I have been meaning to write this blog post ever since the US Open at Merion a few weeks back. You see Merion has some long 3’s but it’s the 13th hole I am particularly fond of – a very short hole at around 130 yards off the back tee.
It’s not that I think the 13th is the best hole I have seen it’s more the fact that I am particularly fond of the short Par 3 – somewhere between 100 and 140 yards I suppose off the backs. The sad thing for me is that holes of this length are somewhat of a rarity today…at least on a modern golf course. If you want to play a short 120 yard pitch then best you head down to your local pitch and putt.
It is hard to put a finger on why this is. Perhaps it’s because of our obsession with length – the notion that if it’s longer it has to be better? or maybe it’s because the paying public want their money’s worth and a little pitch to a green could hardly be regarded as a hole? Also many perspective clients and some golf architects believe that a course has to be over 7000 yards to be any good and a very short hole makes it harder to achieve this end. Maybe subconsciously some of us think that a hole of this length could be deemed too easy.
I dont agree with any of this because some of the best Par 3 holes I have seen are remarkably short + more interesting and as tough as any other 3. You see length should always be secondary to interest – It’s not how long but how good (Tillinghast) and if the land says design / build short then why not?
In addition, I like the idea of mixing up the 3’s when routing a golf course. By this I mean having 3’s all very distinctive and different from the other. Having at least one very short 3, if possible, will go a long way to achieveing this end. Yes, I let the land dictate if and where it works but certainly wont shun the opportunity to do something ‘short’ if there is a possibility to do it. Remember “A first rate one shot hole is the acme of golf, and a series of such holes of varying length and character gives more concentrated excitement than any other type of golf”. Robert Hunter
I will go even further and say that my favourite Par 3 hole is amongst the shortest there is. The 7th hole at Royal County down is a remarkable hole in my opinion. It adds to the charm that is the front nine at County Down. *Many including myself regard the front nine at County Down the best there is. Crystal Downs a close competitor.
At first glance this hole may seem a bit of a sleeper but it’s a different story when you play it. Your first glimpse of the hole comes as you walk down the fairway on the 6th hole. You are introduced to the severe green slope that falls from front to back + a knarly bunker (that is blind from the tee) on the left side of the hole. The fairway extends behind the green and is a collection point for most balls I would imagine…including my own when I played. The tightly mown fairway helps accelerate the ball away from the green
When I played the hole it was a little more than 100 yards but I had to be deadly accurate with my short iron if I had any chance of hitting the green. The green is small and the countouring compounds this….maybe only 40% of the green is pinnable. It is a unique hole, that is like no other I have played (with a wonderful background setting mind you).
I firmly believe you can be extra aggressive with the placement of hazards on a short 3. Also I am encouraged to design / build one or two fierce looking hazards which make the recovery more difficult but not impossible. I like the idea of heightening the miss since the golfer is almost always going to have a short iron to hand and you are calling for him to hit a deadly accurate shot….the shot could be deadly if you are not accurate.
Another point to consider is that a very short hole brings the field closer together (and this goes for a short 4 or 5). On a long hole the best golfers or longest hitters are likely to be hitting medium length irons when the rest of us are hitting long Irons. On this type of hole we are all hitting shorts irons arent we?
There are not many ‘very’ short holes out there but here are some shortish holes that work a treat IMO…the 12th at Durban Country Club, the 12th at Noordwijske, The 11th at St Georges Hill, The 8th at Kingsbarnes, The 11 th at Shinnecock Hills, the 6th at The National Golf Links of America
There is nothing taboo about a really good and well thought out short hole….in fact there is a good chance it will be remembered long after the round. I leave you with John Low “The short hole should not be long”