Golf’s Finest Par Threes

By Tony Roberts & Michael Bartlett

Golf’s Finest Par Threes
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?Golfers wanting to know the colourful stories behind names like Alcatraz, Biarritz, Cleopatra, Dell, Eden, Postage Stamp, and Redan can now turn to the only book ever devoted exclusively to the par-three hole. In Golf’s Finest Par Threes Tony Roberts and Michael Bartlett ... Read more



?Golfers wanting to know the colourful stories behind names like Alcatraz, Biarritz, Cleopatra, Dell, Eden, Postage Stamp, and Redan can now turn to the only book ever devoted exclusively to the par-three hole. In Golf’s Finest Par Threes Tony Roberts and Michael Bartlett have assembled what they call a “an exemplary collection of the most spectacular, historic, challenging, and unusual one-shot holes on the planet. ”

The heart of the book is the authors’ list of the 100 greatest par threes in the world, chosen from thousands they’ve seen during more than 30 years profiling and photographing golf courses. These are designated as gold and silver, and arranged by design and geographical categories such as links, island and peninsula, blind, drop shot, and more. Striking photography and fact-filled profiles combine to reveal the distinct character of each hole.

Golf’s Finest Par Threes also explains how the greatest course designers — notably, Macdonald, Colt, Tillinghast, MacKenzie, Ross, Thomas, Jones, Fazio, Nicklaus, Dye, and Doak — have created par threes. A closing section offers new perspectives on the one-shot hole: “Best Sets” and “Out-of-the-Box” threes, historic shots on par threes, and more.

Golf’s Finest Par Threes is a beautifully packaged tour of golf’s great short holes, one guaranteed to inform, entertain, and provoke vigorous debate about what makes a par three superior and memorable.




Alcatraz … Biarritz … Cleopatra … Dell … Eden … Himalayas … Postage Stamp … Redan. Ask someone to identify these names and they might respond: prison, city in France, Egyptian queen, secluded glen, paradise, mountain, mail fee, fortification. And they would be right. But for golfers, the correct answer is that each belongs on a list of the game’s best-known par-three holes. All owe their fame to a natural setting and the imaginative genius of gifted course designers who believed that less can really be more.

At last count the United States Golf Association library contains 25,000 books, including 1,200 under the heading “Golf Courses. ” Search as one may, there is no volume devoted solely to the par-three hole. This was a curious omission that we decided to rectify. Our goal: Canvass the world for some of the finest, most interesting, dramatic, beautiful, historic, delightful and confounding one-shot holes and assemble them in a collection that showcases their particular virtues and role in golf history.

Why else a book on par-three holes? Looked at imaginatively, a par three is “the whole-in-one. ” Most par threes let a golfer see the entire challenge — tee to green — and, with skill and luck, complete the hole in a single shot — the ace.

In a distance-obsessed era, the threes remind us that controlled shotmaking is fundamental to the game, and, on many short holes, finesse is all. Augusta National Golf Club #12, Cypress Point Club #15 and Royal Troon Golf Club #8 exemplify this dimension.

Maybe too it’s about respect. Golf’s short holes are sometimes overshadowed by the tougher handicap holes that comprise the finishing stretches on a course. But look deeper, and gradually the list of threes that regularly produce high scores grows. They aren’t pushovers, for sure. And golf history highlights many a par-three seventeenth — the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Pinehurst Country Club No. 2 Course, for example — that has determined victory or defeat in major competitions.

In his “Thirteen Principles” of golf course design, Dr. Alister MacKenzie, creator of Augusta National and Cypress Point, stated firmly that there should be “at least four one-shot holes” on every course. In his case, he also laid out two in a row (the fifteenth and sixteenth at Cypress Point), or made the eighteenth a three (Pasatiempo Golf Club). As we shall document, course architects know the importance of well-made, strategically placed one-shotters and use them to enhance the quality of a course.

We very much subscribe to the thought of Japanese architect Shunsuke Kato who said, “The importance of the par-three hole is that it truly represents the designer’s policy as to the character of the golf course. It is a wrong idea that a par-three hole is easy to make because it is just a short yardage. The [good] designer puts his heart into making a par-three hole special among others. ” The top courses are distinguished by a strong complement of par threes, each good to great. In many cases, one of the threes becomes the signature hole.

To set the stage for our collection, a Prologue presents the origin of three famous one-shot holes. This is followed by a brief essay, titled “Evolution,” which highlights the thoughts of leading designers about the par three and provides some historical context on its development.

Course ratings and rankings seldom produce complete agreement. Our choices are based on many years of playing, walking and photographing courses worldwide. Buttressing our own judgment are the critical observations and writings of golf course historians and architects, leading golf writers from many eras and local experts who shared their takes on individual holes.

For those who need to discriminate, we offer two tiers — “Gold” and “Silver,” and, for fun, we’ve created an “Ultimate 18-Hole Par-Three Course. ” Further, we think the arrangement of the top holes around a dominant geographical feature or distinguishing design element is a more interesting way to look at them. In the end, our selection of 100 from the 130,000 or so par threes in the world can only be illustrative of their overall excellence.

We hope you’ll get to play some, or if you have already, to relive your experiences through our words and pictures.


— Tony Roberts and Michael Bartlett


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