Friday, September 24, 2010

Are Par 3 Finishing Holes Just a Gimmick?

This week the golf season will come to a close at Eastlake Country Club in Atlanta, and the last hole played will be a Par 3. 

The 18th at Eastlake
Eastlake is one of just a handful of courses, either tour or that you and I play, that ends with a three-par.  For amateurs in particular, I am just not a fan of the short finishing hole; because we all love to let the big dog out of his cage on the last hole.  But for pros, and more importantly for golf we watch on TV, I actually kinda like it.

To succeed on par threes your accuracy, distance control, short game, and putting, all have to be in sync.  The playing field is more even because the long hitters gain less of an advantage over the short hitters.  And when were talking about professional tournaments, the average crowd that they can jam around a par 3 hole is signifcantly larger than in any of the longer holes.  Think Scottsdale.

 At Eastlake, the hole plays long for tour players- 200 to 245 for most events.  It means that a long iron, hybrid, or even a 5 wood is required off the tee.  There is a deep bunker that eats up any ball that comes in short, and the green slopes away from the teebox, into a collection area that forces an awkward uphill chip/putt. 

Tour players have had fairly positive things to say about the anomalous finishing hole.  Padraig Harrington was quoted in USA Today as saying, ""You're finishing on a hole where you're asked to hit a real golf shot — and that's what a golf course should do." 

Zach Johnson agreed, saying, "it's a great hole. You get rewarded for a great shot. At the same time, if you hit a mediocre shot, you can still make a 3. If you hit a poor shot, you can make a 4-plus. Coming down the stretch, things can happen, too, on a par-3."

Atlanta native Stewart Cink, however, feels differently.  "I think it's a great par-3. Whether it's a great finishing hole or not, it may be debatable."  He continued to say that ""One thing I think that needs to happen for that hole to be a more exciting finishing hole is to move the tees up. There's no rule in the rule book that says you have to play it from 235."

 I disagree with Cink here.  It's no fun to watch player after player stick it to 10 feet on the finishing hole of the final tournament of the year.  And that's precisely what would happen if the hole played from 165 or 170.  I much prefer watching guys flounder with a 3-iron in their hands or pull a 5 wood into the crowd.  It makes for better TV and for a better finishing hole. 

There is plenty of room for debate on this topic, but I've made up my mind.  I like the par three finish at Eastlake.

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