At the base of his statue in French Lick, Indiana, Pete Dye is quoted as saying “golf is not a fair game so why build a fair golf course.” Dye has certainly applied this philosophy on many of his par 3 holes. Nobody has successfully created the dramatic par 3 as well as Pete (and to a large degree his wife Alice). He seems especially enamored with making the 17th hole of his golf courses a good opportunity to lose a premium golf ball. In my last blog I identified five of my ten favorite par 3’s from the Golf Magazine top 100 courses you can play list. The remainder are all Dye designs, making him clearly the “king of the par 3’s”. In no particular order here are my favorites:
Number 17, TPC Sawgrass One of the most photographed holes in golf, this is the renown “island hole”, although neither the first, nor the most dramatic. This short par 3 requires only a wedge for most players, however, the lack of a bailout area creates undue pressure on golfers of all skill levels, including the PGA professionals who routinely find the water during the fifth major. Our caddie advised us that 120,000 balls are removed from the lake each year. Pretty impressive given that only 40,000 rounds are played.
Number 17,Ocean Course, Kiowa Island What Sawgrass lacks in distance is more than made up for on this “major” venue. From my tees it was a mere 197 yards with significant carry over a large lake. A small bailout area, recently expanded, is located short and left of the hole and is probably the smart play, but you don’t play the Ocean Course to lay up. Bunkers will swallow the shot left of the hole, with numerous other challenges if you do not hit the water, bunkers or green. Of course the most difficult element to the hole is the wind. There are no prevailing winds at Kiowa, just lots of it. I am told there can be an eight club difference depending upon Mother Nature. If this one does not get the juices flowing, you might as well take up tennis.
Number 4,Harbour Town Cumulatively my favorite set of par 3’s in the country are those at Harbour Town. I selected Number 4 as my favorite; a 187 yard, knee knocker that offers a wide creek/river snaking along the hole. The bailout area on the right provides only temporary relief. Number 7 is a bit shorter, with the water only a moderate problem. Instead, the intrusive trees will knock all but the best shots off line, and into trouble. Number 14 is 165 yards of additional agony, as, once again, you must navigate the meandering creek/river. You cannot miss right on this one, but getting up and down from the left is extremely difficult. Number 17 is a 174 yard shot into a prevailing headwind, with a lagoon on the right. Pray your ball lands in the bunker, and you might escape with a bogey. Take a look at the picture gallery on-line and you will be booking a trip next week to this annual PGA tour stop.
Number 17,PGA West Stadium Course Known as Alcatraz, the 17th is a comparatively short par 3, that offers all the attributes of an “island hole” i.e. no bailout area. The green is bordered by large boulders that will “kick” the ball into the surrounding water. At only 146 yards, the carry is longer than Sawgrass, but shorter than many of the dyeabolical designs on other venues. By the time you get to 17 the course will have worked you over with all of the crazy lies. Either that, or the three figure temperatures will take their toll.
Number 12,Whistling Straits (Straits) This is another Dye course with tremendous par 3’s. They are all visually appealing, while being intimidating at the same time. Missing on the lake side of these one shotters is not recommended. Known as “Pop Up”, number 12 is only 138 yards from the blue tees. However, this long narrow green requires a precise tee shot, or you will have to grind to save a double bogey. The back right pin placement is one of the toughest in golf. Again, this course has been a major venue, making it an absolute must for any serious golfer. The other par 3’s on the course are exceptional as well.
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.
By Paul Laubach
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.