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.