The Beauty and Danger of Short Holes
SMALL can be both beautiful and treacherous. Some of the shortest holes in golf are also some of the most challenging. Here we highlight some of the very best par threes you will find anywhere.
The shortest hole in championship golf is the par-three seventh hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links, host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, as well major championships, including the US Open. It measures just 106 yards. It plays downhill to a small target on the edge of the Monterey Peninsula, but often plays into the wind. It might look and be short, but the winds can gust so much that sometimes you will have to reach for a mid to long iron. It's a stunning hole.
One of the most famous - and infamous holes - in the game is the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship. It measures just 137 yards but it has destroyed the hopes of many would-be champions over the years. Legend has it that the island green was the brainchild of the wife of course designer Pete Dye. The difficulty comes not from the island green being completely surrounded by water (although that is a challenge in itself) as much as the fact that the wind often swirls and catches golfers unawares. To add to the difficulty, if the pin is at the front and you find the back of the green you are going to be left with the sort of putt that could give you nightmares as it goes downhill and opens up the possibility of stroking your ball straight into the lake
Of what about the 12th hole at Augusta National, a par three measuring just 155 yards? Just ask Jordan Spieth, who took seven shots after twice finding the water in 2016. Or Tom Weiskopf, who once took 13 blows to play the hole. Once again, the wind is the key. The tee is surrounded by tall trees and it is almost impossible to work out either the strength of the wind or the direction from which it is blowing. Come up short of the narrow green and your hopes drown in Rae's Creek. Hit it too far and you will find a bunker - or worse - and then have to chip back down a green that slopes away from you towards the water. A masterpiece, and a potential card-wrecker.
The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale measures 162 yards. You will know it as the par three that is surrounded by grandstands for the Phoenix Waste Management Open, when tens of thousands of enthusiastic golf fans, fuelled by beer and burgers, cheer and jeer every shot. It looks very different without the grandstands, but close your eyes for a moment and imagine what it must be like to step up on to the tee on Sunday afternoon for any player who is in contention. And imagine the roar when Tiger Woods did precisely that and watched on disbelief as his ball disappeared into the hole.
The 15th at Cypress Point in Pebble Beach, California, is just 143 yards long but is one of the most spectacular holes you will find anywhere on the planet. The small green is surrounded by bunkers and sits on a promontory, with the Pacific Ocean as a stunning backdrop. It is a jaw-dropping golf hole.
The most famous short hole in the UK is surely the eighth at Royal Troon, more commonly known as the Postage Stamp. It is tiny, measuring just 123 yards. The tee shot is elevated and you play over a gully to a long, narrow green that is built into the side of a sand dune. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? We should mention the two bunkers to the left of the green and a large trap at the front. Oh yes, and if you go right, you will find yourself in one of two deep bunkers with vertical faces. If you don't find the green, you could run up a cricket score - as many of the world's top golfers will testify.
For the record, the 10 shortest holes on the PGA Tour are as follows:
- AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, seventh, 106 yards
- OHL Classic at Mayakoba, El Camaleon GC, fourth, 116 yards
- Open Championship, Royal Troon, eighth,123 yards
- AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill, 15th, 130 yards
- The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass, 17th, 137 yards
- CIMB Classic, Kuala Lumpur G&CC, fourth, 140 yards
- RBC Canadian Open, Glen Abbey GC, 15th, 141 yards
- OHL Classic at Mayakoba, El Camaleon GC, eighth, 151 yards
- Sanderson Farms Championship, CC of Jackson, 13th 151 yards
- WGC-Cadillac Championship, Trump National Doral, 15th, 153 yards
And then there is what is best described as the 'novelty' hole, the longest par three in the world. We like holes that are different, and they don't come any more different than the 19th hole at Legend Golf and Safari resort. This is not your typical 19th hole, we can assure you. For a start, it is an actual golf hole, which can be played after you have completed your traditional 18 holes at the resort. The tee sits on top of Hanglip Mountain, 1,300 feet in the air, and if you opt to take on the challenge you will be flown up by helicopter, from where you will look down on a green shaped like South Africa. Officially, it measures 395 yards. For anybody who can manage a hole in one there is a prize of $1m!
Finally, we turn our attention to the classic par four that proves length really doesn't matter. The 10th hole at The Belfry is the classic risk and reward hole, but it measures just 311 yards. There are trees guarding the front of the green, more trees to the left and water in front of the putting surface. Way back in 1978, playing in the Hennessy Cup against Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros reached for his driver, sent the ball soaring miles into the air and watched as it set off, climbed over the trees and came to rest on the green. He was the first man to successfully take it on. A plaque still marks the feat, which has been been repeated many times. Everybody who plays the course now feels the need to attempt to emulate the legendary Spaniard. In 2012, Dan O'Connor, a three-handicap amateur, became the first man to record a hole in one at the 10th.
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