Golf’s 12 best par 3 holes on the planet
Sometimes size isn’t everything, and in golf a good little ‘un can often beat a good big ‘un.
Of the thousands of golf holes in all the world, a handful of treacherous tiddlers stand out.
One of the best, the iconic island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass, lies in wait for pros at the Players Championship this week
From Augusta to New Zealand, CNN Sport has scoured the world for 12 of the best par threes on the planet.
17th hole, Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass, Florida
Think Players Championship, think the island green 17th. This 137-yard flick on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass looks innocent enough but the water befuddles tired minds and acts as magnet to balls.
During the 2015 Players, 45 balls found the drink — but there was a different kind of hazard in 1998 when a seagull picked up Steve Lowery’s ball and flew off before dropping it in the water.
“It tricks you into thinking it’s a real difficult hole when it’s just a short iron. But we’re human, so we think about the bad stuff,” Bubba Watson told reporters in 2011.
7th hole, Pebble Beach Golf Links, California
Intimate but intimidating, the 106-yard seventh at Pebble Beach is one of golf’s most iconic holes. This California classic plunges from an elevated tee down to a green perched above the crashing waves of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
“If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach,” says Jack Nicklaus.
“I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.”
Actor Bill Murray thought it a good idea to follow his ball with his club at the seventh in the Pebble Beach pro-am event in February.
New 9th hole, Trump Turnberry, Scotland
U.S. President Donald Trump bought famous old Turnberry in 2014 and set about a major redevelopment of the revered Ailsa Course.
One of his most notable changes is a new par-three ninth, from the old ninth tee across the bay to a green nearer the foot of the lighthouse.
The course is famed for the “Duel in the Sun” between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in the 1977 British Open and Watson’s near miss to Stewart Cink as a 59-year-old in 2009.
Could Trump’s new version be even better?
8th hole, Royal Troon, Scotland
The venue for the 2016 British Open features one of the most well-known holes in golf — the Postage Stamp, the 123-yard par-three eighth.
As the shortest hole in Open Championship golf, Troon’s signature hole is no pushover, with cavernous bunkers protecting a small green.
“You can run up a big score in a hurry there if you’re not careful,” says former European Tour star and Troon local Colin Montgomerie.
“You’ve got to be very, very careful and treat that little hole with an awful lot of respect.”
16th hole, Port Royal, Bermuda
Paradise or purgatory? Port Royal is one of Bermuda’s best tracks and its signature hole is the sea-hugging 16th across the cliffs.
The bewitching backdrop of azure Atlantic waters could be a distraction, though.
“The interesting thing on that hole is you don’t feel the breeze on the tee box that much,” said English pro Justin Rose when the PGA Grand Slam of Golf was held here in 2013.
“You just never allow for enough when the wind is coming from the right.”
12th hole, Augusta National, Georgia
Jordan Spieth’s dream of back-to-back Masters drowned in Rae’s Creek in April 2016.
Augusta’s treacherous 12th hole at the heart of Amen Corner added a new layer of notoriety when the defending champion — leading by five with nine holes to play — ran up a quadruple-bogey seven with two shots in the water.
Tom Weiskopf put five in the water en route to a 13 at the 1980 Masters.
The 155 yards look innocuous enough but the wind dances on a whim among the towering pines.
“Anyone who says on the 12th tee they know 100% where the ball will land is a liar,” Lee Westwood’s caddy Billy Foster told CNN.
Extreme 19th hole, Entabeni, South Africa
Fear of heights? You’ll want to give this one a miss, then — you’ll need a helicopter to get to the tee.
The Extreme 19th begins on the top of Hanglip Mountain and plunges 400m down — and 395 yards horizontally — to a green in the shape of Africa.
It is an add-on to the 18-hole Signature Course within the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in South Africa, where each hole was designed by a leading professional player, including Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Montgomerie.
16th hole, Cypress Point, California
This ultra-exclusive members-only course on California’s Monterey Peninsula has may splendid holes but the 16th — from the tee on a rocky bluff to the left of the clubhouse across the bay to a promontory green — is the one that keeps tongues wagging long after a round.
“I do not expect anyone will ever have the opportunity of constructing another course like Cypress Point as I do not suppose anywhere in the world is there such a glorious combination of rocky coast, sand dunes, pine woods and cypress trees,” said designer Alister MacKenzie, who also crafted Augusta National, in 1932.
4th hole, Championship course, Royal County Down, Northern Ireland
Royal County Down in Northern Ireland was voted the world’s best course for 2016-17 by Golf Digest — surpassing icons such as Augusta National and St Andrews — and the 228-yard par-three fourth hole is one of its jewels.
The backdrop is stupendous, with the Mountains of Morne to the south and the Irish Sea to the east.
But a stiff breeze, oceans of gorse in front of the tee and a rash of pot bunkers around the green turn this beauty into a beast.
7th hole, Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
As settings go Kauri Cliffs stands comparison with the best.
This Kiwi classic is spread across an old sheep ranch high above the Pacific Ocean in New Zealand’s Northland.
The short seventh clings to the cliffs and plays a knuckle-whitening 220 yards across a canyon towards a treacherous green with the Cavalli Islands beyond.
10th hole, Royal Dornoch, Scotland
Ranked fifth in Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Courses, Royal Dornoch in the far north east of Scotland is a veritable links classic.
The second is often hailed as one of the great par threes but for sheer spectacle the 142-yard 10th hugging the white sand beaches of the Dornoch Firth might edge it.
Watson is often quoted as saying that playing at Royal Dornoch “was the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course.”
“I never tire of this truly fabulous course,” tweeted veteran golf photographer David Cannon of Getty Images.
16th hole, TPC Scottsdale, Arizona
A par three with a twist. No stupendous views, or carries across chasms — just grandstands full of baying fans drinking, hooting and hollering. If you get nervous playing in front of your pals, imagine teeing off on the 16th at TPC Scottsdale during the week of the Phoenix Open, the rowdiest week on the PGA Tour. Where golf meets gladiators.
“I love this event, and I definitely, like you said, embrace the crowd, the atmosphere,” Rickie Fowler told reporters at the 2016 Phoenix Open.
“You can definitely use it to your advantage if you’re playing well and kind of feed off the crowd’s energy.”