This week the PGA Tour will put on display once again the gem George Thomas created in 1926 at Riviera Country Club. The course remains remarkably unaltered and is one of the favorite courses for guys who appreciate the genius of the classic designs from the Golden Age of Golf Course architecture. Hale Irwin says there are no two holes that are remotely alike and loves the challenge that demands thoughtful tactical play to resolve Thomas’s strategic puzzle.
For more insight into the mind of it’s creator you can read the attached “interview” that Geoff Shackelford did with George C. Thomas (born Philadelphia October, 1873-died Beverly Hills February, 1932) for Golf Club Atlas in September, 2001. As a course architect and author Shackelford is uniquely qualified to ask the questions and provided the authentic answers since he has written a history of Riviera (1996) and a biography on George Thomas (1997).
In the interview Shackelford reveals George Thomas’s philosophy of design, his relationship with his long time construction associate Bill Bell, his opinion on the developing “ball problem”, and even his reaction to the disastrous changes that have been made to two of his most famous designs Bel-Air and Los Angeles Country Club.
His central theme in all his designs are captured in this quote regarding what features of Riviera have helped fend off the advantages of new technology.
“The element of thought. Each hole was designed with ‘an intelligent purpose’ as my old pal Max Behr used to say. Giving the players options and tempting situations keeps them a bit off balance, even with the equipment they have today. The ability of players to understand the simple strategy of a hole is undoubted, but too often they play blindly and do not consider their best line of attack.”
Shackelford is one of the most knowledgable architectural writers of our time and this interview is an insightful look into the mind of one of the storied course architects of the Golden Age.