Riviera’s 10th: Best Drivable Par 4?

I was 999 words into an appreciation of the drivable, par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club, site of this week’s Northern Trust Open, when Geoff Shackelford posted this great photograph of the hole — taken, apparently, from a stepladder balanced on top of a carnival tractor. There are no people in Geoff’s photo, so I’m guessing he took it either on Tuesday, when the Oscar nominations were being announced, or this afternoon, when the threesome of Jonathan Byrd, Kevin Sutherland and Charlie Wi made the turn.

Full Image

The 10th at Riviera C.C. (Geoff Shackelford)

A picture being worth the proverbial thousand words, I trashed my comments and drove over to the SI Vault to see if the curators had preserved an essay I wrote about Riviera’s 10th during the 1995 PGA Championship (won by Steve Elkington). I found it in a folder labeled “Literary Gems,” next to one of Dan Patrick’s Q&A columns. Titled “Short and Sweet,” it played off a number of Hollywood tropes. “What a performance!” it began …

… 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.

A hole has to have a lot of personality to get me that wound up. The 10th at Riviera is my favorite drivable par-4, and I suspect it is the favorite of most modern golf architects. Bobby Weed cited it as the inspiration for his 16th hole at the University of Florida Golf Course (See “This Old Course”), although he was probably forgetting that the Scots were building drivable par 4s before he was born — the difference being that the Scots also built unreachable par 3s. (The eight seaside holes at James Braid’s Girvan Golf Course, just down the road from Turnberry, seem to have had par assigned by dropping numbered stones from a helicopter.)

If Shackelford’s pic and my purple prose don’t satisfy your pangs for 10th-hole trivia, you can pig out on Steve DiMeglio’s recent piece in USAToday, which begins, “Short and sweet — and plenty dangerous.”

Or is that the first line of Steve’s bio?

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