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Diaz On The Lure Of Short One-Shotter And Par-3 Courses

With the short, risk-reward par-5 almost impossible design, the short par-4 has become the go-to for those still craving strategic holes. But closing fast on the must list of even the most novice design critics is a short par-3. Even better, the tough sell that was recommending a par-3 course to a developer has become an easy sell.

All of these issues are considered by a par-3 course golfing descendant, Jaime Diaz, who uses Pinehurst's new par-3 to hit a number of short par-3 angles for Golf World.

The Cradle follows a trend of alternative course openings in 2017, with the new Jordan Spieth-backed six-hole course at the University of Texas, Tom Doak’s 12-hole par 3 at Ballyneal, and Dan Hixson nine-hole pitch-and-putt at Silvies Valley Ranch.

You may note a bias toward par 3s in my commentary. Like a lot of guys my age, my first rounds were on scruffy short courses, in my case the Fleming Nine at Harding Park and Golden Gate G.C., both in San Francisco, both enduring jewels from the city’s golfing heyday.

I’ve also seen a big appetite for pitch-and-putts overseas. They can be found in a bunch of little towns in Ireland, usually teeming with an informally dressed crowd whose members tend to nonchalantly pull off very useful bump and runs. And when the Open was held at Muirfield in 2013, the so-called children’s course next to the west course at North Berwick was a big hit with visiting American pros and their families.

To me, a good par-3 course works on many levels besides just the price and the pace. A little funkiness in design and even conditioning is a plus, as the capriciousness invites improvisation. The mood should be informal and promote a hint of relaxed raucousness.

Sure, the American hunger for optimization has started a trend toward par 3s for the golfer who has everything. Such courses can be pricey, too penal to avoid slow play, and over spectacular topography that isn’t ideal for walking. There have been a few such creations.

But done right, a high end par 3 can become destination golf.

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Reader Comments (19)

I'm glad to see Diaz reference the many pitch and courses in Ireland, most towns and villages have a pitch and putt course which are used by kids, teenagers and OAPs. I spent many hours and days as a youngster playing pitch and putt, it develops a very good imagination as regards approach and chip shots. Portmarnock Pitch and Putt Club in Dublin is a beautiful natural links tucked in beside the golf courses, Seapoint Pitch and Putt in County Louth is also a magnificent links with pot bunkers galore and good greens, a putter and wedge only needed! .
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErnie Fahey
I'm completely on board with the concept. You haven't experienced a full golf life until you've tackled a few of the par 3 courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSchlasser
In the Atlanta area, there are two par three courses that I know of on the property of the main courses: Hawks Ridge Golf Club and Atlanta Athletic Club. Both a lot of fun.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSclaff & Foozle
I fully support more short courses being built and played for a wide variety of reasons. My only concern is about the price as Jaime alludes to in his piece.

The Cradle at Pinehurst is $50 for the first round (with free replay), Bandon's Preserve ranges from $50-100 to play. Top of the Rock is $135.

All I am saying is, it is great that these destination resorts are embracing the par 3 model but the pricing isn't going to inspire informal local and guest play quite the way it works in Ireland/UK.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterReGripped
Audubon Park in New Orleans is a great shorter course. Not quite par 3 only, but still a great executive 18.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterElChapin
I love par-3 and short courses. We have bumper crop in Los Angeles, and are very fortunate to have them scattered around the basin.

The county has a neglected jewel in Alondra's 18 hole par-3 course that could use a tune-up and more frequent mowing. There are 3 short courses within a couple of miles of LACC that are fun to play (Rancho, West LA VA, and Holmby Hills) that are good value (Holmby Hills is another one that could use a tune-up/refresh).
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLA John
Valuable contributors to the future of the game.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
@LA John- I remember swimming in Alondra in the open air pool they used to have there back in the 60's and early 70's before it was a golf course. Used to catch crayfish in the pond. When was it converted to a golf course ? I've noticed it on Google earth, wasn't aware it was a par 3 course.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Diaz did not mention the new Short Course at the new version of the Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, AZ. I've played there twice since it opened earlier this year. Designed by Forest Richardson, this 18 hole par3 course offers a taste of classic architecture with a Punchbowl and Biarritz green among others. Great course to brush up on your short game and there's even a bye hole too.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
If you pay handsomely to play No. 2 do you still pay another $50? What about members?

I'm with ReGripped, this movement isn't really one at these prices.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavidC
If in Palm Beach this Winter try to play Palm Beach Par 3. Several holes on the Ocean(not as many as they claim), several on Intercoastal, great staff, and fairly affordable for Winter time in Florida. The starter is awesome as well.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Jordan Spieth gets the Rational Thinking award for his 6 hole par 3 course in Texas. 9 is fast becoming obsolete.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGutta Percha
Cunning golf course architects can use existing tees and greens of an 18 hole course to create a par 3 nine hole course.
My design of a par 3 route at my course does it on an existing layout - the original designer had no idea it was possible.
It requires no new greens and 2 new tees. The committee rejected it because they said no one would use it, even though the cost of flood lighting the whole par 3 course was about US$ 100,000.
Here on the equator the sun sets at about 6.45pm every day so it would have been excellent for those who don't like playing in the sun.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPG
@Easingwold - I had no idea about the history of Alondra Park until you made me do a google search:

And there is the big 18 and the par 3 18 (with its tiny, crowned greens).
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLA John
LA John you should have included The Links at Terranea in Palos Verdes. Really fun course with views of Catalina Is.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTLB
Do par 3 courses need really wild greens? I've played Shorty's, the Preserve, and Caldera Links. Caldera links was good, but had more muted greens, at least when compared to the Preserve. That said, the greens were wilder than others at Sunriver.
10.11.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD
@TLB - Terranea is great, but I've got 6 other par-3/short courses within 5 miles of me that are a lot closer and a lot lower green fee.

There was a guy and his friend several years ago that played every par-3/short course in the L.A. area, and provided a review of each one. Google Richie's World of Golf for his take on the shorter course.
10.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLA John
@ LA John -- Unfortunately we lost Verdugo Hills earlier this year (?).
10.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlso in LA

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