Vide: A.W. Tillinghast, The PGA (Of America) "Tour" Years

While the return to Bethpage brings up mixed emotions for A.W. Tillinghast fans, there is little doubt about his influence over the Black course and hundreds of courses across the United States. And Tillinghast’s mid-1930’s work, a lifeline of sorts from the PGA of America’s George Jacobus that turned into an incredible project, plus his late years in obscurity, were the subject of our focus for this Golf Channel feature.

The piece first aired Monday on Live From The PGA, so if you missed it, here’s an encore presentation (also embedded in the righthand column). A special thanks to Dominic Dastoli for a fine producing and supervising effort, and to the PGA of America’s Bob Denney and Dr. Tony Parker for helping us tell the Tillinghast story. And a special thank you to Jim Nantz and Jack Whitaker. Jim for helping us contact the broadcasting legend, and to Mr. Whitaker for becoming the voice of A.W. Tilinghast for us. Tillinghast and Whitaker, two of Philadelphia’s grandest contributions to the game!

Return To Bethpage Begins The Wind-Down On Muni's As Major Hosts

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The state of New York’s glorious Bethpage State Park hosts this week’s 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup, while Harding Park is site of next year’s PGA. Throw in one US Open at a true public venue—2021 at Torrey Pines—and that’s about it in the way of muni’s hosting majors. The foreseeable future has been lined up for both the PGA and U.S. Open, with clubs or upscale resort courses the focus.

As I write for Golfweek, it’s been a mixed-bag in terms of success rate and benefits for the facilities. But it’s also clear that the cost to host and list of potential venues has shrunken due to the bench press and gluten free diets of today’s better athletes.

But do not despair, as I make the case that these majors at muni’s spawned interest in restoring classic public courses, with a tip of the cap to the new National Links Trust and efforts around the country.

Bethpage Black And The Credit Question

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As Ron Whitten detailed back in 2002, A.W. Tillinghast had a limited role in the design of Bethpage Black. Yet he will be lauded next week during the PGA Championship while the primary designer, Joe Burbeck, only gets a few mentions.

It’s a peculiar bit of irony that guilty of that at Golf Channel too, where we have a feature set to air during Live From on Tillinghast’s later years in obscurity and his incredible cross-country consulting tour for the PGA of America. But there is also a lovely irony in the PGA Championship coming here that allows us to consider his place in the game later in his life.

Since Whitten’s story seventeen years ago was met largely with frustration, maybe even derision, we’ve come to realize a lot more about course design credit. While Tillinghast seems to have only been on site a small amount and appears to have walked away (or was fired) in frustration with the Works Progress Administration’s methodology, there is still something undeniably different about the scale and design of Bethpage Black that speaks to his influence. Which is undoubtedly why Tillinghast still warrants a co-credit in Golf Digest’s listing of top 100 courses.

Sure, the greens have none of the flair you’ll find at other Tillinghast designs in the area and the course is woefully over-bunkered given his views by the Depression years. But as Whitten detailed, he still had a hand in making the design more than just long and hard.

In August 1937, Tillinghast wrote for the first time about Bethpage Black, in PGA Magazine. He credited Joseph Burbeck with the very concept of the Black Course.

"Now it was Burbeck's idea to develop one of these layouts along lines which were to be severe to a marked degree. It was his ambition to have something which might compare with Pine Valley as a great test, and although my continual travels over the country in the PGA work have prevented me from seeing play over Bethpage's Black since its opening, I am rather inclined to believe from reports from some of the best players that it is showing plenty teeth."

The next few lines suggested he made at least one visit to the Black. He described the par-5 fourth in some detail: "In locating and designing the green, which can only be gained by a most precise approach from the right, I must confess that I was a trifle scared myself, when I looked back and regarded the hazardous route that must be taken by a stinging second shot to get into position to attack this green."

While Tillinghast may have walked out of the studio during the sessions, he was there, crafted key notes and lyrics, and is undoubtedly part of why the Black went to a different place architecturally. He might also have made the 18th hole better had he stuck around.


Whitten has narrated a nice drone flyover of the course to get you in the mood for the Black’s return to major championship golf:

Chambers Bay Gets A New Development Plan And Boy Has It Been Losing A Lot Of Money...

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Thanks to Aaron Levine for Tweeting several elements to the recent vote to add a new hotel and other amenities to boost 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, including this VERY detailed op-ed by a councilman explaining the vote for a new deal.

Included in that commentary are financials, talk of the new restaurant where the 9th tee sits (Not Jason Day’s Cafe!), but it’s mostly shocking to see the drop off in revenues since hosting the U.S. Open. High-end daily fee just isn’t what it used to be.

There was also a fantastic bit of controversy, with John Ladenberg, part of the original development, pushing an anti-development petition. His wife sits on the council, which prompted a lively back and forth!

State Of The Game 93: A.W. Tillinghast's PGA "Tour" With The PGA of America's Bob Denney, Plus Other Vital Stuff

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As we approach the PGA Championship there will be the inevitable discussion about A.W. Tillinghast’s role in the course’s final outcome. While that’s certainly a fun debate to have, the PGA of America’s first trip to Bethpage-Black offers a chance to revisit Tillinghast’s later-in-life work for the organization.

The PGA “Tour” started as a nice consulting job for the organization he was a longtime friend of, but became a major odyssey that sent the famed architect to around 500 courses to a wide variety of suggestions and assessments. You can read’s excellent description here with a list of courses.

I have worked with Golf Channel on a feature about this and Tillinghast’s fairly anonymous last years that will air a few times in the coming days, first on the CBS presentation of the “Road to the PGA.” That show re-airs Monday night on Golf Channel.

In the mean time, Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and I were joined by the PGA of America’s Bob Denney, who has preserved the bound volumes of Tillinghast correspondences and notes made by headquarters. These historic letters have moved around a lot and the golf world owes a debt of gratitude to Bob and the PGA for saving them (digital versions of most can be seen here thanks to the Tillinghast team of Wolfe, Wolfe, and Trebus!).

Here’s the pod! As always you can get it wherever fine pods are streamed, or here at the iTunes store.

Video And Podcast: The Fried Egg On Rustic Canyon

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It’s a treat to see the continued interest in Rustic Canyon 17 years after it opened, but as we knew at the time, the opportunity to work on a sandy site not far from a major U.S. city was something special.

So it’s an honor to have contributed to Andy Johnson’s Fried Egg podcast to discuss the design and his stunning drone photography of the place this winter.

Garrett Morrison looks at the design, what it meant to the region at the time and more, in this review with some fantastic still images.

Andy clipped out some of my comments on behalf of the design team—Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner as well—to provide these views:

Introducing The National Links Trust: "To promote and protect Affordability, Accessibility and engaging golf course Architecture at municipal golf courses"

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Good on Outpost Club co-founder Will Smith and Michael McCartin for building on the many great efforts nationally to restore run-down munis by starting the National Links Trust. Give them a follow on social and check out their excellent website along with the embedded podcast discussion with Andy Johnson.

For the legions who have long wondered how to get a movement going to rejuvenate the muni’s with great bones but little else, they’re looking to build on the Winter Park’s and Save Muni efforts of our golf world. They’re starting with a focus on D.C. area gems but hope to spread the gospel of restoration and architecture “growing the game".

Our first project will focus on the incredible opportunity to improve the facilities of our nation’s capital’s three municipal golf courses, East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek. Each one of these sites has a rich and storied history, but none of them are currently living up to their potential. The National Park Service will soon be issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) on a long term lease to operate these facilities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and the NLT’s goal is to ensure that the proper course of action is taken to improve and ultimately protect these national treasures. 

Here’s the iTunes link or find the Fried Egg podcast wherever fine pods are streamed.

Wilshire Is Back! A Quick Roundup Reminder Of This Week's LPGA Tour Venue

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The Hugel is back!

Actually it’s the Hugel Air Premia LA Open, or, as we will call it going forward, the LA Open.

The LPGA Tour’s breakout venue of 2018 is back and celebrating its centennial and hosting many of the world’s best women in the heart of Los Angeles.

As I noted last year for Golfweek and here on the blog, Norman Macbeth’s design reminded how much a fresh, interesting and well-presented piece of architecture can add to our viewing pleasure. Sitting in the heart of a big city and the energy that pulled in certainly did not hurt.

Some of Andy Johnson’s drone footage will whet your appetite, as well his analysis of Macbeth’s varied group of holes.

Scoring and tee times here, and ticket info can be found here.

Here are the coverage times and notes:


Hugel-Air Premia LA Open

Dates: April 25-28

Venue: Wilshire Country Club, Los Angeles, Calif. 

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):

Thursday                     6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Friday                          6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Saturday                      6-9 p.m. (Live)

Sunday                        6-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:

Annie Park to Join Broadcast Booth on Friday: LPGA Tour winner and USC alum Annie Park will join GOLF Channel’s broadcast booth as a guest analyst following her second round of coverage on Friday.

PGA Rolls Out Plans, Timeline For It's Grow The Game Move To Frisco, Texas, Home To Future PGA's And Ryder Cups

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We’re making the world a better place! I mean, Grow the game!

It’s a tired mantra wheeled out to sell just about anything in golf, including, repeatedly by new PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh in lieu of just saying, “we got a great deal to develop a project in Texas that’s aligns perfectly with our organization’s history of partnering on projects and eventually walking away from them.”

I guess that doesn’t quite sing like grow the game and Silicon Valley, assuming he’s referring to the region and not the television show.

Anyway, the new development will have a monster Omni Hotel, offices to process those pricey PGA member dues and will serve as the 2027 PGA Championship host site. Also, a possible 2040 Ryder Cup is headed there, with the task force inevitably penciling in Captain Jordan Spieth in Frisco to play the 7,603 yard Gil Hanse course as the primary venue. The project breaks ground this winter and debuts three years later with the 2023 PGA Senior Championship.

Beau Welling will be doing the second course. (Awkwardly, Hanse recently renovated one of Welling’s biggest projects from the Fazio years, Pinehurst No. 4.)

Art Stricklin for, explaining the inspiration for the Hanse design:

The East Course, measuring 7,603 yards from the back tees with a par of 72, has already been tapped to host two PGA Championships, the first in 2027 and another in ’34, along with a tentative Ryder Cup in 2040.

Hanse, who designed the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has recently redone Pinehurst No. 4 and is currently working on a complete renovation at Oakland Hills GC, outside Detroit. But it was his recent redo of the Maxwell classic at Southern Hills CC in Tulsa, Okla., that motivated him for the PGA Frisco project.

“I think you saw a true restoration of the (original) Maxwell course at Southern Hills and you’ll see a lot of stylistic imports from Maxwell at the PGA course here,” Hanse said Monday a press event for the new PGA of America HQ. “I haven’t been to all the Maxwell courses, but you will see the deep bunkers around the greens and the smaller greens. That’s part of what I hope to see [here].”

This Tweet lists the championships committed to Frisco:

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A Tweeted map of the Hanse design:

They had a diverse group for the big rollout…some men in ties, some not in ties.

Old Course: The Revamped Shell Bunker Looks Like A Swimming Pool

With a sand bottom…

I don’t meant to be cruel, but the fascination in Scotland these days with constant rebuilding of Old Course bunkers with an eye toward mechanical precision is increasingly tough to watch, particularly when we know a sense of naturalness is essential to reminding the golfer that most of these pits were accidental in origin. The more man-made they look, the more the golfer is likely to reject them.

Anyway, here are the photos of a recent reconstruction followed by a historic photo from a postcard I purchased a few years ago. Look at that face and lack of sand manicuring!


Ridley Draws The Line On Distance? No 13th Hole Changes Until Distance Report Arrives

The predicted (second) lengthening of Augusta National’s 13th hole will not be happening in the summer of 2019 based on Chairman Fred Ridley’s prepared remarks delivered to the media Wednesday.

Read carefully and read between those lines…

It should come as no surprise to any of you that we continue to study other enhancements to the golf course.  That includes much‑talked‑about changes, potential changes, to the 13th hole. 

Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by Jones and MacKenzie.  The momentous decision that I've spoken about and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two, is to a large extent, no longer relevant. 

Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action.

I think the former USGA president may have just suggested he senses action is coming.

I’m sorry, I interrupted…

In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers.  But please know this:  The USGA and The R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart.  They recognize the importance of their future actions.  You can be assured that we will continue to advocate for industry‑wide collaboration in support of the governing bodies as they resolve this very important topic. 

Of course, no resolution has been the stance of the PGA Tour, PGA of America and most major manufacturers, so the idea of a conclusion to the liking of Mr. Ridley and Augusta National would seem to include some form of new distance regulation. Or a new tee that they clearly do not want to add.

Players React To New Fifth: Long, Tough And The Driver Restored

I penned this piece for Golfweek rounding up player assessments of the remodeled 5th hole.

Jim McCabe at looks at the changes and there is a fantastic flyover where the new left hole location resored is visible.

Fred Ridley spoke about the changes today:

As has been reported, last summer, the fifth tee was moved back and shifted away from the fourth green.  In doing so, the fairway landing area was regraded and the bunkers were repositioned.  While this hole now measures 40 yards longer, we believe this change maintains the original design philosophy of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, and not only continues our commitment to keep the course in step with the changing state of the game, but we believe it will have a positive impact on pace of play. 

As part of this renovation, we took the opportunity to rebuild and slightly enlarge the fifth green.  In doing so, we were able to make adjustments to the back left portion of the putting green in order to support new hole locations. 

But an exciting byproduct of this instruction is the improvements to our patron experience.  For the first time, we will route patrons down the right side of the fourth hole, as well as behind the green, providing an attractive vantage point for this challenging par 3. 

The new tee at No. 5 also provides for additional viewing areas, so we feel these holes have been much improved from a patron perspective. 

Here is the Masters Instagram post and flyover embed.

The bunkers are just a bit large off the tee and overwhelming in scale and difficulty given what both Bob Jones and Alister MacKenzie detailed (they were conflicted about those bunkers, with Jones adding them after the course opened and after having shot down their initial inclusion). A drive over those bunkers—314 carry—may not be rewarded with a clean look at the green from the fairway if there is any run to the ball.. It feels like the location of the old bunkers was not adequately filled in, so I suspect the tee shot will actually favor a left to right shape.

The green complex still looks intimidating and in firmer years may prompt a run-up, with the new left hole location an almost impossible birdie unless a player sinks a long putt.

Woods, Hanse To Design 36 And Maybe Help Put Oahu Golf On The Map?

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For Immediate Release on Pacific Links’ big plans for Mākaha Valley Resort, with one Tiger Woods and one Gil Hanse design:

Pacific Links Press Release – Wednesday 3rd April 2019

  • Pacific Links International (PLI) announces Tiger Woods and Gil Hanse as designers of two world-class golf courses on the island of Oahu, Hawaii

  • Mākaha North Course (TGR Design) and Mākaha South Course (Hanse Golf Course Design) will become the highlight of the Mākaha Valley Resort

  • PLI is working with community leaders, landowners, native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and regulatory agencies on the project’s long-term vision

Golfing icon Tiger Woods and his TGR Design company have today been unveiled as lead architects for one of two spectacular golfing layouts to be created at Mākaha Valley Resort, Hawaii, a project commissioned by Pacific Links International, the world’s premier golfing network. Inspired by the pristine setting on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, TGR Design will lead the development of the Mākaha North Course, while Gil Hanse, creator of the Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, will develop the Mākaha South Course. Together, these world-class, tournament-quality layouts will become the centre pieces of the Mākaha Valley Resort, a 644-acre mixed-use property developed in conjunction with community leaders and native cultural practitioners on Hawaii’s third-largest island.

WATCH: To view a video which celebrates the announcement of Tiger Woods and Gil Hanse as designers of Mākaha North and South

As Jason Scott Deegan notes for based on his time in Hawaii, this may finally be the project that puts Oahu golf on the map. To this point, the golf tourism side of things there has been pretty weak.

Patrick Koenig's Year-Long RV Golf Trip...

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Almost sounds like a movie, but instead it’s just the story many would love to live. Mercifully, Patrick Koenig also is a fantastic photographer and even a fundraiser.

Erik Matuszewski explains the story behind Koenig’s wonderful Instagram account and his RV journey playing in all but one state after quitting his job in software sales.

Koenig recently completed an epic golf journey, living in a 26-foot Coachman for 12 months while playing golf in all but one state in the continental U.S. (He missed out on Nebraska because of snow).

Koenig did all the driving himself—a total of 35,576 miles—took around 40,000 photos, made 689 birdies and lost in the neighborhood of 600 golf balls.  He also played with 793 different people, making new friends along the way, and raised $20,000 for the First Tee of Greater Seattle.

TPC Sawgrass' 12th Hole Has Gone From Not Drivable To A Long Par-3

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

And that’s not a good thing.

Astoundingly, no double bogey was made the entire tournament. While that is definitely not a barometer for architectural merit, the lack of a big number suggests that the cooks, wait staff, busboys, hostesses and even valet parkers in Ponte Vedra have overcooked architect Steve Wenzloff’s effort to inject life into the back nine.

As I explain here for Golfweek, the fine line between drama and just playing as a long par-3 can be remedied with a simple grass tweak and better mixing up of tees. Please pass along to the locker room attendants at TPC Sawgrass, they may get a say too. Actually, they have a much more informed view than most.

BTW, how amazing is all of this data from ShotLink for the cooks to ponder? An impressive 76% of the field took a go at the green, with 23% successfully hitting the green. It was just a couple of years ago that players and caddies were declaring how no one would bother to go for it, much less keep their ball on the green.

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Alice Dye's Greatest 17th Hole Contribution: Making The Top Shelf Functional

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The Forecaddie notes here that the late Alice Dye’s contribution to the 17th hole is greater and maybe a bit more refined architecturally than she gets credit for.

The 2019 tribute to Alice Dye:

Golf Architect Keith Foster Sentenced To 30 Days

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A sad chapter in the career of golf architect Keith Foster closed with his sentencing to 30 days in prison for importing and selling products made from endangered species.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post reports.

He has also paid a $275,000 fine. After pleading guilty, Foster lost contracts with Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.

The antique business was supposed to be a relatively safe outlet for Foster’s extra energy, he told Golf Club Atlas in 2014, compared to his other hobby of mountaineering.

“I always tried to challenge myself,” Foster said. “My wife much prefers my Outpost venture to climbing.”

Southern Pines' Little Nine: "Fallow Ground & Fertile Memories"

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

Bill Fields takes an in-depth look at one of the more unusual battles over an abandoned golf course—the Little Nine of Southern Pines Golf Club, a still wonderful but defaced Donald Ross gem in greater Pinehurst run by the Elks Lodge. The course has sat dormant since 2004 with Ross ties and facing a possible sale by the Elks in the heart of Southern Pines.

But as Fields notes, a conservancy is trying to prevent redevelopment with an eye on green space or even golf returning some day. Given the quality of the land and the game’s popularity in the area, that shouldn’t be tough, right?

The Little Nine opened in time for the 1924 winter season, 18 years after the first holes were constructed at SPGC (then called Southern Pines Country Club) and a decade after Ross revamped the original 18 into the well-regarded layout that exists today. 

“I’m long on record on Golf Club Atlas saying the main 18 at the Elks occupies the best land in Moore County [for golf], and people parrot that back to me in agreement,” says Ran Morrissett, founder of the website for golf architecture aficionados, and a Southern Pines resident and Elks Club member since 2000. “The detail work, the bones of the Ross routing, the fact that you only see homes on a couple of holes — it’s such a compelling environment.”

The third nine, to accommodate a growing tourist business, was built south and east of the clubhouse. Before the 1920s were over, it had been joined by a fourth nine. In a 1930 promotional pamphlet, Ross noted 36 holes at Southern Pines. In accounts during the 1930s, local newspapers credited Ross’ engineer and draftsman, Walter Irving Johnson, with having drawn up the plans.

Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday


Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:


When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.


And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.


90 Years Later: How The 10th At Riviera Evolved

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

A few things to remember about Riviera when it hosted its first Los Angeles Open 90 years ago.

—The course was in the “countryside” and a bit of a gamble as a location so far from the city center downtown.

—Riviera was just a year-and-half old with a reputation for extreme difficulty (“Where do the members play?”-Bobby Jones).

—The course underwent modifications prior to the tournament by George Thomas and Billy Bell despite concerns about the difficulty.

When I wrote The Captain in 1996, a year after The Riviera Country Club : A Definitive History, we only knew from mentions in the tournament program that modifications were made to the 5th and 9th holes (greenside bunkers added). A huge bunker on the 7th fairway could also be seen in aerial photos, as could the most significant of all: new bunkering at the world famous short par-4 10th.

After the books were published, I traveled to Golf House and with the help of USGA researcher Patty Moran, found many wonderful articles including this Country Club Magazine piece below by Scotty Chisholm, co-founder of the L.A. Open and friend to Thomas, Bell and many other luminaries.

In it he details why the bunkers were added by Captain Thomas throughout the course under Billy Bell’s supervision—a right he and Bell retained when taking the commission in 1926.


The remainder of the story. Also note the “Boles McCrackan’s Bletherings” by Chisholm explains Riviera’s 6th hole design by Thomas and when the hole was a 145-yarder, not as played from the silly back tee since added.


The explanation of 10th hole changes suggests the original bunkerless green was not challenging enough.

“This hole has been too easy to score on even for the so-called dubs. It measures 320 yards and it is a well known fact that the golf architect of today experiences more difficulty in designing a hole of this length than any other. Although the green lies at almost right angles to the tee and difficult to hold with a pitched shot, Thomas has decided to trap it heavily to the right and cut down the putting surface.”

That decision proved a brilliant one, though as the bunkers have become deeper, the green smaller and more pitched with modern speeds pushing 13, the 10th has teetered on the edge of silliness.

Playing now as a long par-3 due to modern driving distances, some of the lay-up strategy is gone as well and silly bottlebrush bushes are needed to defend the hole from even more tee shots driving near the green without regard for accuracy.

Rain this year may take some of the fire out of the 10th green, and that’s not all bad given how it has teetered on the edge of sanity in recent playings. Regardless, the changes made 90 years ago have held up well and are a credit to the original architect’s willingness to make adjustments. And, contrary to an attempted scam designed to reduce the role of Thomas and Bell, the changes were very much made by the original designers as documented at the time.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.