The challenge of a par 3
Short holes meet several requirements for a golf course, including variety, linkage and challenge.
Players enjoy the opportunity to reach the green in a single shot. Golf architects work to find places for several par 3s with different yardages.
Par 3s provide ways to use the best features of a property. Sometimes there is a great place for a short link in the chain of holes that would not work as well if it were lengthened to a par 4 or 5.
Par 3s, even short ones, can also provide a stiff test of skills for players of all levels. Think of the Postage Stamp hole at Carnoustie, or the seventh hole at Pebble Beach.
The four par 3s at the Bay Course at Seaview Resort are a fine blend of short, medium and long, with the bunkering and green undulations that one expects from an historic Hugh Wilson/Donald Ross design. After the first three rounds of last fall’s ShopRite LPGA Classic, they were also ranked first, third, ninth and 14th for scoring average.
I spent a beautiful morning and early afternoon in the third round watching half the field take on the 170-yard seventh hole, the third-hardest hole.
An irrigation pond just in front of the tee is not a factor. However, the four bunkers on the front left, right side and rear of the green, along with high fescue mounds on either side, should concentrate the mind wonderfully.
The green’s front and side slopes are steeper than expected for a relatively flat course. Balls that are only slightly mishit can bounce or roll off the green and into trouble. The third round’s hole location was about two-thirds of the way to the back but only three steps from the right edge, bringing those slopes and the right bunker into play.
As you might expect, therefore, players generally aimed for the middle or left side, with varying degrees of success. Nelly Korda made the best approach, landing 4 feet left of the hole for her birdie. Lauren Stephenson made the first bogey when her tee shot came up short a few yards on the front apron. A good chip shot finished two feet away, but her par attempt didn’t touch the hole and traveled two feet beyond.
Several golfers who were on their game handled this hole nicely. Brittany Altomare had already eagled the par 4 fifth hole and made birdie on the seventh from 10 feet short of the hole. Sophia Popov made the longest birdie I saw, from 18 feet hole high across the green. Kelly Tan made her two from 15 feet below and left.
Most pars were of the “15 to 25 feet, make two putts and skedaddle” variety, but there were also some great recoveries. Linnea Strom’s tee shot bounced off the green to the right and stopped 25 feet from the hole in light rough. She chipped up the steep slope, and the ball checked up 5 feet away. Her par putt fell slowly and gently into the hole.
Celine Boutier’s tee shot landed in the right green side bunker about 60 feet from the hole, several feet below the green surface. She blasted out to 7 feet past the hole and rolled the ball downhill for par.
Christie Kerr was, as usual, the most vocal. As her first putt from 35 feet across the green began rolling, she yelled “Break! Break! Break!” at least three times.
The ball almost listened, so she had an easy second putt for her three.
Most of the bogeys came from players who came up short of the green or went right. Brooke Henderson was one of the apron hitters, while Amy Olson’s recovery from the right bunker went a bit too far, leading to her two-putt four.
Christina Kim’s tee shot rolled off the green about pin high, 15 feet from the hole but in the second cut, just inches away from even thicker stuff. Her chip shot somehow stopped short of the green, and then her putt rolled a foot past the hole. She showed a bit of temper while retrieving her ball, which was perfectly understandable.
Among the players I watched, only Katherine Kirk’s tee shot landed in the thick fescue mound right of the green. I found the ball and put my hat near it. We had a short, pleasant chat as she tossed my hat back to me. Unfortunately, her blast out of the tall stuff landed over 20 feet past the hole, and she two-putted from there for bogey. It would have been a great par save.
The seventh hole was all the challenge that the first two rounds’ experience had promised, with twice as many bogeys and double bogeys as birdies. It was a great opportunity to watch several dozen highly skilled golfers show what they could do with a truly challenging par 3.
The ShopRite will be a fall event again this year, with its final round currently scheduled for Oct. 3. Mark your calendars and let’s hope the spectators can return.