What a performance. On Thursday, the 10th hole at Riviera
Country Club wore a beret and wondered, in a boozy voice, if "ze
golfair" would be interested in some stimulating postcards. On
Friday, the 10th played the teenager with rolled-up sleeves who
offered you a cigarette when you were 11. On Saturday, the 10th
put on a striped jacket and stood outside a tent extolling the
charms of Little Egypt. And on Sunday, when the PGA Championship
was ripe for the taking, the 10th wore a trench coat and tried
to entice the big hitters with promises of a nuclear device.
This is an article from the Aug. 21, 1995 issue
Was anyone surprised? Since it was conceived in the 1920s by
amateur course designer George Thomas, Riviera's par-4 10th hole
has been golf's most notorious tempter. From the back of the
championship tee to the middle of the green, it measures 315
yards, making it reachable in one shot by many pros. And if you
drive the green of a par-4, as any competent Siren will tell
you, you'll be putting for eagle.
Of course, just as most securities dealers don't dwell on the
downside of their products, the 10th doesn't like to talk about
bogeys and double bogeys. Last week's field made only one eagle
at the little hole--Fuzzy Zoeller did it on Sunday--against five
double bogeys and one "other."
A hole that diabolical always draws attention, and it was no
shock on Thursday to find golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.
lurking in the 10th's kikuyu-grass rough. "It's an interesting
hole," said Jones. "You have to hold on to your hubris. A
tactician like Jack Nicklaus would probably never go for it,
while a Luftwaffe player like John Daly would probably always go
It's not just the urging of spectators that makes a player reach
for his driver on number 10. From the tee, the wide fairway
seems crowded with a series of steep-faced bunkers, with each
crown of sand lining up in a way that distorts distance
perception. A clear channel of fairway, however, suggests a
route between the two most distant fairway bunkers to the
unprotected left side of the green.
Most players shun the bait and play a long iron or four-wood
short of the left fairway bunker. This leaves a 60- to 100-yard
wedge shot straight up the extremely shallow green. But using an
iron off the tee does not eliminate number 10's terrors, because
any position from the center of the fairway to the right rough
forces the golfer to play over a deep greenside bunker to a
green that slopes away and left. In Thursday's first round,
Zoeller made bogey from the right side of the fairway when his
high wedge shot bounded over the green into the thick collar
grass, a mere 12 feet behind the hole. Sandy Lyle, on the other
hand, hit a driver off the tee and made birdie with what he
called "an unbelievable 40-yard chip shot" to eight feet from
the right rough.
Others who gambled were not so fortunate. Davis Love III was one
over par and worried about missing the cut when he reached the
10th on Thursday. Trying to drive the green, he hooked instead
into a downhill lie behind a grove of date palms and
red-blossomed coral trees. Love saved par, but he shuffled off
the green with his cheeks puffed out and his eyes glazed; he
didn't survive the cut. Even less successful with the bold
stroke was Phil Mickelson, who on Friday drove into the bunker
that fronts the green, took two shots to escape and wound up
with a 7.
You would think such a capricious hole would have few friends,
but you would be wrong. "It's my alltime favorite drivable
par-4," Nicklaus said on Wednesday. Former U.S. Open champion
Tom Kite, while conceding that the 10th was not as formidable as
usual because Riviera's greens were soft, agreed. "Man, that
hole is hard," he said. "I can remember when you'd hit that
green with a wedge and the ball would release 20 feet."
If Riviera's number 10 is the most popular drivable par-4, it is
by no means the prototype. The classic Scottish courses have
par-4s that can be reached in one by modern golfers. The
355-yard 8th hole at Cypress Point also has its admirers--and
victims. Short par-4s fell out of favor in the 1950s when
clients began asking for 7,000-yard layouts; but now designers
are stretching a par-5 or two to squeeze in a reachable 4. "I
love 'em," says Jones, who put a drivable par-4 on his Coto de
Caza North course in Orange County, Calif. "They're good rhythm
changers; the big hitters have to think carefully about the risk."
The nature of that risk can take several forms as long as the
hazards are visible. "We'd like the golfer to walk up to the tee
with a driver, a four-wood and a five-iron," says golf architect
Michael Hurdzan, whose 14th hole at Naples (Fla.) National is a
persistent tease for Zoeller, the resident pro. "Maybe you hit
the five-iron after watching the first couple of players drive
it into the junk."
As a rule, the drivable par-4 has a small green, like that on
the 327-yard 9th at Harbour Town Links in Hilton Head, S.C., and
is guarded by bunkers or water, but only partially. Hurdzan
calls the 301-yard 10th hole at The Belfry, site of three Ryder
Cup matches, an "impossible drivable 4" because the tee shot has
to carry water, which runs in front and along the right side of
Architect Bob Cupp, asked to nominate a notable short par-4,
picks the 296-yard 15th at the Bobby Weed-designed TPC at River
Highlands. "That little par-4 was the star of the show," says
Cupp, referring to June's Greater Hartford Open, which was won
by Greg Norman. "It destroyed Fuzzy Zoeller, and I think it made
the tournament for Greg." At his own University of Oklahoma
course in Norman, Cupp has built a 300-yard par-4 with pin
positions to the right and left of a bunker fronting the green.
"If you don't drive your ball on the same side as the pin," says
Cupp, "you don't stand a chance of making 4."
The essence of the drivable par-4, these designers insist, is
not its drivability but its perils. "It's a precision hole,"
says Hurdzan. "The second shot must be a real shot, even if it's
just 40 or 50 yards." Dan Maples, who designed the 330-yard 13th
hole at Oyster Bay in Myrtle Beach, S.C., agrees, saying,
"Somebody who hits the ball that far has an advantage anyway, so
you want the drive to require perfect accuracy."
No one, though, claims to have built a short par-4 better than
Riviera's 10th. That's why club members were mortified on
Saturday when it played as the second-easiest hole, giving up 27
birdies and only three bogeys. The usually firm green held
approach shots like tapioca, allowing players to attack the
flagstick with impunity. Ernie Els, from not the best spot in
the fairway, managed to stick a wedge shot two feet from the
hole for birdie. On Sunday, Steve Elkington caught third-round
leader Els at 15 under with a two-shots-and-a-putt birdie at 10.
Els, seeing the flagstick exposed for the first time, played
driver but landed a shade right a few feet behind the bunker. He
had to sink a three-footer for par.
But the 10th, at its easiest, will still lure the occasional
sailor to his doom. Daly, the British Open champion, was five
over par when he made the turn on Friday, and his fans began to
yelp and growl when he took the head cover off his driver.
("What did you expect me to hit?" he asked, drawing a laugh.)
The impossibly long Daly has played the hole in the past by
driving completely over the green and chipping back. This time
he tried to bend a power fade right into the opening of the
green, but instead he hit a big slice that dived into the right
rough, 60 yards short of the flagstick. Sandy Lyle, who had
waited to watch Daly's drive before heading for the 11th tee,
held his nose. And yes, it was a smelly situation for Daly, who
chunked his second shot halfway to the bunker and then lobbed
his third to the back fringe, ultimately making a 5.
If the 10th had anything more to say to Daly, he pretended not
to hear it. No one likes to be played for a fool, especially by
some runt who knocks you off your soda-fountain stool. But as
Jones said last week, "Some players are hard-wired to take
risks, so this hole will never run out of patsies."
Nor will the 10th tire of pretenders like Mike Heinen, the
second-year touring pro who ranked 10th last year in PGA Tour
driving distance. Making the turn at three over on Friday,
Heinen hauled out his driver and took dead aim at the left side
of the green. The Louisiana pro then ripped a long, beautiful
draw that started out at the flag and curled back toward the
opening, stopping finally 10 yards short of the putting surface,
in a perfect lie, with an unobstructed path straight uphill to
the hole. Naturally, Heinen botched his chip and wound up
two-putting from 15 feet for a disappointing par.
Hey, the Old Testament had it right. No matter what the snake
says, you don't have to take the apple.