Par 3 and Executive Golf Courses

Get your short game on!

Golf Industry Show Presentation

in Orlando, Florida on February 5th, 2014

Growing the Game Through Par 3 Courses

by William W. Amick, ASGCA Fellow

Eighteen-hole golf courses with a par 70 to 72 are great for millions of experienced golfers. For centuries, currently and in the future such layouts will fascinate to satisfy already avid participants. And let's renovate where needed these courses to make them even more enjoyable to experienced golfers.

However despite from forward tees, these courses can seem overly demanding to beginning golfers. In the U.S. and most other countries where golf is a tradition, for more than a decade there has been a decrease in the total number of golfers. Trying to introduce people to golf on conventional-sized courses is not ideal for a sport vitally interested in increasing its popularity.

Driving and practice ranges can be valuable for learning the game. These are places suitable for the giving of instruction and encouraging practice by any golfer to improve their shot making ability. Practice greens are fine for these for putting. Greens for practicing chips, pitches and shots from bunkers permit these essential aspects of golf to be improved. Yet together these are still not enough to get early players totally ready to venture out onto big courses filled with competent golfers. Par 3 Courses do allow learners to more comfortably complete their "elementary education in golf." And these courses do this in a smaller area and at a much lower cost than can conventional golf courses. Plus the playing time is shorter meaning rounds last considerably less than a total of four, five or six hours. Those long periods way exceed the initial desire or concentration span of most starting golfers. Where there is a sincere effort to gain golfers and the space is available, a Par 3 Course can be a highly useful vehicle in the desirable effort of more smoothly easing participants into our game.

Here are some clubs and noted courses also with an accompanying Par 3 Course:

-- The Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia. An annual one-day tournament is played and televised on its Par 3 Course the day before the start of the Masters Tournament. This fun course was designed by the late George Cobb, ASGCA.

-- The top ranked Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, New Jersey has a 10-hole Short Course co-designed by Tom Fazio, ASGCA.

-- The Peter Hay Course at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California is a short Par 3 Course open to the public with holes measuring from 61 to 104 yards.

-- The Children's Course in North Berwick, Scotland was established in 1888. It is along side the North Berwick Golf Club's par-71 course.

-- The Craigend Course is a 9-hole Par 3 Course at Royal Troon Golf Club, South Ayrshire, Troon, Scotland which also has two 18-hole championship courses.

-- Columbus Country Club, Columbus, OH had unused land, so after be in existence for many years that club added a 9-hole Par 3 Course (above image).

-- Along with their 18-hole course, the Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, New Jersey has a very challenging Hickory Course. The club's Par 3 Course was also designed by Mike Hurdzan and Dana Fry, both members of the ASGCA.

-- The Villages in Central Florida has 32 primarily Par 3 Courses along with 11 conventional-length courses. All of the Village's courses were designed the firm of Clifton, Ezell and Clifton. Each firm principal is a member of the ASGCA.

-- Sunset Hills Golf Course in Charlotte, North Carolina has a Learning Course. Consulting on the building of this Par 3 Course was the late Porter Gibson, ASGCA. Its nine holes accompanies a regular-length course both managed by Ratcliffe Golf Services.

-- Bandon Preserve is a 13-hole Par 3 Course overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Bandon, Oregon co-designed by Bill Coore, ASGCA. Bandon Dunes also has four full-sized 18-hole courses.

-- The Horse Course at The Prairie Club in Valentine, Nebraska was designed by Gil Hanse, ASGCA and accompanies two 18-hole courses.

-- The Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama has Par 3 Courses at seven of its locations. The late Mr. Jones was a founding member of the ASGCA. Roger Rulewich, ASGCA, headed the design team for all of the courses of the RTJ Trail.

There is no fixed model for Par 3 Courses. This variety adds to their interest and flexibility. Like any type of golf course, each Par 3 Course should be carefully designed to fit its site, budget and the skill level of who will play that course. In general these courses are great at promoting the growth of golf because they more closely fit the limits of learning golfers. These allow lots of practice with irons and the other aspects of the short game under playing conditions. Plus an accompanying range is great for longer shots, including the driver. A practice putting green is where anyone can further practice all kinds of putts.

Here are examples of some stand-alone Par 3 Courses.

-- Palm Beach Golf Course, Palm Beach, Florida (above images) is an 18-hole Par 3 Course directly on the Atlantic Ocean.

-- The Blue Rock Golf Club is on Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts and was designed by the late Geoffrey Cornish, ASGCA. Its 18 holes total more than 3,000 yards in length from the back tees with a range of length holes from 103 to 255 yards.

-- Paradise Valley Par 3 Course in Charlotte, North Carolina along side apartments is also managed by Ratcliffe Golf Services.

-- The Cane Patch Course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a very popular Par 3 Course lighted during the summer season. It was designed by Tom Clark, ASGCA.

-- I designed the Oceans Golf Club in Daytona Beach Shores (above image), Daytona Beach, Florida, an amenity which encircles and is landscaping for the Oceans Condominiums.

-- The Links at Terranea is a Par 3 Course in Rancho Palos Verdes, California directly on the Pacific Ocean. It was designed by ASGCA Associate Todd Eckenrode.

-- Cross Winds Signature Golf Course in Greenville, South Carolina is the only Par 3 Course with each of its 18 holes designed by a different golf course architect. John LaFoy, ASGCA handled the coordination and construction of this course, including designing it finishing hole. ASGCA members contributed to it by designing a hole. These include Rees Jones, Pete andAlice Dye, Tom Fazio and Tom Marzolf, Jeff Brauer, Mike Hurdzan, Tom Clark, Denis Griffith, Jay Morrish, Bob Cupp, Dick Phelps, Gary Baird, Don Knott, Danny Maples, Clyde Johnston, Arnold Palmer and the late Ed Seay and Bob Graves. If a planned Par 3 Course cannot be completed in one step due to an initial limit in the available funding, there could be a possible first step. This would allow people to sooner hit tee shots during a round to obtain a score. It could be done using targets on grass kept like fairways, which would be much less expensive than starting by constructing and maintaining greens. Then later when the greens could be afforded, the same layout could become a Par 3 Course. If there will be an accompanying range, the targets could be placed on the range's fairway to provide a temporary course used alternately with the operation of the range. If you would like to know more about doing either of these just contact me.

More Par 3 Courses along side big courses, as stand-alone courses or with a public range and practice greens are each good for the future popularity of golf. These could certainly make a significant contribution to this valuable effort. As an example of the need for these courses in some places, adjoining counties in Iowa which contain the City of Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa have no Par 3 Courses. These counties have a combined population of more than 350,000. And neither do any of the surrounding counties have such a golf facility. Most of us in the game want more people to have the same fun we have gained from golf. This includes by kids who could then enjoy playing for the remainder of their life. And the benefits can also go to the owners of new Par 3 Courses through satisfaction and success they obtain from their course's operation.

For information about building a Par 3 or any type of golf course, contact Golf Course Architect Bill Amick by e-mailing or calling (386) 767-1449.