A few years back I had the good fortune of playing a casual round with a world golf hall of famer. As a 10 handicapper, this opportunity came with equal amounts excitement and consternation. I knew this guy had seen plenty of awful swings through the countless pro/ams he participated in but now he was about to see my awful swing. After barely hitting the clubface off the first tee and somehow managing to find the fairway, the second hole proved to be far more unmanageable than the first. A 240 yard par 3. Straight into the fan.
Now, if you’re one of these guys who approaches a fairway that’s tighter than a hotel hallway and pulls your two iron for safety, get outta here. The world envies you. You’re good, we get it. A 240 yard par 3 is a scoring opportunity for you. La dee freakin da. But if you’re like the other 95% of golfers worldwide, your knees knock, your palms perspire, and your shot dispersion looks a lot like Harry Dunne’s. Why must course architects around the world torture us so?
Consider this–in the 2007 U.S. Open, the 8th hole at Oakmont was playing 300 yards. Now maybe you’re thinking, “awesome, another great short par 4! Just like the 16th at Harding Park where Morikawa eagled on Sunday!” Nope. Par 3. That week the pros hit the green only 27% of the time. At Legend Golf and Safari resort in South Africa they have the “Extreme 19th.” A 395 yard par 3. The tee box is only accessible via helicopter and a standard tee shot takes 20 seconds to land. In the history of its existence, there have been only 14 birdies on that hole. Here’s another doozy–the 235 yard 16th at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda. Check out the official description of the hole:
The tee shot will require a solidly hit shot across the ocean to a green perched high above the ocean on its own peninsula, A well bunkered green offers the player a small target to find and, with the prevailing winds, this hole has the ability to fool the strongest of minds. A shot to the right will be safe from the ocean but missing the traps will be a challenge.
So you’re telling me that I have to a) hit a solid shot (never guaranteed) b) across a chasm of ocean c) to an elevated peninsula green d) surrounded by bunkers e) with oceanic gusts and finally f) in 3 strokes. Anybody got that shot in the bag? The year of 2020 has better chances to improve than I do hitting that green.
What I’m trying to say is that a par 3 should be a gentle affirming friend. An oasis in the hacks desert. A break from the wayward big swing. A gasp of air in the tumultuous tides of your tempo. That’s exactly what I needed on that fateful day. Instead, I stepped up to the 240-yard par 3 into the wind. Standing over the ball, the clubface looked like a penny. I somehow made a decent pass at the ball despite the nerves and hit a gentle fade with my 3 wood. The ball cascaded over the water and landed softly two feet from the hole. Triumphantly walking up to my ball I thought, “you know, maybe long par 3’s aren’t so bad after all.” And then I missed the putt.
Why golfers in NYC are some of the most committed golfers in the world
Erik is a writer and teacher from Fort Lauderdale, FL. When he's not trying to figure out ways to golf for free, he's usually hanging out with his wife and Rhodesian Ridgeback, Koa. You can find more of his work at punchbowlgolf.co