Text & photos by Mike Besa
Golf-course design is a tricky business; you have to please the owner and every golfer; pro, neophyte and everyone in between, that walks your golf course’s fairways. That’s never going to be an easy task.
Herr Bernhard Langer, designer of the course that bears his name at the Riviera Golf and Country Club in Silang, Cavite, had no illusions about who his course was designed for. With course and slope ratings of 74.3/131 from the gold tees, this is about as tough a track as you’ll want to play. If you aren’t in possession of a handicap digit in single digits, one of the forward tees is the prudent choice. Do otherwise and you’re in for a long day.
Set on a spectacular piece of property in the now not so sleepy town of Silang, Cavite, are the twin courses of the Riviera Golf & Country Club. Riviera sits on an amazingly lush chunk of Cavite real estate. The two golf courses meander over and about a series of ravines, which make for rolling terrain and marvellous vistas. Ideal land for golf. The members at Rivera are a lucky bunch. The courses, designed by Masters Champions Freddie Couples and Bernhard Langer are as different as a pair of courses can be.
At 7,057 yards from the tips, the Langer Course sounds almost manageable. But when you consider that some of the longest holes play uphill over and adjacent to the numerous ravines on the property, you begin to appreciate the challenges that the Langer throws down. It does make for a tantalizingly beautiful playground which we all will appreciate.
Only three of the par fours come in at under 400 yards and the handicap 1, par-5 fifth measures a monstrous 604 yards. If there’s one thing you need to score on the Langer course, it will be length off the tee and accuracy with the long irons and fairway metals.
The opening holes on the Langer course set the tone for the day. We’re talking about 1,346 yards of real estate in just six-stokes not counting the putts, which is a massive amount of distance. That’s an average of almost 217-yards per full swing just to get to the first three greens; a distance well out of range for most amateurs.
The 423 yard opening hole slaps you awake with the severity of the course; a hazard lines the entire left side of the hole. The tree that once constricted the landing area is no more, freeing up a landing area just short of the cart path. The second is a beautiful hole that doglegs left into the prevailing wind complicating matters beyond its 443-yard length. Several bunkers sit 20 yards shy of the green giving the uninitiated a false sense of just where the green is located. At 480 yards, the third is the longest par 4 on the golf course, which, fortunately, plays with the prevailing breeze. Even so, three will be best approached as a par 5 by most amateurs.
At no other hole is the requirement for length more evident than the aforementioned par-five fifth. Already brutally long, it plays mostly uphill so expect to have a hybrid or long iron or even a fairway metal in your hand for your approach to the green. There is some respite as the last holes on the nine are relatively short. The last real test is the par-four ninth; a short par-4 that requires a forced carry to a deceptively sloped green.
The stretch of fourteen through sixteen is my favorite on the golf course; the holes offer serene settings that mask the enormity of the task at hand. Fourteen is the 2-handicap and after the second hole, it’s the longest of the rest of the par fours. 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 par-3 17th is the Langer Course’s signature hole. A mere 156 yards long, the green sits such a long way below the tee mounds that little more than a wedge is required to reach it. It’s a stunning hole that could potentially wreak havoc with your score.
The greens usually run on the slow side of the stimpmeter, but with the undulation in some of them this is probably a good thing. While it might strain your relationship with the longer clubs in your bag, the Langer is a beautiful golf course on a perfect piece of property to test the golfer. The variety of the design and the aesthetics are fantastic. This course might be a tough taskmaster but it’s easy on the eyes.
The clubhouse is set on a hill just above the 18th green and offers a beautiful view. The food in club is hearty fare; a mix of Asian and Western dishes. Servings are generous and there’s something for everyone. My requirements were met at the end of the round; the beer at the clubhouse is frosty cold; just the thing to slake a golfer’s thirst after a tough day.
The share prices at the Riviera Golf and Country Club remain low in today’s market and remain a bargain for those so inclined. The courses are showing a bit of brown as the height of summer approaches but both courses retain their appeal and playability despite the dry conditions. The course is well kept and should provide endless satisfaction to those that walk its fairways.
At the end of the day, there is no doubt that the Langer course at Riviera is one of the toughest tests in the land and deserves its place as one of the ten best golf courses in the country.
Image credits: Mike Besa