Time marches on. Along the way, it does a bit of damage, am I right? We don’t always hit the ball as high, nor as far, nor as crisp as when we were young and powerful, but we still love our golf! Thankfully, golf course owners and builders have recognized the value of keeping golfers interested, deep into their third age. Short courses and par-three layouts have equal importance of late, and it’s to our benefit and advantage. Here’s a bit of a tour of some of the finest wee courses in play today.
Short Courses at Bandon Dunes, Forest Dunes, Sand Valley, Pinehurst
Four of the most-booked golf destinations in the USA all boast par-three courses. Bandon Dunes was the first and second. The main practice range closes in the afternoon, and the greens turn into Shorty’s, a pitch-and-putt layout for the shorter hitters. Across the creek from the original course, the Bandon Preserve course (Coore/Crenshaw) features 13 wondrous patches of golfing joy. Next came Sand Valley, in the middle of Wisconsin, with its Sandbox. In recent years, Pinehurst (North Carolina) and Forest Dunes (Michigan) recognized the value of these types of offerings. Pinehurst retooled the area around its practice range and clubhouse, adding The Cradle short course. During the summer of 2019, Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns developed yet another course at the Forest Dunes resort in northern Michigan. The yet-to-be-named layout sits between The Loop, Tom Doak’s reversible course, and the putting course.
Putting Courses at Pinehurst, Forest Dunes, and Bandon Dunes
There is a historic reference for putting courses, tracing to the home of golf in St. Andrews. While the men were banging shots around the Old Course, the savvy ladies established the St. Andrew’s Women’s Putting Club alongside the OC’s first fairway. It wasn’t long before the Himalayas attracted the attention of the men, who wanted a place to hone their short games. Rumor has it that negotiations did not favor the lads, although access these days is open to all. The Thistle Dhu putting course at Pinehurst, the Punchbowl at Bandon, and the HillTop at Forest Dunes follow in the footsteps of the intrepid Scottish lasses and are much more than afterthoughts. A developer with little sense might say Just give me a putting green near the first tee. A master planner recognizes the opportunity. Rustic golfing destinations need to offer a great variety of golf-based options: merely having four back-breaker courses won’t do.
So what’s the skinny?
Why not? Why won’t four long, watery, carry-filled courses sate the appetite of traveling golfers? Simply, we aren’t professionals. Golf balls cost money, and we don’t want to lose them at every turn. Whether walking or riding, 2 or 3 rounds over the course of a day, across 3-4 mile courses, will ensure an early evening. In direct contrast, consider this itinerary: Morning-Big Course; Early afternoon-Par-3 Course; Early Evening-Putting Course. Tuck in a lunch and a dinner, and your feet don’t ache, your shoulders won’t throb, and your bag will still have a proper amount of the little white orbs.
There is a simple fix to the long-course problem. Move up 2 or 3 tee decks and voila! A course that you can manage. Problem is, many of us are proud golfers, and the notion of playing a 6000- or 5700- or 5400-yard course is harmful to the ego. Fine. Until the day that pride goes by the side, consider destinations with par-three and putting courses. You’ll have a blast trying for a hole-in-one on every hole, or competing for the best putter of us all prize.