Did you hear about the PGA Tour playing a par-69 golf course this past weekend?
Tournament officials were forced to shorten the par-4, 14th hole of the par-70 TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas to a 100-yard par-3 due to the rains that have assaulted Texas for weeks now.
Courses with a par lower than 70 often get a bad reputation among golfers. They're generally dismissed as "short" golf courses - too easy or boring to be worth playing.
This could not be more wrong, in my opinion.
The "standard" par of 72 is a relatively new invention in golf, birthed by the American-driven obsession with the notion of a "championship course," despite that 99% of all golfers will never play well enough to play national- or world-scale championship golf.
There are many wonderful golf courses that adhere to the standardized 4/10/4 par-3/par-4/par-5 configuration. But there are just as many - if not more - great courses that are less formulaic.
Some even weigh in at a par of less than 70. But you'd best not underestimate these apparent flyweights of the golf world. They tend to punch well above their weight with long par threes and fours that make them play much longer than their scorecards seem to indicate.
Perhaps the most famous of these courses in the private realm is the par-69 Wannamoisett Country Club outside of Providence. It hosts the Northeast Amateur every year, a tournament of only slightly lower prestige than the likes of the U.S. Amateur. Past Northeast Amateur Champions include Ben Crenshaw, Hal Sutton, David Duval, Luke Donald (twice) and Dustin Johnson.
Likewise, there are a number of public courses of par-69 or less that you can and should play. Most of them are in the British Isles and are more than a century old. Here are our nominations:
Cape Arundel Golf Club - Kennebunkport, Maine
This semi-private club, which dates to 1896, is both a par-69 course and measures less than 6,000 yards from the tips. But it's been compelling enough to host rounds by presidents such as Nixon, both Bushes and Clinton over the years, and it's worth your visit, too. It was designed by Walter Travis, whose designs are some of the most old-school found in the United States.
Cranwell Resort - Lenox, Massachusetts
The Berkshires in western Massachusetts is a terrific area to visit for leaf-peepers, as well as fans of classic golf course architecture. The Wayne Stiles/John Van Kleek course opened in 1926. At a par of 69 and 5,991 yards from the tips, it is undersized but long on character. In spite of the diminutive course, Cranwell's golf practice facilities are extensive - perfect for an autumn game-honing retreat. For those who want a "bigger ballpark," the superb Taconic Golf Club is a scenic 30-mile drive north.
Rye Golf Club - Camber, England
With only one par five and five par threes, Rye is a par-68, but at over 6,400 yards from the medal tees it is anything but short and easy. The links is one of England's great courses, hosting the prestigious President's Putter match between the Oxford and Cambridge golf societies each year and having held Open Championship qualifying in recent years as well. It is a "private" club but similarly to the likes of Muirfield in Scotland, it welcomes visitors on a limited basis.
Royal St. David's Golf Club - Harlech, Wales
If you do some word association with an avid golf traveler and mention Wales, you are likely to hear "Royal Porthcawl" or "Celtic Manor" in reply. Royal St. David's is therefore overlooked, despite being ranked by Golf Monthly as the 44th best course in the UK and Ireland. The par-69 course has been stretched past 6,600 yards in recent years, making it play like a 7,200-yard par-72 course.
Crail Golfing Society (Balcomie Links) - Anstruther, Scotland
Crail was first founded in 1786 and proudly trumpets its status as the seventh-oldest club in the world. The par-69, 5,861-yard Balcomie Links is the shorter and older of Crail's two courses, but offers constant views of the North Sea making for an unforgettable experience. Its much younger sister, the Gil Hanse-designed Craighead course, is also worth a play. Should you fall in love with the club when you visit (many do), overseas club membership costs less than £500.
Palm Beach Par 3 - West Palm Beach, Florida
We've mentioned this darling little layout before, and at a par of 54, it is more than worthy of inclusion on this list. Any golf-oriented visit to the Palm Beaches would be ill-spent without a round by the ocean at this course, which will provide a more complete test of your iron game than many so-called "championship" layouts.
What are some of the best par-69-and-under golf courses you've played, both in your travels and close to home? Let us know in the comments!