Chicago's best par-3s have it all -- beware!
CHICAGO -- The most famous par-3 in the world may be the short 7th at Pebble Beach, or the 12th at Augusta, or maybe the tiny 7th at Scotland's Royal Troon with the quirky name - The Postage Stamp. Each is stunningly picturesque and each can be nightmarish. Think about all the balls swept into the Pacific by those Carmel coast winds, or the myriad of Titleists in Rae's Creek, or the utter frustration of carding a 6 at The Postage Stamp during the 1997 British Open by none other than Tiger Woods.
A simple one-shotter can turn ugly pretty quick.
So, how do Chicago's par-3s stack up?
When judging the merits of any par-3, one has to look at a least three main factors - beauty, brawn, and memorability. A good par-3 might have two of these qualities, but you need strong scores on all three to rank among the best.
Although none of the these Chicago par-3s are at the level of Pebble's 7th, they still rank well above average and each has its own style and grace. Go play them all, and the 17 holes that surround them.
Cog Hill's Dubsdread, Hole #6, 192-225 yards - This downhill par-3 has five menacing bunkers surrounding its green. Not only do you have to hit it rather long, you also have to drop it in soft. The green is two-tiered and slopes a bit toward the front. The setting for this hole is spectacular. It sits among the hardwoods of Cog Hill's host course for the PGA's Western Open with nothing by nature all around. It's also a tough hole. Robert Gamez, when he set the course record at Dubsdread, a 64, the 6th was his one and only bogey.
Harborside International, Starboard Course,Hole #13, 185-225 yards Harborside sits along Lake Calumet on Chicago's far South Side and the 13th on the Starboard Course sits hard against the lake. Not only is it the most photographic and memorable of all 36 holes at the facility, it may be the one hole that goes home with you. The view and the challenges you encounter will stick in your mind's eye until you get back to play it again. The hole may also remind you of one of the world's more famous par-3s, the 16th at Cypress Point.
Prairie Landing, Hole #6, 128-174 yards - This one-shotter is directly patterned after the short par-3s of Scotland and Ireland. It sits among tall fescue and hammocks on this American-links style course in West Chicago, and there are six possible teeing areas to allow for all kinds of looks and strategies. The tee shot here has to carry a huge bunker in front and then land delicately on a green that slopes severely to the left. Better hope your flat stick is working.
Bolingbrook Golf Club, Hole #8, 125-173 yards - This is not necessarily the hole most golfers will talk about after playing Bolingbrook. The 15th, a par-3 with an island green, gets a lot of the attention. But there's only one great island par-3 and that is the 17th at Sawgrass. The rest are imitators. So, the better of the 3-pars here is the intimidating 8th. The tee shot has to carry a brick wall just over the water and the shot has to be strong enough to avoid the splash but soft enough to hold a green that is only 15 yards deep. Behind the green is a bunker and to the right is a collection area that makes for a tricky up-and-down.
The Glen Club, Hole #4, 129-156 yards - There are some real lookers at The Glen Club. All the par-3s are stunning and solid. But the most interesting is the one that sits in a forest of young pines. The 4th is the shortest hole at The Glen Club, but its traditional and pure design has it standing tall among the local par-3s. The look of the green complex reminds one of The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, and the way a golfer should play the hole is quite similar to playing the Scottish original. No matter where the pin is placed, hit it to the middle. There are far too many chances to slide off this green.
Stonewall Orchard, Hole #13, 150-193 yards - This relatively short hole takes you over wetlands to a large green surrounded by pine trees. It's a natural setting that sets this par-3 apart from the others at Stonewall. The hole looks like it simply was meant to be there. There's a bail out area right of the green and a large collar makes run-ups a good option. The real key to playing this hole is judging the wind. Direction changes can put an 8-iron in your hand or a 7-wood.
Cantigny Golf Club, Woodside Course, Hole #3, 119-227 yards - Cantigny Golf is one of the best places to play public golf in Illinois and this hole is one of the reasons. The hole, which can be played a variety of different ways because of the many tee box options, is pure eye candy. The design, with a huge bunker in front of the green, gives it a unique, yet completely natural look. The tee shot has to carry all the way to the green because of the big bunker and to have a good shot at a birdie the ball needs to come to rest on the first quarter of the putting surface. The green slopes from back to front and, as they say, it's always best to be below the hole.
June 11, 2004