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America’s Best Par 3’s Part I

What makes a great par 3? For me it is standing on the tee with my knees knocking, heart racing and palms sweating knowing it will take a nearly perfect shot to keep from losing my Titleist Pro V1 in a hazard. Who cares about getting a par? It is all about survival…and saving four bucks.

There are innumerable great par 3’s on America’s top golf venues. That said, having played Golf Magazine’s top 100 there are a number that stand out. In this post I will explore the five holes that were not designed by the king of par 3’s. Of my top 10, five were conceived by one architect. These holes will be visited next time. In no particular order, these are the other five “can’t miss” one shotters.

Number 7, Pebble Beach:

Weighing in at a miniscule 100 yards, this highly photographed par 3 proves that size isn’t everything. On a benign day an easy sand wedge will be more than enough, however, add some wind, and it becomes anyone’s (actually your caddie’s) guess. The hole generally plays short due to the elevation. Hit it long, too far left, or too far right and your ball will be taking a swim. If you are not on the green, you can only hope to be bunkered. Depending upon the pin placement, you will not want to be putting from above the hole, or with a sideways break. Aside from the breathtaking views, this hole is best known for the sea lions heckling you in your backswing.

Much more difficult than 17 at TPC Sawgrass, due to the length, this one may as well be an “island hole”. Miss left you are in the lake. Miss right, you are in the lake. There is virtually no place to miss short and miss long you might as well take a double bogey and move on to No 12. There is a bunker on the right side of the green that can save a few balls, however, this bunker is no bargain, and if you hit it thin you are in the lake. The tee box has some elevation, but does not help the shot much. A par on this one will put you up on the field.

Number 14, Coeur d’Alene:

The world famous floating green occupies on of the most picturesque locations in the country. The rest of the course has a few good holes, but is mostly pedestrian, however, the opportunity to play this hole makes it worthwhile. Easily the most interesting golf hole on the top 100 list, number 14 literally floats in the lake, with the distance changing daily. (Spoiler alert, the green is tethered to a mechanism that moves the green around.) At 175 yards, give or take, this one will really get the juices flowing. Access to the green is only available via shuttle boat. They are so confident the hole will beat you the course provides a certificate to those able to par the hole, or better. On my second round I made birdie, unfortunately they spelled my name wrong.

Number 8, Wolf Creek:

Easily one of the best “sleeper” courses in the country, this Nevada venue offers some of the greatest holes around. Number 3 is a crazy, blind par 3 that almost made the list, but Number 8 is truly something special. This 213 yard, downhill hole is surrounded by a small creek, with only a small bailout area short and right. The elevation will impact the club selection, but hitting this green in regulation is challenging. Good news, you do not have to worry about landing in a bunker.

Number 12, The Challenge at Manele:

Unless you are playing the up tees, this hole may be the most nerve wracking of any. The tee shot on this 185 yard hole must carry the entire distance to the green, or you will have no opportunity to retrieve the tee shot in the rocks below, or, more likely in the cove. This is an amazingly visual hole with a high degree of difficulty. The hole is almost as difficult is accessing the course, which is located on the island of Lanai, and is effectively only accessible via ferry from Maui. While there, try the Experience at Koele.

Weekly Observation: I feel bad for all of my Midwest and East coast friends who are now in their third month of no golf. What do you do for the next three months? My suggestion is to check out my Golf Addict’s Vacation Guide, posted on August 5, and book your trip to Hawaii. Hopefully, you saw the pros at Kapalua last week.


Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He is in the process of completing the story of his journey to play America’s top 100 courses. Please visit this website regularly for more (im)practical information.

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