New par-3 course at Bandon Dunes may represent a hope for the future

New par-3 course at Bandon Dunes may represent a hope for the future

The first hole at Bandon Preserve, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's new par-3 course at Bandon Dunes.
Wood Sabold

When Ben Crenshaw and I were building Bandon Trails, we considered using a spectacular stretch of duneland adjacent to the course for a few holes. Unfortunately, the landforms were so tightly packed we realized we'd have to bulldoze many of them to build even 300-yard holes, and we walked away with regret.

But a few years later Mike Keiser, the owner of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, told us he wanted to build a par-3 course at Bandon. Mike made it clear that he wasn't talking about some little knockabout on which players would carry only two or three clubs to warm up or cool down. “I want par-3s that you could pick up and put on any of the regulation courses here and you'd say, ‘That was a neat hole,' ” he said. “I want players to have a true golf experience.”

Ben and I immediately thought of those dunes next to Bandon Trails. What we created there is now known as Bandon Preserve, a par-3 layout with 13 holes ranging from 65 to 164 yards. It opened on May 1, and Ben and I have high hopes that this landscape is going to yield a special golf experience, even as it's not so physically demanding and less time consuming.

Even more, we hope that it influences not only the people who play it but also all of golf. Bandon Dunes has such magnetism and holds so much sway over golf in America today that I'd like to think Bandon Preserve could become a trendsetter. It is, I believe, a timely reminder that golf encompasses many experiences, and golf that's only par-3 holes isn't by definition inferior.

Par-3s are some of the game's most interesting holes. They can require great skill and put forth all sorts of interesting propositions. A short course made of nothing but par-3s has many advantages. It's something everyone in the family can play and enjoy on equal footing — and do so in far less time (and often with far less expense) than if they were to play a regulation course. By my math par-3s require about one quarter of the time of a regulation course with 90% or more of the fun.

We want golfers to walk off Bandon Preserve saying, “Hey, that was pretty awesome — I want to go play it again,” and “I wish we had one of these closer to home.” With any luck, perhaps they soon will. I hope the layout helps spur more par-3 courses in America and throughout the world. Anything that furthers the attraction of the game we all love so much can't be anything but positive.


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