The History And Evolution Of Riviera's 10th
A short par-4 template has become "infamous" due to design and game changes. Plus, wondering why architects don't build more like it.
Editor’s Note: Apologies for the delay in finally getting this edition out but we’ve had more pressing topics. Also, the editors look forward to watching 2026 U.S. Women’s Open contestants play the hole closer to its design intent.
The design intent behind Riviera’s 315-yard 10th is so simple and yet so rarely employed by architects.
Play the shorter, direct line to the hole and you take on more risk.
Lay away and use the longer route? A better-but-longer approach angle awaits.
Yet taking the long way goes against our instincts when the green is so tantalizingly close. Why drive more miles even if the road has with multiple lanes and In-N-Out’s along the way, especially when you can get home sooner taking the narrow two-lane winding road?
The Old Course sports this question on numerous holes by rewarding flirtation with a boundary line, all while offering a safe way out. And taking less risk means the next shot will be tougher.
George Thomas and Billy Bell refined found a way to make the risk just as dramatic minus those scorecard-crushing boundaries.
While the 10th’s options have all but vanished for the world’s best male golfers, it’s still worth asking why this strategy has not become a “template” for architects even as more mundane holes are regularly replicated. I can only come up with one good reason: width has become less important in the search for length.
The reputation of Riviera’s 10th has changed with changes in maintenance, tweaks to the green complex and the overall ease in driving the green. Over the last twenty years, the change in perception can be pinned to these factors, give-or-take a few percentage points:
Technological advances: 55%
Green speed/firmness: 30%
Early 20th century design/maintenance tweaks: 10.5%
Herd mentality use of ShotLink analytics: 4%
Increased core work, aromatherapy acceptance and better bicep curl technique: .5%
What follows is a look at how the 10th was conceived and modified, how it evolved, and how you too should have more of these at home.