Short & sweet: The best little par 3s in public golf

Don't let these 18 short holes lull you into a false sense of security.

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It's a bold move for any architect to design a wee par 3 playing 140 yards or less.

Most golfers will dismiss them. In theory, really good players will destroy them. No matter your handicap, grabbing a wedge or a 9-iron promotes a false sense of security that the hole is "easy." The best short par 3s are anything but. They're just as likely to give up a 5 as they are a 2.

The key to building a great one is where it fits in the routing. The setting better be compelling. The green and its surrounds should be unique and memorable, too.

Even great architects like Dr. Alister MacKenzie can swing and miss. To me, the wee par 3 at MacKenzie's Sharp Park - the 99-yard 8th - near San Francisco feels wedged into the land as an afterthought, although the overhanging trees do make it a tricky shot.

I've scoured scorecards of the hundreds of public courses around the world I've played to come up with this collection of 18 of the best short par 3s on the planet, listing them from big to little. All of the yardages come from the back tees. Make sure to scroll to the end: The shortest might be the sweetest.

Have you played one? Have a better choice to share? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Hole 7, 106, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula, Calif.
    It doesn't get more beautiful than the 7th at Pebble Beach.

    Playing downhill, this 106-yarder at Pebble Beach - which might be the most beautiful hole in golf - is normally a half-wedge. It's stunning to hear stories of pros hitting 5 irons into the gusts of February's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and U.S. Opens past.

    Editor's Note: Holes on par-3 and executive courses were not considered.

  2. Hole 3, 107, Mountain course at Ventana Canyon, Tucson, Arizona
    Routed through saguaro-peppered hills at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the setting at Ventana Canyon in Tucson (the upscale resort features two championship courses) is outstanding.

    This 107-yard shot on Ventana Canyon's Mountain course is almost do or die. Hit the green or disappear into the Sonoran desert. The good news is it comes early in the round, so you've got time to recover if a timid swing causes a trainwreck.

  3. Hole 17, 115, Bay Course at Seaview Golf Club, Absecon, N.J.
    The 17th green at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club's Bay Course is very well protected by the set of five bunkers.

    Five bunkers squeeze a tiny green to make it feel even smaller. A 115-yard wedge is normally no big deal for pros, but when you're trying to win the LPGA Shoprite Classic on Seaview's scenic Bay course, it gets a little tougher.

  4. Hole 9, 118, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Pawleys Island, S.C.
    These bunkers make the 118-yard ninth at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club look tougher than it is.

    The artistry of Mike Strantz is evident on the yawning bunker of this 118-yarder at Caledonia. The lip of this large trap swells like a wave near the green. The giant lip can get in your head, making an otherwise simple shot more intimidating. Some golfers appreciate the hole for its uniqueness. Others don't like it at all. Gotta give Strantz credit where it's due. He's always polarizing.

  5. Hole 8, 123, Royal Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland
    The "Postage Stamp" green on the 123-yard eighth hole of the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club is one of the smallest in major championship golf.

    The 123-yard "Postage Stamp" at Royal Troon is the mother of all short holes. It has derailed rounds at The Open and brought pros and amateurs to their knees. The three pot bunkers seem to have a gravitational pull. The 'Coffin bunker' on the left is what the name implies: dead.

  6. Hole 9, 126, Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
    The par-3 ninth is one of many stunning holes at Cabot Cliffs.

    Cabot Cliffs by C&C has shot up the world rankings, mainly due to holes on the cliffs like this 126-yarder. When the wind picks up, so does its propensity for trouble. But the option to hit a low shot - even a putter - along the left side down to the green is an option.

  7. Hole 17, 126, Grayhawk Talon course, Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don't go swimming in the "Devil's Drink" surrounding the 17th hole of Grayhawk's Talon course.

    An island green in the Sonoran desert? Blasphemy! Actually, the 126-yarder called "Devil's Drink" fits in the routing of the Talon course beautifully. It's the shortest hole at the 36-hole Grayhawk property and one of the most dangerous. Don't let a mistake near the end derail a good round.

  8. Hole 13, 130, Mammoth Dunes, Sand Valley Resort, Nekoosa, Wis.
    The 13th hole at Mammoth Dunes.

    The bunker fronting this 130-yard par 3 at Mammoth Dunes looks more like a mortar blast. It's deep. Missing long should be the play, at all costs.

  9. Hole 13, 130, Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula, California
    The 130-yard 15th at Spyglass Hill Golf Course is short but sweet.

    Spyglass Hill - widely known as the toughest course at Pebble Beach Resorts - won't even give an inch on this 130-yard hole. Although the hole plays downhill, don't club up. The ball never carries in the heavy sea air. Drowning short feels like a mega failure.

  10. Hole 13, 131, Ocean South at the Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach, California
    A player tees off on the scenic 13th hole on the Ocean South course at Pelican Hill.

    Of the 36 glorious holes at Pelican Hill, this 131-yarder - the second of back-to-back ocean-front par 3s - is a favorite of almost everybody who tees it up. When I played, a family of five pelicans flew overhead, almost like they were released by the marketing department. The setting above Crystal Cove beach is so beautiful that Tom Fazio could have designed a pitch-n-putt hole and I wouldn't have complained. Of course, Fazio delivered a unique twist - alternating greens.

  11. Hole 17, 132, Mauna Lani North, Hawaii Island
    Hawaii is another hotbed of costly winter golf. Pictured is the 17th hole on the North Course at Mauna Lani Resort.

    Mauna Lani's North course visits the shore twice on the front nine (holes 2 and 9), but its back nine roams the hills and lava rocks of Hawaii Island's interior. The reward for leaving the beach is finding the "Lava Bowl", a 132-yard shot to a green surrounded by volcanic rocks.

  12. Hole 15, 133, Streamsong Black, Bowling Green, Florida
    Streamsong Black's 133-yard 15th hole is dangerous for such a short hole.

    It was a tough choice, but Gil Hanse's 133-yarder on Streamsong Black wins over C&C's 8th hole on Streamsong Red as the best short par 3 on property. It's tough to stay on the green without ending up in a surrounding bunker.

  13. Hole 5, 133, Bandon Trails, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Oregon
    The short par 3 fifth hole at Bandon Trails is called "Biarritz".

    Bandon Trails, a Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw creation, is home to the shortest par 3 at Bandon Dunes - the 133-yarder called "Biarritz". The green is the most undulating on the course, so it's best to hit the proper tier ... if you clear the bunker.

  14. Hole 17, 137, STADIUM course at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
    The par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is a major piece in the dramatic finishing holes at TPC Sawgrass.

    The island green is iconic. It's a 137-yard torture chamber for the pros at the Players Championship. Those guys are good, but even a little water, and a big dose of Pete and Alice Dye, can get in their heads.

  15. Hole 7, 137, Cove Club, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
    The new seventh hole at The Cove Club sits on the beach.

    The old seventh was my favorite hole on the Ocean course at Cabo del Sol. The new 137-yard hole at newly rebranded Cove Club looks equally glorious right on the beach, although I've yet to play it.

  16. Hole 15, 138 yards, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
    "The Bad Baby" is an unsung par 3 in the Canadian Rockies designed by Stanley Thompson.

    Stanley Thompson's two famous par 3s in the Canadian Rockies, "Devil's Cauldron" and "Cleopatra," get most of the attention, but don't sleep on Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge's lakeside 15th hole, lovingly coined "The Bad Baby." It's just 138 yards and the tiny, elevated green with bunkers and falloff areas all around leaves little room for error.

  17. Hole 12, 140, The Gailes at Lakewood Shores, Oscoda, Michigan
    No. 12 is a tricky 140-yard par 3 at The Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort.

    I couldn't help but slip in The Gailes at Lakewood Shores, since it's the landing spot of my first ace. In 2011, pitching wedge was all I needed for 140 yards. Today, it's likely a baby 8 or nuked 9. It's a delicate shot to a plateau green. Misses left into the grassy dune-like hill are trouble. The three bunkers are no picnic, either.

  18. Hole 16, 140 yards, TPC Colorado, Berthoud, Colorado
    The scenic 16th hole at TPC Colorado is a downhill par 3 that plays next to the clubhouse, which will mean galleries will be festive during Korn Ferry Tour tournaments and other events held here.

    Don't let the views of the McNeil and Welch reservoirs and the mountains distract you at TPC Colorado, host of a Korn Ferry Tour event. The target is narrow. Most bunkers sit well below the putting surface, leaving a tough up and in. This 140-yard par 3 is also located adjacent to the new 15,000-square-foot clubhouse. You might have an audience.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
16 Comments
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Commented on

The ninth hole at Quintero which is 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix is spectacular. Hitting off of a cliff over a lake to a shallow green.

Staff
Commented on

It's 212 from the tips, but silver tees at 139 sounds like a great short par 3.

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Commented on

check out number 9 at Blue Rock in Yarmouth Mass. Blue Rock is 18 Par 3 holes but it's rated in the top 5 in the country.

9 is a elevated 150 yard par 3 over a pond and to a Radan that slopes back to front. the wind coming off the Atlantic and the Bass River always plays tricks with this hole.

Staff
Commented on

I've played Blue Rock. It's a gem. Unfortunately, it doesn't meet the requirements for this story: It's a short/executive-style course, and the hole is longer than 140 yards. https://www.golfadvisor.com/galleries/dont-underestimate-the-charms-of-blue-rock-golf-resort-in-south-yarmouth-mass-on-cape-cod

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Commented on

Surprised the 16th at the golden horseshoe in Williamsburg didn't make it after looking at some of the other ones picked. 1st island green on the east coast, if not the country

Staff
Commented on

I've always wanted to play Golden Horseshoe. The hole, however, is much to long for this list: 169 yards from the tips.

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Commented on

I always think of number 4 at the George Wright Golf Course in Boston from my caddy days in the late 50’s.
It is short but treacherous if you hit short you will be playing from at least 40 feet below the hole. Long and you have a delicate shot to hold the green. It is on my bucket list to return and play there.

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Commented on

Sorry I meant 4th hole!

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The 3rd hole at Machranish (Jura) on the Mull of Kintyre is 121 yards from the yellow tees 131 from the whites it is uphill and when approach the green you have a view of 9 pieces of land Islands and mainland. It is stunning and you need to stop and wonder at the view before you putt, chip or play your bunker shot.
Very memorable!

Staff
Commented on

I played Jura in a driving rain. I had my head down and couldn't enjoy the view. Thanks for the suggestion. Sounds lovely on a good day.

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Commented on

I have to move you to Australia and offer the 7th hole only 112 yards from the back tee, can be a sand iron or a four iron to the upturned saucer.

Staff
Commented on

Which course?

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Commented on

Great list! But two others come to mind. I can’t recall the numbers of the holes, but at Coeur D’Alene Resort in Idaho, famous for its floating green, there is a prettier par 3, downhill to a cloverleaf green, less than 130 yards. Each leaf of the clover makes for a tiny target, and the lake behind is a distracting view, leading to many a bladed wedge!
The other is at little known Cruit Island golf course in Donegal Ireland. 130 yards over an arm of the Atlantic, usually played into a gale. When I played it (2handicap) it was a full 3-wood!

Staff
Commented on

Cruit wasn't considered b/c no par 3 is shorter than 150. The same for Coeur D'Alene: The shortest par 3 is 148 from the tips. Obviously, most people don't play from the tips, so there are many other great short par 3s from the "every day" tees.

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Commented on

The list is definitely forgetting about the 15th Hole at Pasatiempo. The closest most of us will get to playing 12 at Augusta. Short Par 3 with a diagonal green, plays less than 140 generally and has a green where you can't go short (penalty area) and cant go long (bunkers & penalty area). It's a severely sloping green as well, and you have to get your number right, and your shot dialed in, or else you're in for a tricky up & down or potential 3 putt. Love that hole.

Staff
Commented on

It's a great hole. I made double last time I played it, so it's definitely tricky tough. It was just a tad too long for our listing, playing 142 yards from the tips.

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Short & sweet: The best little par 3s in public golf