The Redan at Yale
It’s hard to build a great course without building a great set of par threes. Some architects like Stanley Thompson and Harry Colt felt that these holes were so important that they selected the best sites for the par threes and then routed the course around those sites.
Why are They So Important
The hole represents an opportunity for all players to succeed. Only on the par threes does the weaker player stand in the same position as the expert golfer. They both only need to execute one solid well placed shot and they will have a birdie opportunity. The key to the importance of the par threes is that no matter what level of player you are, you’re capable of making at least one great swing in a round. For this reason the par threes are the most anticipated holes for almost all players and particularly for the high handicap.
On most sites Mike and I would look to find the most dramatic piece of landscape and see if we can incorporate that into a spectacular par three, but with our site, there was no dramatic spot to use. The site is interesting and rolling, but it does not contain any of the large valleys, steep drops or tight ravines that would make for great par threes. This meant that we would have to become a little more creative if we still wanted to build four or five great par threes.
Lessons From Melbourne
The Sandbelt courses of Melbourne contain some of the greatest par threes in golf. One of the unusual characteristics that these holes share is none of them are built out of a stunning setting. In fact many of them are on pretty average ground. The lesson Melbourne offered us was the chance to look at each of these great par threes and see what features they incorporated.
The only one thing we strive for is keeping the yardage varied. We aim for one long par three, one short and diabolical hole and two somewhere in the middle to balance out the set. That’s it, we have no other goals in the routing.
Some people believe in having four holes all in different directions, but I love to point out that the final three par threes at Merion are all in the exact same direction. Unless the site is consistently very windy, the importance is very overrated. It’s all about great holes first, working to any formula will always yield sub-par results.
At this point I can tell you that all four threes were selected because they had a very specific geography that could be incorporated into interesting holes. Some were completely natural, while others required additional work to create a better hole than the land was originally going to yield. All those details will be shared as we go.