The very best short holes combine scenery and strategy, with a few adding terror and perhaps even a stadium-like atmosphere (at least one week a year). Josh Sens takes a look at a dozen of the best par 3s in the country.
Pebble Beach Golf Links -- No. 7, 106 yards -- Pebble Beach, Calif.
Depending on the wind, this little coastal beauty might require a three-wood or a pitching wedge. No matter the weather, the striking sight itself -- a tiny green perched on a rock-ringed promontory -- is like a dreamy golf calendar sprung to life.
2 of 12Kohjiro Kinno/SI
Pebble Beach Golf Links -- No. 17, 177 yards -- Pebble Beach, Calif.
From Nicklaus's one-iron at the 1972 U.S. Open to Watson's chip-in a decade later in the same event, no par 3 in the game has served up more iconic moments. You're playing toward an ocean-framed hourglass target, and you're walking in the footsteps of major championship history.
3 of 12Joann Dost
Cypress Point Club -- No. 15, 143 yards -- Pebble Beach, Calif.
It's a setting as stunning as a national park; it just happens to have a golf hole built on it. Alister MacKenzie has brought you through the pines and around coastal dunes, and now, as his masterwork builds to a crescendo, he gives you this: your first arresting close-up with the sea. Simply unforgettable. And almost as good as the hole that follows it.
4 of 12Mike Ehrmann/MetLife Blimp
Cypress Point Club -- No. 16, 231 yards -- Pebble Beach, Calif.
A lot of experts say this is the greatest hole in golf. Period. Never mind one of the finest par 3s on the planet. Giving Alister MacKenzie this otherworldly plot of land established a standard that other architects might rightly call unfair. Play this one and you instantly have your eternal go-to golf story.
5 of 12Robert Beck/SI
Augusta National Golf Club -- No. 12, 155 yards -- Augusta, Ga.
Ben Hogan said he'd never swing here until he felt the wind breathe on his cheek. But you're not Hogan, so you'll barely be able exhale if you ever get on this tee, let alone pay attention to the gentlest breeze. The hole exceeds even your wildest expectations after all the years you've worshipped it on TV. You waggle, hit and hope to clear Rae's Creek. OK. Time for you to breathe again.
6 of 12Darren Carroll/SI
TPC Scottsdale -- No. 16, 162-yards -- Scottsdale, Ariz.
Play it on almost any day of the year, and it's a pretty yet simple punctuation to a round of golf in a scenic desert setting. But see it from the grandstands during the annual PGA Tour stop, and you'll feel like you're sitting in the Coliseum with a riotous crowd in full bloodthirsty roar.
7 of 12Courtesy of TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) -- No. 17, 137 yards -- Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
You just plunked a pitching wedge in the water. But instead of pouting, you've got to praise Pete Dye (or his wife Alice, who envisioned the hole before her husband). Not since the prom queen rebuffed your advances has something so beautiful caused so much pain.
8 of 12Chris Condon/PGA Tour/Getty Images
Riviera Country Club -- No. 6, 199 yards -- Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Purists may quibble with its quirkiness, but no one disputes the distinctiveness of the bunker right in the middle of its multi-tiered green. The architect, George C. Thomas, made a bold move here, and Jack Nicklaus ranks among the many who've admired it, so much so that he built a tribute to this famous hole at Lost Tree Club in Florida. Not that it remained there. The membership complained, and the homage was removed.
9 of 12Evan Schiller
Plantation Course at Kapalua -- No. 8, 203 yards -- Maui, Hawaii
A long iron over a tropical gorge with the island of Molokai looming in the distance. Paradise found. Titleist lost.
10 of 12Fred Vuich/SI
Coeur D'Alene Resort Golf Course -- No. 14, 218 yards -- Coeur D'Alene, Idaho
You know you're playing golf in a scenic spot when you have to take a boat to retrieve your ball. That is if it's dry, and sitting 150 yards from the tee box on the verdant surface of the world's first floating island green.
11 of 12Fred Vuich/SI
Winged Foot (West Course) -- No. 10, 190 yards -- Winged Foot, N.Y.
Ben Hogan called the shot a three-iron "into some guy's bedroom window." More specifically, you're hitting to a bunker-ringed green with a narrow opening and a landing area that rises as it widens. It's very nice to look at. But don't just stand there like a peeping Tom.
12 of 12Scott Ramsay/Yale Sports Publicity
Yale University Golf Club -- No. 9, 235 yards -- New Haven, Conn.
Ready for an Ivy League education on the artistry of golf course architecture? You play over a lake and a fronting bunker, but the signature feature of this stunner is the deep depression that runs across the green: the hallmark of what some have called the greatest Biarritz hole in the world.
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