My favorite “designed” hole is undoubtedly the short par four 10th at Riviera. I love most short par fours since everybody has a chance on a short par four. For the average player, here lies the opportunity to make a par; and for the better player, a chance to make birdie.The 10th hole at Riviera may be the most deceiving hole in all of golf, after all a 311 yard par four should be a push-over right? The hole is easily reachable from the tee which naturally entices a bold player to play for the green. One of the joys of the Nissan is watching how many players try to hit the green, and make five. Even though they know missing right is certain peril and most strokes are lost from missing right, they continue to look directly at the green.
The true genius of the design lies in the green itself, it slopes sharply away unless you come in from well left. This is a very special hole, after all how many holes do you know where the longest way to the hole is the most efficient to make a score?But is doesn’t stop with just the green. When you see the hole, you are surprised to find out it is built over a huge flat wide-open expanse. Thomas and Bell have added a series of bunkers that further add to the feeling of width. The other thing the bunkers do is perfectly frame the line directly to the green. The funny part is the left edge of the fairway, where the smart lay-up is played, looks like the worst option from the tee. How many holes do you know where the smart play is the least obvious and the riskiest play is the most understandable?
The player is left on the tee just brimming with confidence that they can knock it on, and the architect has gone well out of his way to encourage this. "You may get lucky with your silly choice and make a birdie or a par through an excellent tee shot" (as I did). But as my host, a regular member said, "but you won’t pull that off two days in a row". Once you make six from the right, you take the route to the left all but a few times a year – if you want to score. The hole has many options, needs a great deal of learning to play it well, and allows all level of players a good chance at a score. This is a perfect hole at only 311 yards. So please explain to me why we need 7500 yard courses?So what did I learn from the 10th? I learnt that the tilt of the green can dictate position on the fairway. That deception still works in this day and age of yardage. That enticement done well, will usually win out of rationale thought because we just can help ourselves “from having a go” That 300 yards is still enough despite technology.
I always knew the front bunker was not originally there at opening and was added shortly afterwards, what surprised me recently was the bunker on the left of the hole was not there either. I was stunned. I felt this bunker was the key to making the tee shot so dangerous, since this was the side you would want to favor by playing a cut at the green. Hitting it left is fine, but right of the green is a disaster. This bunker keeps the player honest off the tee and makes playing the driver more risky. The other thing this bunker does is further frame the green daring the player to give it a go. I thought this bunker was a key element to the greatness of the hole. It shows the value of making small modifications after opening day to perfect a hole!
“Thomas and Bell added the far left bunker and greenside bunkers about a year after the course was built. They also tinkered with a few others on the course at the same time. Obviously, this turned out to be a brilliant move, though I would love to have played the shot to the bunkerless green, and often wonder why that hole isn't replicated more often (we tried an offshoot with 12 at Rustic Canyon, with a more exposed and crowned green than the original 10 at Riviera, which was gently crowned.”Which brings up the point, why isn’t this hole replicated or borrowed from more often?