One of the biggest themes in destination golf course & resort news in the past couple years has unquestionably been the re-emergence of the short course.
Short courses have been around for a very long time and many in existence today date back nearly 100 years or longer. But after a period of relative dormancy around the turn of the 21st century in favor of "championship" layouts, the shine has returned.
Pebble Beach is the latest resort to affirm their commitment to short golf courses. They've enlisted Tiger Woods and his TGR Design firm to rebuild their Peter Hay Par 3 steps from the Lodge at Pebble Beach. For those of you scoring at home, here's a sampling of recent announcements pertaining to short courses in North America:
In Nova Scotia, Cabot Links broke ground on a new par-3 course this summer.
In Michigan, Forest Dunes broke ground on a new par-3 course.
In Georgia, Sea Island added a putting course.
In Wisconsin, Sand Valley has plans for a new Tom Doak design that will be a sub-par-70 layout to go along with their existing Sandbox par-3 course and two 18-hole courses.
In Texas, Frisco's new PGA headquarters and resort/residential development will feature two 18-hole championship courses as well as a short course.
There's also Omni Amelia Island, which closed the Ocean Course in 2018. While no official plans have been revealed, a phone call to the property earlier this month indicated a par-3 course is planned for those grounds with a target opening date of 2021.
A few other notable short-course projects aren't at major resorts: Virginia's former PGA Championship host Belmont, a maligned muni, is converting to a 12-hole course and First Tee Facility. While in Texas, Grand Oaks Preserve will debut in the spring of 2020 with a nine-hole course and nine-hole short course designed by Mike Nuzzo.
When I captained my buddies trip to San Diego in May, short courses were critical to my itinerary. I didn't necessarily need a world-class layout, I just wanted a "good hang" convenient to where our group would be staying and playing. I found just that at Oaks North (great for golf after the stellar layout at Maderas). Curiously, it was a 27-hole short course facility, but given the retirement community, the routing made sense. Then, closer to downtown San Diego, we had a great evening at Mission Bay (which had a cool lighted component for night golf). Neither of these designs were exceptional, but they were affordable, convenient and helped satisfy the golf itch for those of us in our group who wanted more than 18 holes.
Compare that to resorts like Bandon Dunes, Treetops and Big Cedar Lodge, where their short courses were designed to be every bit as stimulating as their regulation courses, just smaller.
2020 Golfers' Choice: Best Short Courses
The proliferation of renovated or brand-new short layouts appears to be on an accelerated pace. I'll be curious to watch other destinations or resort properties to see if they decide to stick to their current offerings or join the party. Large resort and community properties like Kiawah Island, PGA West, the American Club or Reynolds Lake Oconee have not been lured to the short end just yet. One destination with a serious dearth of short golf that comes to mind immediately is Hilton Head Island. Besides a par-3 course by Savannah Airport (Crosswinds) and a 4,000-yard layout, Argent Lakes, out in Okatie, virtually everything else public access is of the regulation-length variety. That's especially surprising given how family-centric the destination is overall.
I've visited over a dozen short courses in the past two years from the St. Andrews Links' Balgove to Audubon Park to Goat Hill Park, and the truth is, they all serve such a different purpose from one another. Our first Golfers' Choice Short Courses list reveals a diverse mix of facilities, many of which are more locally appealing in nature.
I'd like to hear from my fellow buddies trip captains about how important short courses are to your golf group and itinerary and your favorite places to enjoy them. Let me and your fellow planners know in the comments below!