Designing My “Dream” Par-3 Course (Part 2: The Back Nine)

Last week, I shared with you the front nine for my “dream” par-3 course (just scroll down the page in case you missed it). The list was compiled based on a variety of reasons. To recap the rules, here are some of the basic criteria:

  1. It has to be a hole I’ve played. 
  2. No single course can be represented more than once in the final 18-hole design. 
  3. The number of the hole in real life must correspond with the number of the hole in this fantasy course layout. Some courses have switched nines at various points, but these are accurate to today’s routings, as far I can tell.

This week, I’ll take you on a tour of the back nine, which starts with a few great oceanfront holes…

Hole 10: Pacific Dunes • 163 Yards • Bandon, Oregon

[Honorable Mentions: Soule Park, San Dimas Canyon]

 Like the first hole, there aren’t a ton of courses out there that have a par-3 as the first hole on the back nine. I did recall a few great ones, though. The most memorable one, though, is the 10th at Pacific Dunes. It’s the first half of a great back-to-back set of par-3’s along the Pacific Ocean. The 10th hole features a slightly elevated tee view with the ocean behind the hole. The 10th gets the nod on my particular list, but it’s the combo that really puts these holes at Pacific Dunes over the top.

Hole 11: Sandpiper • 174 Yards • Goleta, California

[Honorable Mentions: Pacific Dunes, Wolf Creek, Tustin Ranch, World Golf Village (King & Bear)]

Just north of Santa Barbara you’ll find this great course right on the ocean. There are a number of spectacular ocean-view holes at Sandpiper, but it’s the 11th that is the signature par-3 for this course that takes you right down next to the beach. Back when I was first getting into the swing of “road trip” golf, Sandpiper was one of my first big splurges at a relatively expensive course. Of course, nowadays, the green fees at Sandpiper pale in comparison to some of the other places I’ve broken the bank to play (Sea Island, Sawgrass, Pebble Beach), but at the time it was a big deal. It was also my first time playing a real seaside course with such great ocean views.

Hole 12: Pelican Hill (Ocean South) • 154 Yards • Newport Coast, California

[Honorable Mentions: Classic Club, Spyglass Hill, Redhawk, Bandon Dunes, Ocean Dunes]

Another great set of back-to-back par-3 oceanfront holes can be found here in Orange County (speaking of overpriced golf courses). All of the Ocean South course at Pelican Hill is great, but 12 and 13 are a nice pair of par-3’s. The 12th has better views along the ocean (especially standing on the tee box and looking the opposite direction of the hole) and thus it earns its place on my dream course.

Hole 13: Spanish Bay Golf Links • 126 Yards • Pebble Beach, California

[Honorable Mentions: TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium), Pelican Hill (South), Oceanside, Hidden Valley, Mountain Meadows, Anaheim Hills, Shorecliffs, Mt. Shasta]

Yes, I know. Another Pebble Beach hole. Hard to argue with the greatness of the Monterey Peninsula, though. This is one of the coolest holes at this excellent golf course because it kind of comes out of nowhere. After the front nine takes you back and forth with wonderful oceanfront views and dunes-style links holes, holes 10-12 take you back behind the Spanish Bay lodge with more of a tree-lined setting that is a nice change of pace from the rest of the course. Then as you turn the corner to head back out toward the sea, you get this little gem of a par-3. Fun, short shot to a green that is very well protected. Elevated views with the ocean in the background. I’m happy to have this on my list!

Hole 14: Oak Quarry • 195 Yards • Riverside, California

[Honorable Mentions: Coeur d’Alene, Tijeras Creek, Rancho San Marcos, Pumpkin Ridge (Ghost Creek), Hemet]

Time to head inland after a bunch of oceanfront holes. The signature 14th hole at Oak Quarry (otherwise known as “Spinel Slide”) is consistently voted as one of the best par-3 holes in all of Southern California. It’s easy to understand why. This is a very unique course to begin with, build in the remains of an old rock quarry and crafted into an excellent test of golf. This hole features a very elevated tee and a stunning quarry/pond setting providing the unforgettable backdrop.

Hole 15: Salmon Run • 137 Yards • Brookings, Oregon

[Honorable Mentions: Salishan, Harbour Town, San Clemente, Chambers Bay, Soboba Springs, Bandon Dunes, Spyglass Hill, Champions Club at the Retreat]

The 4th hole at Salmon Run is the signature hole (more about it will come in when I get to some of the Honorable Mentions, though it’s already been highlighted several times on this site). Yet, it’s the 15th hole at Salmon Run that is my personal favorite. It’s set back in the woods in the most isolated place on the course. It features a steep drop, a menacing little creek that runs in front of (as well as up the right side) the green and tall trees guarding the left side. It’s an all-or-nothing shot on a beautiful hole. I love it!

Hole 16: Moreno Valley Ranch (Mountain) • 166 Yards • Moreno Valley, California

[Honorable Mentions: Tijeras Creek, Lake Shastina, Soule Park]

Technically this is the 7th hole on the Mountain nine at Moreno Valley Ranch, but depending on which nines you play, this would fall as number 16 on the back. So that works just fine for me because this is a great hole that’s worthy of my little dream course. The tee is slightly elevated at one of the highest points on the course. A great Moreno Valley view frames the hole. It’s pretty much an island green design without the water. The green is perched up with nothing but desert rocks and nastiness all around, giving you little room for error.

Hole 17: TPC Sawgrass (THE PLAYERS Stadium Course) • 128 Yards • Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

[Honorable Mentions: Pebble Beach, Redhawk, PGA West (TPC Stadium), Eagle Glen, River Course at Alisal, Strawberry Farms, Los Serranos (South), TPC Harding Park, Cresta Verde, Pacific Grove, Harbour Town, Bodega Harbour]

There are a lot of great 17th hole par-3’s out there as you can see from my Honorable Mentions list. Pete Dye loves putting signature holes there, as you’ll find at Sawgrass, PGA West and Harbour Town. But the 17th of the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass takes the cake. It was the inspiration for this article and it’s fresh in my mind because I finally had the chance to play there last November. This is a very famous hole that provides great dramatic moments every year at the PLAYERS Championship, so it was cool to be able to play it.

On TV, you mostly see the overhead shot, which makes the island green look super tiny and impossible. However, in person it’s actually much less intimidating from ground level. You can’t really see the backside of the island and it the landing area looks much deeper and wider in real life. That is not to say it’s easy, though. It’s still quite a shot to be faced with (especially if the tournament’s on the line and millions of eyes are watching). I know I dunked my first tee shot into the water with only a few people watching, so I failed the test. Oh well, it’s a great hole and definitely should be on any golfer’s bucket list.

I took a bunch of photos here, so I’ll present a few vantage points. First one is from the PLAYERS tee box (much more intimidating angle). Second one is between regular men’s and women’s tees with iconic sign in the foreground. Third one is from behind the famous island green.

Hole 18: Pasatiempo • 169 Yards • Santa Cruz, California

[Honorable Mention: Moorpark Country Club (Ridgeline)]

As difficult as it was to come up with the 1st and 10th holes for my course, 18 was the hardest. Other than some crappy par-3/executive courses I’ve played, I could only think of one nice regulation course I’ve played that finishes with a par-3 (at least until this past weekend when I played Moorpark Country Club and ended with a tough par-3 on the Rigeline nine). The good news is the main one I thought of is on a fantastic course: Pasatiempo. The 3rd hole at Pasatiempo is actually the most memorable par-3 on the course (at least for me), but 18 is a pretty neat hole, as well. The green is tucked back into a little canyon. The tee is elevated and a barranca stands between you and the hole. Definitely better to be long than short here, but with these quick and severely sloped greens, you don’t want to be too far above the hole either. It’s a tough finishing hole on a great course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my original photo of this hole, so I had to pull one from online to show you the view.

Well, there’s the official 18 holes. I’ll be posting some stories and photos soon to highlight a number of the Honorable Mention holes that are most noteworthy. There are so many great par-3’s out there, there were more leftovers than Thanksgiving!

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