Uphill Par 3 holes – Do they work?

Watching the golf at Wentworth, this past weekend, certainly brought back memories.

You see I lived in London for nearly 8 years and worked not to far from the course. Admittedly I have only been to Wentworth once and this before fellow compatriot Ernie Els (and his team) made changes to the course with the help of the committee. I liked Wentworth but if I had the money (like any one of the members) I may just opt to join one of the other superb courses in the area  – but that’s a different blog altogether.

At Wentworth I enjoyed the back nine more than the front and in particularly I liked the two par 3 holes – the 10th and the uphill 14th. No 14 is different from the rest of the 3’s in that it plays sharply uphill to a green perched maybe 15 feet (5m) higher than the teeing area – in fact from recollection I recall one not being able to see much (if any) of the green surface.

The 14th hole by Peter Alliss and the Wentworth GC http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PIdXXLyLxm4

Now many golfers (even some Architects) regard this as taboo since the thinking is that one should be able to see the putting surface regardless – surely if you are going to score a 1 then you want to see your ball find the hole? Perhaps I see things slightly differently because I dont altogether agree with this way of thinking. Rather I focus on what situation will create the most interest and fun. I also look more at the bigger picture – the Par 3 holes as a grouping – after all ‘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 (The Links) 


The uphill Par 3 11th Hole at Shinnecock Hills played to a skyline green. One of the great Par 3’s in world golf

Tom Simpson would argue, and I am in agreement here, the fact that everything is not visible to the eye adds to its fascination. Why should everything be laid out in front of us….is part of the game not about testing your wits against the elements and in different play situations. If you playing the same shot, in a similar environment, time and again then the sport of golf is likely to become monotonous……and you as a golfer are likely to loose interest over time.

Another point I would like to raise is that almost always, in a situation when you play to an uphill green complex, you are able to gouge an impressive hazard into the face. If properly built this hazard can be ‘wow’ from a visual perspective.

Turkey Cornelia front

The Uphill 3rd hole at the Faldo Course in Turkey – Cornelia GC. Note the bunkers that have been gouged into the face

Laguna Lang Co Golf Club

The Uphill 8th Hole at Laguna Lang Co,Vietnam. The green is sat on a natural dune complex.

Yes, I have seen some atrocious uphill Par 3 holes in my time – most times these holes are let down by the standard of the features and general strategy. I have also seen some absolutely fantastic uphill holes that are a great departure from the other 3’s on that course.

Whilst this type of hole is typically not the norm, I certainly would not snub the opportunity to design an uphill shot if the situation and lay of the land calls for it. I know, from history, that when done properly it can greatly add to the interest, variety and character of the course.

De Pan

Leaving note….the uphill 15th Hole at Utrecht De Pan, Holland. One of the great golf courses and certainly one of the best Par 3 holes I have seen

Once again I leave you with Tillinghast who had a way with words…’It is generally considered that any course must stand or fall by reason of the character of its one-shot holes. Not that the others may be weak and the one-shotters alone claim distinction, but certainly uninspiring par threes will never lift an otherwise fine course above mediocrity’

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