Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jason Lusk

Riviera’s short No. 10: The stats, the maps and the challenge

The par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club is easily within range of all the players on the PGA Tour, with the green downhill and the hole checking in at just 315 yards on the scorecard. Each year during the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational, No. 10 appears to be the epitome of a short, drivable hole – ripe for the taking.

Except it isn’t.

The PGA Tour reports that during the 2021 Genesis, there were 373 total tee shots on No. 10, with 297 of those taking aim at the green or its surrounds. Of those, only five came to rest on the putting surface. That’s a 1.7-percent success rate, and Tour pros never really take on tee shots that offer those kinds of odds. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be on Tour long.

And that’s the genius of the 10th, designed by George C. Thomas and William P. Bell on the track that opened in 1927 in Pacific Palisades on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The whole place is genius, come to think of it: Riviera ranks No. 4 in California on Golfweek’s Best list of private courses, and it is No. 18 on Golfweek’s Best list of all classic courses built in the U.S. before 1960.

The StrackaLine yardage book for Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, site of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational (Courtesy of StrackaLine)

Even the pros sometimes struggle to decide how best to hit that tee shot and commit fully to it. It’s a quandary incited by the heavily sloping green, the cross bunkers, even a handful of palm trees. It’s a green that’s easy to miss from 100 yards, from 20 yards, from the front bunker, from the back bunker – it’s as much a Ping Pong table as a putting surface, and it’s not uncommon to see players go back and forth over the green on successive shots. Nowhere is precision more greatly demanded than on the likely pitch into No.  10, especially when the flag is in the back-right portion of the green. Trajectory, spin and distance control are all musts.

An array of cross-bunkers complicate matters off the tee for anyone attempting to play conservatively, but Tour pros can basically ignore those hazards should they choose to smack driver or even 3-wood off the tee. Two other bunkers flank the landing area some 40-50 yards short of the green, and another bunker waits just short of the green on the direct path to the hole.

The putting surface runs diagonally from front-left to back-right between three greenside bunkers, and the surface itself is tilted dramatically to the back and left. The best angle of approach is from left of the green, allowing the player the most surface with which to work while threading the bunkers. Many players hedge to the left off the tee in attempt to set up that angle, but that means the tee ball must avoid the left fairway bunker, several palm trees and an assortment of shrubbery.

The StrackaLine yardage book for Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, site of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational (Courtesy of StrackaLine)

Even if a pro navigates all that safely with a solid tee shot that finds safety left of the green, it’s not uncommon to see players miss the green or hit shots woefully short of the flag, especially when it’s in the back-right. The sloping green challenges every kind of pitch or chip, constantly steering balls back and to the left.

Actually reaching the front-left portion of the green off the tee doesn’t necessarily set up a short eagle putt or a breezy two-putt birdie. The Tour reported that of those five tee balls that found the putting surface in 2021, only one of them ended up within 60 feet of the hole – Harold Varner III struck his tee ball to 18 feet 4 inches from the cup in the fourth round and made birdie. The other four players still had plenty of work left.

The 10th hole at Riviera Country Club, site of the Genesis Invitational. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

Worth noting: Only one player made eagle on No. 10 in 2021, and it came in a most unlikely fashion. In the first round, Sergio Garcia hit his tee shot into one of the worst spots, the right fairway bunker. From there, he blasted his ball from the sand 44 yards into the cup. Nobody would ever suggest deliberately taking such a route.

It all seems so simple, but clearly it’s not. The 10th played to a 3.88 scoring average in 2021, and in 2018 it played to a scoring average over par at 4.06, according to ShotLink data provided by the Tour. It ranks as the second-toughest par 4 of less than 350 yards on Tour since 2013 with a 3.92 scoring average in that span, trailing only No. 2 at Spyglass Hill (4.01).

Despite its challenges, the pros have figured out it’s better to take your chances with a blast toward the green or just left of it. Since the ShotLink era began in 2003, there have been 8,002 tee shots on No. 10 in the Genesis. Almost 59 percent of players have gone for the green off the tee in that span, and they are a combined 846 under par. The 41 percent of players who laid up are a combined 131 over par in that span.

Jordan Spieth hits from a greenside bunker on the 10th hole during the final round of the 2019 Genesis at Riviera Country Club. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Some more breakdowns from the Tour: Of the players who hit the green off the tee since 2003, 72 percent of them made birdie or better – that means more than a quarter of them three-putted or worse.

Of those in the left portion of the fairway off the tee, 33 percent made birdie. From the left rough, that birdie-or-better percentage drops to 24 percent. From the right side of the fairway, 27 percent of players made birdie or better, and from the right rough only 14 percent  made birdie or eagle. Remember, these are Tour pros with wedges in their hands.

Also in that span, 62 percent of players managed to hit the green from the left rough – and that’s just a pitch shot. The odds are better from the left fairway, but still only 75 percent of the shots struck from Tour pros find the green on that pitch or chip. From the right side of the fairway, just 61 percent of players hit the green, and only 31 percent of balls found the green from the right rough.

In an age when so much emphasis is placed on swing speed and distance, it’s a blast to watch the Tour pros struggle with such a tricky hole. The green is almost over the top – and some pros certainly would make that assertion. But it’s fun, for one week, to see the pros struggle with such a short but dramatic challenge.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.