Lee Westwood thinks some of the best par 3s in the world are also among the shortest. In his press conference Tuesday he singled out the 123-yard eighth at Royal Troon, known as the "Postage Stamp," the 106-yard seventh at Pebble Beach and the 155-yard 12th at Augusta National.
This week at Oakland Hills, Westwood and the rest of the field won't see any pitch-and-putt par 3s. While the shortest is the manageable 198-yard third hole, the ninth is 257 yards and the 17th is 238.
"There's no reason not to have long par 3s," he said. "At the end of the day, everybody is playing the same hole."
The highest-ranked Englishman in the field went on to say, "We have all got the equipment, these rescues and hybrids, that wing it up high in the air now. We're supposed to make it come down soft, so I suppose if manufacturers are going to come out with clubs like that, then the PGA and everybody has got to do something to test your skills out with those kind of clubs." Mike Malaska, a Top 100 Teacher, agrees that equipment has made lengthening par 3s understandable. "The reality is that the average par 3 for the pros used to be a 4- and 5-iron shot, and played about 170 to 190 yards. But with the modern ball and the equipment of today, a 230-yard par 3 plays like the old 4- and 5-iron par 3s."
For Malaska, adding length to a par 3 also requires course designers to consider the green complex. "What they can't do is take an old course with a 195-yard par 3, and then make it 230 yards without increasing the size of the green." As the distance from the target increases, the size of the target itself, the green, needs to increase, too. Hitting fairway woods or long irons onto tiny greens would be neither fun nor fair.
For the record, the longest par 3 in major championship history was the 288-yard eighth hole at Oakmont during the 2007 U.S. Open. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)