'Calamity' at Royal Portrush
This week I am going to concentrate on the value of a long par three.
My own personal belief is the architect must provide a full balance in the par threes to build a great golf course. One should be very short, one around mid length, one longer par three, and one very long par three. I have adopted this belief through my experience with Stanley Thompson and the strength of his par threes. I have always held the firm belief that the middle two are the easy ones to develop, but the shortest and longest are in reality the key to a great set of par threes. Eventually I will take on the short par three, because it is easily the most enjoyable single shot in golf, but it is the long par three that often makes the difference from a good set to a great set of threes. Many of the most memorable par threes in all of golf are from the very long variety.
15th at Catarqui, 1930
The long par three is usually presented as the dullest hole in golf because it is used as a brute test of strength over very unimaginative land. Too many architects use this as their connector hole between better land for a four or five. It is seen more as a chance to add length and yardage rather than an opportunity for a unique style of hole or a chance to create the most heroic of circumstance. This can be the most important hole on the course yet I think it typically gets the least amount of thought.
The problem is you can’t ignore this hole type. A great set of threes carry more weight in the quality of the golf course than a great set of fours or fives. Many such as #16 at Cypress Point and #5 at Pine Valley are the best single shots on their respective golf courses. Courses such as Thompson’s Jasper and Cataraqui feature more than one great long three. Architects such as William Flynn, George Thomas and CB MacDonald came up with unique versions of holes like the “redan” to make the long threes more interesting and strategic. There is lots of opportunity and a wealth of great ones to emulate, so why is this still typically the least interesting hole on most courses?
A great one at Hamilton, by William Diddle, not Colt
There are two keys to developing exceptional ones. The first is finding the appropriate terrain for a natural par three of over 200 yards. Often it involves the decision to consciously look for this hole in the routing rather than concentrating on natural par fives and par fours which is a common technique. Stanley Thompson was quite clear when he said he looked for the natural par threes first. The second is take the time to design a creative hole like the redan, a hole with options from the tee.
While I will show you a couple of great natural long par threes where the architect identified an exceptional opportunity, I will also show you a couple that have been "created" to show you there is no excuse for a long dull par three.
The 16th at Cypress Point: http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/12/cypress-point-16.html