Pros breakdown how they play the tricky sixth hole at Riviera Golf Club

Hole No. 6 Riviera Golf Club
For the Feb. 16 Pro-Am, the flag stick (right) was placed in front of the bunker (left) at the sixth hole at Riviera Golf Club. (Kyle Kelly/MEDILL REPORTS)

By Kyle Kelly
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Riviera Golf Club in Pacific Palisades is home to several famous golf holes, but there is one in particular that presents a challenge unlike any other. At hole No. 6, there is a bunker in the center of the green.  

The sixth hole is rated as a 15 handicap — the fourth easiest hole on the course — and one of four par threes. At last week’s Genesis Invitational, it played 170 yards — a manageable distance for professional golfers. However, the bunker in the middle of the putting surface makes it unlike any other hole on the PGA Tour from start to finish. 

Because of the bunker on the green, the hole requires an excellent tee shot, which even some of the world’s best golfers have difficulty navigating. Aaron Wise is no exception. 

Wise, the No. 80 golfer in the world, is 16th (78.26%) among 219 golfers in the PGA in greens in regulation percentage from 150 to 175 yards — over 10% better than the tour average in 2022. While he is among the best in the world from that distance, the sixth hole at Riviera Golf Club is still quite difficult. 

“It makes the target that you’re hitting at a lot smaller,” Wise said, describing the bunker in the center of the green. “Especially when there’s a front pin, that bunker is not very good because there’s so much downhill on the bunker shot. You really can’t bail out in the middle of the green, which is what we like to do as pros. It takes that option away, and you kind of have to aim at the pin and hit a good shot.”

Aaron Wise
Aaron Wise winds up for a tee shot at Riviera Golf Club. (Kyle Kelly/MEDILL REPORTS)

The bunker in the center of the green is the ultimate risk-reward scenario.

“You either seem to aim close and make a birdie or are kind of in trouble and you end up making a bogey,” he said. “It’s one of those where you want to put one of the best swings of the day on it, aim at the pin and hit a good one.”

Sometimes, the pin placement — the location of the flagstick on the green — is in the back of the green, which poses a challenge golfers are not faced with often. Landing a shot short could mean being in front of the bunker, which oftentimes requires a chip off the green. It is one of the rarest types of shots in all of golf. 

“Having the bunker in the middle of the green and having good professional golfers hit shots where you’ve never seen before as far as chipping off the green, long putts, etc. makes it a pretty fun hole,” said Luke List, who is the No. 57 golfer in the world and No. 6 in the FedEx Cup rankings. “Obviously, the green is so perfect, so you don’t want to take a big divot. It’s fun to see the opportunity for pros to have to do that.”

Wise said he feels more comfortable with the shot.

“It happens a decent amount, especially when there’s a lot of break on some of the greens around the fringes and stuff. (That’s when) you do it,” he said. “I feel like I am pretty good at it, but it is something that you have to get used to. It’s not something that you do often.”

 Even if a golfer hits the green off the tee, the contour of the green makes putting quite strategic. Kevin Na, who is ranked No. 19 (43.25%) in one-putt percentage in the PGA this season, likes the challenge the hole poses for golfers to properly read the green when putting. 

 “It is an amazing hole because it is like three separate greens,” Na said. “Front left, bottom right, top left and if you end up on the wrong side of the green, it’s a hard shot. You see guys chip it over the bunker or try and go around the bunker. It’s genius.” 

But the famous bunker is what makes the hole so special.

​​“I think that hole would be in the top 10 (in the world) of par threes because there have been golf courses that have tried to imitate that, but you can’t make it as good as this one,” Na said.

 “It makes it memorable. It’s one of those things when you come to (Riviera), you know what hole six is and know everything it entails,” Wise added. “It’s pretty cool.”

Kyle Kelly is a Sports Media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @ByKyleKelly