n the $440 billion global sports industry, there is an activity to meet every fitness level and interest. From amateurs to seasoned pros, golf ranks as one of the top 10 most popular sports, generating more than $84 billion in annual revenue according to Forbes.
Whether it’s making a deal, building a relationship or just decompressing, people hit the links for different reasons. Famed courses like Inverness, Pebble Beach or Augusta are the gold standard; but it’s the course in a golfer’s own backyard that is the real memory maker, and living in Florida there are plenty from which to choose.
The Sunshine State is home to 986 golf courses, the most of any state in the US.
Prior to 2006, the National Golf Foundation says that the number of golf courses across the United States grew by 44%, but since then has seen an 11% contraction nationwide.
As other courses, like South Course Pelican Bay and Indigo, River Bend and Tomoka Oaks Golf Clubs, shutter their operations, how are local mainstays like the Riviera Country Club in Holly Hill staying sustainable?
While they may not make Golf Magazine’s Top 100, there’s something about playing on ‘The Riv’ that takes the pretention out of the sport and rolls out the red carpet for those ready to spend the day on the greens.
Meet the Meyers Family
As the fourth generation to take the helm, PGA Professional and general manager Ryan B. Meyers is proud of the club’s 68-year history that began with his great grandfather Franklin Meyers in 1953.
Family portraits of the Meyers men adorn the wall of his office, two Hall of Fame inductees among them. Golf is in their blood, and Ryan, a PGA Professional, knew one day he would follow in their footsteps.
“I’ve been in golf my whole life. I was a professional at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville and also at World Golf Village. I was the one on the path to take over and that’s what we decided as a family,” he said modestly.
2020 Golf Industry Facts
Courtsey of the National Golf Foundation
Since then, Ryan has spent the past eight years learning from his father, Eric, who has led since 1975.
“It’s pretty easy because he’s worked hard for a long time and made this job – I shouldn’t say easy – but a lot of stress is taken off. If you’re good to people they’ll treat you right, whether it’s your employees, your guests or [anyone],” said Ryan. “We are surrounded by good people.”
With a little luck, he’s hoping the club’s legacy will reach an important milestone.
“I told my wife I want to do it until I’m 70 because if I do, that will be 100 years under the Meyers name,” he said proudly. “That’s my goal. After that, who knows?”
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Over the years, the Meyers family has made reinvesting in the Riviera a priority. Whether it’s in the restaurant, in the clubhouse or on the fairways, members and guests often compliment the quality of the club and course.
“We can treat people well, but if we don’t have a good product, people aren’t going to come,” he said, even with the club’s popular 1953 policy of first-come, first-served tee times.
Ryan says a big part of their success is directly related to the extended family they’ve created with people like club superintendent Fred Rich, head golf professional Mike Boss and the club’s teaching professional Donnie Klem. Even the club’s retired superintendent Charlie Schaffer stops by every morning to have coffee with Ryan’s father, Eric.
“We pride ourselves on a family atmosphere. Whether you’re a member or not, or you’re an employee, or whatever, if you’re frequent here, you’re part of the Riv family,” said Ryan.
New to the Game? No Problem.
The National Golf Foundation estimates that 36.9 million people, ages six and up, played golf in 2020, with 3 million of those individuals playing for the very first time.
Helping those first-timers, including junior golfers, certified PGA Professional Donnie Klem brought his skills to the Riviera under the leadership of Ryan’s father Eric, and he has been working with seasoned and amateur golfers for the past 26 years.
“It’s perfectly managed,” said Donnie. “I think that has a lot to do with it.”
It’s the unpretentious atmosphere that has allowed him to cultivate his genuine interest in teaching others the sport. Donnie has helped guide generations of aspiring golfers throughout the years by teaching the fundamentals of the game.
“I’m a very simple teacher, and I don’t make it very complicated,” he said. “There was a girl I taught when she was a little girl and now I teach her daughters. That happens a lot, after 25 years.”
A Little Time in The Dungeon
Enjoying a pitcher of cold beer in ‘The Dungeon’ after a round of golf, John Power and Dennis Flesch are among a dozen or so relaxing and chatting as Ryan and Donnie stop in to say hello.
John has been coming to the Riviera Country Club to play golf for nearly 50 years, and Dennis, a Port Orange resident, joins him.
As a regular at the semi-private club over decades, he says it’s the authenticity of the Meyers family that has built a successful, sustainable dynasty within the Holly Hill community.
“It’s the friendliest golf club, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. All my friends, basically, play here, and I play four days a week. The thing that we love about Riviera is the personal touch that the Meyers family gives… not only [to] the course and club itself but [also] to all the members.”