are part and parcel in staging a modern-day event of the size of a U.S. Open. The overall footprint for Riviera is far smaller. How those specifics get worked out will be quite interesting to see.

The 2031 U.S. Open marks the 5th USGA championship to be played at the storied club following the 1948 Open, the 1998 Senior Open and the 2017 U.S. Amateur. The Women’s Open is planned to take place in 2026.

The 9th hole of Riviera Country Club

The 9th hole of Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Copyright USGA/JD Cuban)

“We are so grateful that the USGA will return the U.S. Open to our club in 2031,” said Megan Wantanabe, chief executive officer of The Riviera Country Club. “Over a six-year period, we will showcase our championship course to the world with the U.S. Women’s Open in 2026, the men’s and women’s Olympics competition in 2028 and the U.S. Open in 2031. In addition, we will celebrate our 100th anniversary in 2026. We would like to thank the USGA for their confidence and trust in us and we look forward to continuing our long relationship in the years ahead.”

Interesting inclusion of the word “trust” as Riviera and the PGA of America came under strong criticism when staging the 1995 PGA Championship. The overall condition of the putting surfaces was roundly criticized by a number of players. The club had attempted to sod the rebuilt greens prior to that event and the resulting lack of roots only caused them to be ill-prepared for the event, Scoring was particularly low with two men scoring a 267 total.

The 1948 U.S. Open was the first ever held in California. Hogan, who had previously won the 1942, 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens at Riviera, would post a winning total of 276 and set a 72-hole U.S. Open scoring record that remained until 1967. Due to his impressive string of victories during that period, the course was nicknamed, “Hogan’s Alley.”

Given the need to prepare the course for the 2031 U.S. Open it would seem likely the Genesis Invitational event may not be played at Riviera in that same year. That would replicate what was done in 1998 when the U.S. Senior Open was played there and the PGA TOUR event was played at Valencia Country Club — approximately 40 miles to the north.

The 2031 U.S. Open will mark the 17th time the championships have been hosted in the State. Having the event played in the Pacific time zone is also an added benefit as the USGA will be able to stage play during prime viewing hours in the eastern time zone and therefore reap additional eyeballs and advertising revenue.

“Los Angeles is our nation’s ‘City of Champions,’ and after a successful return of this year’s U.S. Open to L.A., I am thrilled that the USGA has chosen to return to host in 2031 as well,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. “From last year’s Super Bowl to the upcoming World Cup and Olympics, L.A.’s major events create joy and economic development across our city.”

Riviera has always been lauded for its superior Thomas design by PGA TOUR players and the quality of the putting greens since that 1995 episode has been of a high level. The return of the U.S. Open marks a long-sought goal for a club that revels in being in the host position for golf’s key events.

Photos Courtesy: USGA