The Best Short Par 3s in Golf

Golf Digest

In golf's increasingly bigger-is-better world, the Lilliputian par 3 rarely gets its due. But as this collection of tiny one-shotters shows, a hole doesn't have to be long to be lovable.

Originally Appeared on Golf Digest

<p>Golf architecture has succumbed to the long ball. Drivable par 4s and 290-yard par 3s are all the rage. A one-shot hole that is a delicate pitch to a daunting target has been all but forgotten. Not that they were ever that popular. The best took courage to design and courage to play.</p> <p>We're talking about truly short par 3s, ones no longer than a football field, end zones included, 120 yards more or less. The 155-yard 12th at Augusta National is far too long for our purposes, as is the 137-yard island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Fine holes, but not pitch and putts. Same with the newly remodeled 16th at Sleepy Hollow, undoubtedly great, as is Dr. Alister MacKenzie's 15th. We're talking about the real shorties.</p> <p>A great short par 3 is as rare as a Democrat on the PGA Tour. Here are seven examples. Most of them are the 18th-handicap hole at their club, a rating that shows just how much overemphasis is placed on yardage in golf.</p>
The Best Short Par 3s in Golf

Golf architecture has succumbed to the long ball. Drivable par 4s and 290-yard par 3s are all the rage. A one-shot hole that is a delicate pitch to a daunting target has been all but forgotten. Not that they were ever that popular. The best took courage to design and courage to play.

We're talking about truly short par 3s, ones no longer than a football field, end zones included, 120 yards more or less. The 155-yard 12th at Augusta National is far too long for our purposes, as is the 137-yard island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Fine holes, but not pitch and putts. Same with the newly remodeled 16th at Sleepy Hollow, undoubtedly great, as is Dr. Alister MacKenzie's 15th. We're talking about the real shorties.

A great short par 3 is as rare as a Democrat on the PGA Tour. Here are seven examples. Most of them are the 18th-handicap hole at their club, a rating that shows just how much overemphasis is placed on yardage in golf.

<p>The Postage Stamp: No. 8, 123/118/114 yards</p> <p>The shortest hole on the British Open rota, it made headlines in the 1973 Open when 71-year-old Gene Sarazen aced it in the first round (with a 5-iron) and holed a bunker shot on Day 2 for a deuce. Created by Troon pro Willie Fernie during his 1909 revision of the course, it was originally called Ailsa. Willie Park Jr. called the green a "postage stamp" in 1923, the same year that James Braid added two nasty bunkers to the left of the green, and it stuck as the name of the hole. The clever moniker has lasted several generations, but someday golfers probably won't understand the reference. Might this treacherous hole with the skinny target need a 21st-century name? The Microchip, perhaps?</p>
Royal Troon, Troon, Scotland

The Postage Stamp: No. 8, 123/118/114 yards

The shortest hole on the British Open rota, it made headlines in the 1973 Open when 71-year-old Gene Sarazen aced it in the first round (with a 5-iron) and holed a bunker shot on Day 2 for a deuce. Created by Troon pro Willie Fernie during his 1909 revision of the course, it was originally called Ailsa. Willie Park Jr. called the green a "postage stamp" in 1923, the same year that James Braid added two nasty bunkers to the left of the green, and it stuck as the name of the hole. The clever moniker has lasted several generations, but someday golfers probably won't understand the reference. Might this treacherous hole with the skinny target need a 21st-century name? The Microchip, perhaps?

<p>Land's End: No. 7, 109/106/98/94/90 yards</p> <p>Even shorter than the Postage Stamp, the seventh at Pebble Beach is the shortest hole in major championship golf, period. Depending upon the wind conditions, it can be a pitching wedge or a hybrid. When it was introduced in 1918 by designers Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the downhill hole played to a massive green encircled by a sand bunker and flanked on three sides by Pacific surf. For the 1929 U.S. Amateur, Chandler Egan replaced the bunker with imitation sand dunes. The dunes were eventually dispersed by ocean winds. Sand pits now sit in their place. Over the last six decades, the once generous green has become an apostrophe, its present bunkers hinting at dimensions of the old putting surface.</p>
Pebble Beach Golf Links

Land's End: No. 7, 109/106/98/94/90 yards

Even shorter than the Postage Stamp, the seventh at Pebble Beach is the shortest hole in major championship golf, period. Depending upon the wind conditions, it can be a pitching wedge or a hybrid. When it was introduced in 1918 by designers Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the downhill hole played to a massive green encircled by a sand bunker and flanked on three sides by Pacific surf. For the 1929 U.S. Amateur, Chandler Egan replaced the bunker with imitation sand dunes. The dunes were eventually dispersed by ocean winds. Sand pits now sit in their place. Over the last six decades, the once generous green has become an apostrophe, its present bunkers hinting at dimensions of the old putting surface.

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<p>The Mashie Niblick Sticky Wicket: No. 13, 127/121/114 yards</p> <p>Merion's original par-3 13th, of the same length, played to a green protected by Cobbs Creek. The present 13th was built by William S. Flynn in 1924 on the west side of the creek. At the 1930 U.S. Amateur, writers called it an island hole because the oval green was nearly surrounded by bunkers, laughably shallow ones compared to today's deep-dish offerings. In one session during the 2009 Walker Cup, the USGA used a forward tee and a front pin position. The hole barely played 100 yards but still gave players fits. USGA executive director Mike Davis plans to do that again during one round of this year's U.S. Open.</p>
Merion G.C. (East), Ardmore, Pa.

The Mashie Niblick Sticky Wicket: No. 13, 127/121/114 yards

Merion's original par-3 13th, of the same length, played to a green protected by Cobbs Creek. The present 13th was built by William S. Flynn in 1924 on the west side of the creek. At the 1930 U.S. Amateur, writers called it an island hole because the oval green was nearly surrounded by bunkers, laughably shallow ones compared to today's deep-dish offerings. In one session during the 2009 Walker Cup, the USGA used a forward tee and a front pin position. The hole barely played 100 yards but still gave players fits. USGA executive director Mike Davis plans to do that again during one round of this year's U.S. Open.

<p>Eighth hole: 117/105/93</p> <p>This is a cool green tucked into an old quarry, with a tee shot playing over a deeper, wider quarry in front. Site of a neat William S. Flynn design outside Philadelphia.</p>
Manufacturers Golf and Country Club, Fort Washington, Pa.

Eighth hole: 117/105/93

This is a cool green tucked into an old quarry, with a tee shot playing over a deeper, wider quarry in front. Site of a neat William S. Flynn design outside Philadelphia.

<p>Ninth hole: 126/114/109 yards.</p> <p>The par-3 16th gets a lot of attention—as does the other magnificent cliff holes at Cabot Cliffs. But don't sleep on the short par-3 ninth hole.</p>
Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia

Ninth hole: 126/114/109 yards.

The par-3 16th gets a lot of attention—as does the other magnificent cliff holes at Cabot Cliffs. But don't sleep on the short par-3 ninth hole.

<p>The Wee Precipice: No. 13, 126/119/99/76 yards</p> <p>The least links-like hole on the acclaimed man-made links designed by the Holy Trinity of golf design, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, the 13th at Spanish Bay plays diagonally over a natural stream to a long, thin green edged by the deep creek gulley on the right and high mounds on the left, the latter meant to block views of adjacent condos. Told that the hole vaguely resembled Royal Troon's Postage Stamp, Jones responded, "I call it the Christmas Seal, because you get a present if you hit the green, a short birdie putt."</p>
The Links at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach

The Wee Precipice: No. 13, 126/119/99/76 yards

The least links-like hole on the acclaimed man-made links designed by the Holy Trinity of golf design, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, the 13th at Spanish Bay plays diagonally over a natural stream to a long, thin green edged by the deep creek gulley on the right and high mounds on the left, the latter meant to block views of adjacent condos. Told that the hole vaguely resembled Royal Troon's Postage Stamp, Jones responded, "I call it the Christmas Seal, because you get a present if you hit the green, a short birdie putt."

<p>Hole In The Wall: No. 3, 107/104/98/67 yards</p> <p>When he built it in the early 1980s, Tom Fazio admitted it was the shortest and most expensive hole he had done. (Original reports of a $400,000 price tag have now grown to more than $1 million, such being the inflation of distant memory.) The cart path alone, climbing several hundred feet from the second green, had to cost a bundle. The tee boxes atop pinnacles of granite and the tiny green tucked at the edge of an abyss were built by hand, the latter with geothermal tubing beneath it to keep it warm on cool mornings. Tom Watson once four-putted the original two-level putting surface. It was subsequently rebuilt and flattened.</p>
Ventana Canyon (Mountain), Tucson

Hole In The Wall: No. 3, 107/104/98/67 yards

When he built it in the early 1980s, Tom Fazio admitted it was the shortest and most expensive hole he had done. (Original reports of a $400,000 price tag have now grown to more than $1 million, such being the inflation of distant memory.) The cart path alone, climbing several hundred feet from the second green, had to cost a bundle. The tee boxes atop pinnacles of granite and the tiny green tucked at the edge of an abyss were built by hand, the latter with geothermal tubing beneath it to keep it warm on cool mornings. Tom Watson once four-putted the original two-level putting surface. It was subsequently rebuilt and flattened.

<p>The Start-Up: No. 9, 118/110/92/80 yards</p> <p>Ten years after he helped Fazio build the third at Ventana Canyon, Mike Strantz designed his own vest-pocket hole on his first solo design. Working on a tight site, he truncated the ninth to spare the removal of several ancient moss-draped live oaks in the clubhouse area. The hole was supposed to be 130 yards long, but a back tee on the far side of the entry road was soon abandoned. The wide, shallow green is shaped like an hourglass tipped on its side, all the sand pouring out to form a frontal bunker that is bigger than the green.</p>
Caledonia Golf & Fish C., Pawleys Island, S.C.

The Start-Up: No. 9, 118/110/92/80 yards

Ten years after he helped Fazio build the third at Ventana Canyon, Mike Strantz designed his own vest-pocket hole on his first solo design. Working on a tight site, he truncated the ninth to spare the removal of several ancient moss-draped live oaks in the clubhouse area. The hole was supposed to be 130 yards long, but a back tee on the far side of the entry road was soon abandoned. The wide, shallow green is shaped like an hourglass tipped on its side, all the sand pouring out to form a frontal bunker that is bigger than the green.

<p>17th hole: 115/104/92 yards</p> <p>Site of the ShopRite Classic, Seaview Golf Club's Bay Course in New Jersey has a ton of history. And that includes the tiny par-3 17th hole, with three bunkers across the front. A Hugh Wilson (of Merion fame) design, bunkered by Donald Ross. Those are some good genes.</p>
Seaview Resort (Bay course)

17th hole: 115/104/92 yards

Site of the ShopRite Classic, Seaview Golf Club's Bay Course in New Jersey has a ton of history. And that includes the tiny par-3 17th hole, with three bunkers across the front. A Hugh Wilson (of Merion fame) design, bunkered by Donald Ross. Those are some good genes.

<p>The Little 17th: Bye hole, 121 yards</p> <p>When Herbert Fowler designed and George C. Thomas Jr. built the North Course at LACC in 1921, they seemed inspired by the Postage Stamp in the design of the 17th, a 120-yarder playing over a wash to a double-level green recessed into the base of a hill. It was notorious. One writer called it a "trying short hole" surrounded by "dire trouble." Rival designer Robert Hunter wrote, "The slope on this green is too pronounced." When Thomas remodeled the North in 1928, he scrapped the hole in favor of a new par-3 15th. (His new 17th became a par 4.) Ninety years later Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford rebuilt L.A. North to recapture Thomas' flair. They also reclaimed the old 17th, now positioned as a betting hole between the 17th green and 18th tee.</p>
Los Angeles C.C. (North)

The Little 17th: Bye hole, 121 yards

When Herbert Fowler designed and George C. Thomas Jr. built the North Course at LACC in 1921, they seemed inspired by the Postage Stamp in the design of the 17th, a 120-yarder playing over a wash to a double-level green recessed into the base of a hill. It was notorious. One writer called it a "trying short hole" surrounded by "dire trouble." Rival designer Robert Hunter wrote, "The slope on this green is too pronounced." When Thomas remodeled the North in 1928, he scrapped the hole in favor of a new par-3 15th. (His new 17th became a par 4.) Ninety years later Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford rebuilt L.A. North to recapture Thomas' flair. They also reclaimed the old 17th, now positioned as a betting hole between the 17th green and 18th tee.

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