My Favorite Par-3 Holes: “The Honorable Mentions”

Well,  you’ve seen my final 18 holes based on my design criteria. And, as you can tell from my lengthy “Honorable Mentions” list, there were a lot of great holes that didn’t quite make the cut. So I wanted to highlight some of the extra holes here. I came up with 18 additional holes I wanted to feature (which is fitting), along with five courses that earn my official “Every Par-3 is Great” award.

Let’s start with the “other” 18:

Apple Mountain, Hole #2 • 154 Yards • Camino, California

Apple Mountain is a course that I really loved. It’s about an hour east of Sacramento towards Reno. It’s right as you start getting into the Sierras and it’s a “mountain” course all the way. The second hole here is a fun one. A straight downhill drop over a small creek to a wide, but not very deep, green. Just a fun little hole that puts you right in the mountain golf spirit at the beginning of your round.

(This picture doesn’t really show the drop-off as it’s from green level, but trust me it’s a fun hole.)

Pasatiempo, Hole #3 • 214 Yards • Santa Cruz, California

The 18th hole at Pasatiempo made my final course layout, but the 3rd hole there was my favorite of the par-3’s. A VERY tough hole with a long uphill tee shot to a well-protected green.

Mt. Woodson, Hole #3 • 186 Yards • Ramona, California

Another fun, mountain-style course that I love. The 3rd hole here is a great par-3. Nothing but trouble short and to the right. The safe play here is to the left where the hill feeds everything back toward the green, but if you are feeling gutsy you can fire right at the pin. Just don’t go right! One of the coolest aspects of this hole is also the cart path that takes you between the 2nd green and the 3rd tee boxes. It’s a long ride through hills and trees with several rickety wooden bridges. Feels more like a ride at Knott’s Berry Farm than a golf course, but it’s one of the memorable features on this fun course.

Salmon Run #4 • 164 Yards • Brookings, Oregon

If you’ve been following the Golf Nomad blog, you’ve seen this hole a number of times. It’s a beautiful hole with a big island green. Tee boxes are way up a hillside with a zig-zagging path (hence the hole’s nickname of “Lombard Street”). Love this course. Love this hole.

Meadow Lake #4 • 160 Yards • Escondido, California

I played Meadow Lake for the first time in 2011. Some holes here are kind of bland, but then there’s a few awesome holes. The 4th is one of those awesome holes. Severely elevated tee with a great view of area. Big tree protects the left side, but right is even more trouble. Club down here and fire at the pin!

Old Works #7 • 215 Yards • Anaconda, Montana

This is a very unique course. The layout is nothing too earth-shattering, but they have a gimmick here when it comes to their sand traps. Rather than sand, the bunkers are filled with black slag. This course is built on the remnants of an old copper-smelting mine, so they crushed up some of this leftover slag and put it in the bunkers. It’s a very unusual look, but I can say they are quite nice to hit out of. Very soft and consistent bunker material.

Anyway, the 7th hole is the best display of the bunkers. It’s a downhill tee shot to a green complex that is more or less an island surrounded by this black slag. It almost looks like water from the tee, providing extra intimidation factor. Very cool looking hole and the picture doesn’t quite do it justice.

Wolf Creek #8 • 217 Yards • Mesquite, Nevada

Had I not had a hole-in-one at CrossCreek’s 8th hole, this hole at Wolf Creek would have easily made my main list. It is something to behold, which is something you can also say about the rest of this course. On every hole out here, I stood on the tee in wonder, trying to imagine how they were able to craft this gorgeous course into one of the most inhospitable desert terrains you’ve ever seen. The 8th is a thing of beauty with a downhill tee shot into a green that’s tucked back into a little canyon with water all around. Tough hole, but simply spectacular to look at.

Sea Ranch #8 • 152 Yards • Sea Ranch, California

I had to get at least one other uphill hole in here. This is the signature hole at the seaside course. Though you can hear and smell the ocean on most of the front nine, this is the only hole where you can actually glimpse the waterfront. The tee shot is uphill, over some junk and into an elevated green. Better to be long than short here, for sure. Once you get to the green, you get the ocean view and it’s a beautiful little place on this otherwise less-than-amazing seaside course.

Classic Club #12 • 160 Yards • Palm Desert, California

Since this is the course I’ve played most recently, it’s very fresh on my mind. I also really liked the 6th hole at Classic Club, which is a great par-3 with trouble all along the right. But it was the 12th hole that really stuck out for me and my group as a tricky hole. There is nothing but water between the tee and the green. Big nasty rocks guard the front of the green, so if you go short at all the only thing that could save you is a very lucky bounce off a boulder. The green is narrow in the front and wide in the back, but the pin placement when I played there was right in the front. From the tee box, it looked like there was a distinct shelf just behind the hole, which made it really intimidating. Looked like unless you were in that front little portion, you’d be in trouble. That turned out not to be the case as the slope from back to front was not nearly as severe as it appeared. That said, long still isn’t a great thing here with big bunkers behind the green. Just really not much room for error here, which makes it a fun and challenging hole.

TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium) #13 • 156 Yards • Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Naturally, the 17th hole at this famous course made my list, but the 13th is a pretty recognizable hole in its own right. It’s a bit longer with water going across and then up along the left-side of the hole. Long and/or right is your miss here. I took this picture from the PLAYERS tee box to show you the most intimidating view of this challenging hole.

Mountain Meadows #13 • 213 Yards • Pomona, California

Speaking of challenging, this may be one of the toughest holes anywhere. Last time I played there, I used a driver from the tee, hit it quite well, and still ended up 20 yards short of the green! The blue tees play over 200 yards, but the wind here is usually what makes it tough. If it’s behind you, it can help, but it usually tends to be blowing sideways or directly into your face. There is bailout room short left and long left, but anything right and you are dead.  I can’t say I love this hole, but I admire its view and the challenge it presents to golfers of all levels.

Tijeras Creek #14 • 165 Yards • Rancho Santa Margarita, California

The whole back nine at Tijeras is fun and challenging, with a lot of narrow holes and forced carries. Both the 14th and 16th holes are par-3’s and both are excellent. The 14th is a downhill shot with not much room for error in any direction. Kind of an island green surrounded by trees and brush.

Harbour Town #14 • 165 Yards • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I had to find a way to get Harbour Town represented here, especially since I have such a west coast bias. To be fair, I’ve played at only eight courses on the east coast (so far) compared to over 150 out west, so my sample size is naturally skewed.

The 4th, 14th and 17th holes at Harbour Town are all great par-3’s, but the 15th was my personal favorite. Tough hole with water guarding the green short and right. Pete Dye’s signature railroad ties surround the green complex. Nasty little tree guards the left side, making it tricky for us fade players. Tough, but memorable hole on a tough, but memorable golf course.

Salishan #15 • 121 Yards • Gleneden Beach, Oregon

There are a couple of great par-3 holes at Salishan, but the 15th is the most memorable. Elevated tee with great views up and down the beautiful Oregon coast. Not necessarily a challenging hole with some room for error around the green. Just a wonderful scenic hole that made me glad I take my camera everywhere I play.

Chambers Bay #15 • 139 Yards • University Place, Washington

The less-famous 9th hole at Chambers Bay made my main list, but the 15th is their signature hole. There is only one tree on the entire course and it sits behind this hole. Slightly downhill tee shot with the sparkling blue Puget Sound waters and this lonely tree providing the picturesque backdrop. The hole is appropriately called “Lone Fir.”

Lake Shastina #16 • 201 Yards • Weed, California

Similar to Sea Ranch on this list, Lake Shastina has one hole that stands out from the rest. Though I enjoyed playing this course when I was there, I don’t really remember any other specific holes except for this one. It’s the signature hole here and truly beautiful. Though Lake Shastina is a solid course in a beautiful setting, it is far overshadowed by a course close by that I absolutely love (Mt. Shasta). That is also true in the cases of Sea Ranch and Ocean Dunes (which also had a few great Honorable Mention holes), where “neighbor” courses left a much bigger impression on me—Bodega Harbour and Sandpines, respectively.

PGA West (TPC Stadium) #17 • 146 Yards • La Quinta, California

Another one of Pete Dye’s menacing signature island greens can be found here at one of the most challenging courses in the country. The TPC Stadium course at PGA West is a tough one. And though the 17th is a do-or-die shot to an island green—known as “Alcatraz.” It’s a wonderful hole, but I still found it to be one of the less intimidating tee shots on this evil course.

Eagle Glen #17 • 152 Yards • Corona, California

Another fun downhill hole at a course where all the par-3’s are pretty fun. Short and left is trouble and going long is a definite no-no here. Everything to the right will feed down toward the green, but the green is big enough you can generally go right at the hole and hope for the best.

Now, I want to feature five special courses where there’s no such thing as a bad par-3:

Coeur d’Alene Resort • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

I’ve shown you the evil 5th hole at this great course, but that’s just one of them. The 3rd hole is a fun one right along the edge of the lake. The 6th hole has a spectacular elevated view with the lake in the background. The 12th is a neat little par-3 with a creek running up the left and the lake in the background.

Then there’s the iconic 14th hole at Coeur d’Alene—the hole this course is most famous for. It’s the world’s only floating island green. Anchored in the lake about 150 yards offshore is this large green complex. They can and will move it around from day to day to present different angles and distances. A small little boat (“The Putter”) takes golfers back and forth to the island. And, the drop zone is on the green itself. Very unique and truly one-of-a-kind golf gimmick that’s fun to say “I’ve played that hole” and, in my case “I parred that hole!”

3rd Hole:

6th Hole (Best view on this course):

And, of course, the famous 14th:

Spyglass Hill • Pebble Beach, California

The stunning 3rd hole at Spyglass made my main list, but all four of the par-3’s here are deserving of recognition. The 5th is another scenic seaside hole that plays slightly uphill. The 12th and 15th are both great downhill holes over little ponds with severely sloped greens. I love them all here!

The 5th Hole:

The 12th Hole:

The 15th Hole:

Pebble Beach Golf Links • Pebble Beach, California

The 7th and 17th holes at Pebble Beach are two of the world’s most recognized and revered par-3’s. The 17th has one of the most unique greens in all of golf with it’s super-skinny peanut shape and major slopes. The 5th, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1998, is also a wonderful seaside hole with one of the toughest greens anywhere. It slopes drastically from left to right, and once you fall off the green to the right your ball will likely go off the cliff. The 12th is the lesser-known of the bunch because it’s more inland, but still memorable. Long hole that plays slightly downhill to a small green that is well-protected by bunkers. It’s a tough one that I’d call a “survival” hole. If you walk away from it with a par (or even bogey for us average golfers), you feel pretty good about it.

The 5th Hole:

The 12th Hole:

The 17th Hole:

Redhawk • Temecula, California

It seems unusual to put Redhawk in the same conversation as the three world-class resort courses listed above, but when it comes to par-3 holes, it has winners all the way. The 4th is an evil hole that plays uphill to a circus-like multi-tiered green (I believe it’s five tiers, but it’s been awhile since I played there). The green is like a circus, making this one of the toughest holes out there. The 8th hole is the signature hole at Redhawk with a beautiful island green and rock bridge that’s an ode to the 12th at Augusta. Speaking of the 12th hole, this par-3 at Redhawk is a nice one. This hole is surrounded by a GIANT waste bunker and presents another unique challenge on this course. Then, there’s my favorite hole out there, the 17th. It features a very elevated tee box with a great view of the Temecula Valley. What a treat!

The 8th Hole:

The 17th Hole:

Mt. Shasta Resort • Mt. Shasta, California

I saved my personal favorite course for last. Not all the par-3 holes here are spectacular, but they are all unique in their own way and present a variety of challenges on this fun mountain course.

The second hole has got one of the toughest greens on the course. Kind of a peanut-shaped green with a high ridge right in the middle. If you are not on the same half of the green as the hole, you are in trouble. The 5th is a hole I kind of hate, but kind of love at the same time. Straight uphill, plays at least one or two extra clubs and also features a tough green that slopes severely from back to front. Do not be above the hole here. The 7th is a short, fun hole that’s all carry over a pond. It usually plays right around 100 yards, but wind is often a factor at this most exposed part of the course. The 13th is a beautiful par-3 with a river way down a cliff to your right. The miss here is to the left, where everything slopes right toward the green. Then there’s the 17th, which is another relatively short hole over a small pond to a tricky green with plenty of slope.

The 2nd Hole:

The 5th Hole:

The 7th Hole:

The 17th Hole:

There are probably a few other courses deserving of this par-3 praise (Soboba Springs and Pelican Hill (South) come to mind), but I gotta draw the line somewhere and end this post eventually!

And finally, I wanted to do a little “In Memoriam” to a few courses that are no longer around, but had some quality par-3 holes…

Though conditions were not always great and the greens were usually super firm and fast, Quail Ranch out in Moreno Valley had some wonderful holes. The 3rd hole and 6th hole (I believe) were great par-3 designs. Mountain View in Corona had one hole I remember being kind of fun. A short par-3 (about 100 yards) straight uphill to a green and pin you couldn’t see at all from the tees. I also liked a couple of par-3 holes at the El Toro course that was in Irvine. The 9th hole and 13th hole were always fun. They are gone, but not forgotten.

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