Tom Weiskopf's 10 best short par 4s

The major champion's lasting legacy will be his use of short par 4s on public and resort courses to make golf fun, exciting and playable again.
No. 17 at Forest Dunes is the epitome of risk-reward.

I never met a Tom Weiskopf golf course I didn't like.

I can't say the same thing about his more famous design contemporaries like Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. Weiskopf was an incredible player, an Open champion with 15 other PGA Tour victories, but to most of us, it is his work as an golf course architect that will be his lasting legacy.

Weiskopf, who passed away Aug. 20 at age 79 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, went against the grain of his competition, adding a short, exciting, potentially drivable short par 4 to all of his courses. Essentially, he made golf fun again before it became fashionable to do so. Much of his creativity came during a period in the 1990s where building penal golf courses seemed to be the only acceptable model.

Even if you're playing poorly, you almost always have one chance at glory on the back nine of a Weiskopf course. His short par 4s provide eternal hope for all of us. Maybe one good swing can turn into a magical moment. An ace on a par 4 is improbable for even great players, but the chance to drive the green and sink an eagle putt is possible for even the most average of golfers. What's interesting is most of these holes are rarely rated as the easiest on their respective courses. Weiskopf's use of bunkers, trees, doglegs, elevated greens, water, rocks and other hazards keeps things interesting. They're the purest form of risk-reward golf.

I've been lucky enough to play 12 Weiskopf designs over the years, all of them publicly accessible. I'm putting together this list of my 10 favorite short par 4s he designed as a lasting tribute. I'd recommend you play any and all of them. Rest in peace, Tom, and may you build a few more great shorties on the fairways in the sky.

4 Min Read
August 22, 2022
The 1973 Open Champion and influential modern golf course architect passed away at age 79 on August 20, 2022.

  1. Hole 17, Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.

    It would be hard to top the mayhem and drama of the par-3 16th on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but the 332-yard 17th does so with its strategic brilliance. For any pro who is somewhere near the top of the leaderboard, the temptation to go for the green is almost irresistible, often with dire consequences. The pond on the left is always lurking to ruin the round.

    What's your favorite Weiskopf short par 4? Let us know in the comments below.

  2. Hole 17, Forest Dunes Golf Club, Roscommon, Mich.
    View from behind the short, par-4 17th hole at Forest Dunes.

    The 302-yard hole called "Wild Dunes" is the coolest hole on my favorite public course in Michigan. I always whale away with driver praying I carry the gnarly waste bunker up the left side in an attempt to reach the thin neck of fairway before the green. Anyone who lays up to the safety of the fairway up the right side faces an impossible wedge shot over some bunkers and hairy mounds to a green that runs away. Good luck!

  3. Hole 13, Cedar River at Shanty Creek, Bellaire, Mich.
    Cedar River is one of four courses at Shanty Creek Resorts near Traverse City, Michigan.

    This 297-yard beast features one of the trickiest trees in golf. It sits in what appears to be the center of the fairway, which splits into a tiny narrow shelf up the right and a wider side left. Six bunkers pinch the landing area around the green, setting up a real risk-reward tee shot that can end up as a 2 or an 8 on the scorecard.

  4. Hole 7, Resort Course at La Cantera Resort & Spa, San Antonio, Texas
    A view from the 7th tee at La Cantera's Resort Course.

    This 316-yard hole on the Resort Course at La Cantera proves that Weiskopf's signature short par 4s don't have to be only on the back nine. He just couldn't resist the vista from this elevated tee 80 feet above the fairway, a dramatic panorama of a rollercoaster from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The course hosted the PGA Tour's Texas Open from 1995-2009 and is the only one left at the resort after the Palmer Course closed in December 2021.

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  5. Hole 13, The Club at Seven Canyons, Sedona, Ariz.

    This private club is actually available to play with a stay at the nearby Enchantment Resort or by renting a townhome at Seven Canyons. The surrounding red-rock cliffs of the Coconino National Forest are a sight to behold. Don't let the scenery distract you from the task at hand on the 305-yard 13th - hitting it straight and true to reach the green and avoid the desert trouble lurking on all sides.

    July 10, 2018
    Get to know former PGA Tour player-turned golf course architect Tom Weiskopf. Browse ratings & reviews of his courses.

  6. Hole 17, The Club at Spanish Peaks, Big Sky, Mont.
    The 17th at The Club at Spanish Peaks is Tom Weiskopf's signature risk-reward drivable par 4.

    The altitude and drop should help, but even so, from the tips, the 349-yard 17th hole at Spanish Peaks might be the longest "short" par 4 Weiskopf ever designed. Of course, the club pro in my group drove it, no problem, while the rest of us squandered our birdie chances. Spanish Peaks is ultra-exclusive but you can play it by staying at one of golf's newest resorts, the adjacent Montage Big Sky.

  7. Hole 15, Monument at Troon North, Scottsdale, Ariz.
    The 15th hole on Monument at Troon North plays only 299 yards, although it's slightly uphill.

    Bunkers on either side of the fairway guard the 299-yard hole called "Canyon Pass" on the Monument. The hole used to be on the Monument's sister course, Pinnacle, before the two swapped nines. The move left Pinnacle without a signature short par 4, while Monument now hordes both of them, including the 306-yard sixth hole called "Gamble".

    March 21, 2019
    A dream golf destination in America's southwest, there are many ways to experience spectacular golf here. The Phoenix-Scottsdale mecca boasts 200-plus courses and an array of world-class resorts and spas. Or, experience scenery and seclusion in smaller Tucson. Summer golf can be comfortable too in high-altitude climes like Sedona and Flagstaff. Name your game and Arizona's got a package for you.

  8. Hole 18, Weiskopf Course at Vista Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    Vista Vallarta's 36 holes pit the architectural chops of Weiskopf against Nicklaus head to head. They're neck-and-neck as to which one is better, in my eyes, but I love that Weiskopf had the guts to end his course with a 346-yard par 4, which plays 310 yards from the tee most tourists will use. I just referenced four different body parts, but it's the brain that's most engaged playing Weiskopf courses. A large cross bunker creates some indecision off the tee: do I layup or go for it? It's the question Weiskopf asks on every single one of his short par 4s.

  9. Hole 5, Kings' Nine at Waikoloa Beach Resort, Hawaii Island
    At 293 yards from the blue tees, big hitters can attempt to drive the fifth green of the Kings' Nine at Waikoloa Beach Resort.

    Although the Kings' Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort isn't regarded as one of the best of the Weiskopf-Jay Morrish portfolio, this 293-yard hole is the perfect example of how to use the island's black lava rock as an intimidating hazard. The hole doglegs hard left around a waste bunker. Any hooks into the lava are gonezo.

  10. Hole 16, The Wilds Golf Club, Prior Lake, Minn.

    Weiskopft went for double trouble at The Wilds. I could have actually picked either of the two short par 4s he created - the 330-yard 16th or the 340-yard fourth. Both play shorter than 295 yards for most players from the 6,400-yard championship tees.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries 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 @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

All very intricate designs, some seeming almost impossible--or requiring some genuine luck.

The best two I've played are no. 8 Connecticut National (333 from the blues but steeply downhill--I managed to eagle it the only time I played it last year by chipping in 20 yards from the hole) and, at Oxford Greens, no. six, 300 yards, but best here was a birdie from three feet.

The sixth at OG, however, poses a smaller risk.

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Tom Weiskopf's 10 best short par 4s