Even non-golfers who don’t follow the PGA Tour will no doubt recognize the famous par-3 12th (“Golden Bell”) at Augusta National. The short, azalea-clad beauty is both an icon of the famous Masters Tournament and one of the lushest images of spring most northerners will glimpse each April. Yet beauty can be a beast. Witness the white-knuckle approach of players to the equally short “island green”—the 17th at TPC Sawgrass—and watch PGA veterans stare down a mere 137 yards like they are facing a 30-foot alligator.
In his classic 1926 work “The Links,” famed golf writer Robert Hunter wrote “the most testing one-shot holes are those which require a full stroke with a cleek [one-iron] or with wood. Such holes call for length, straightness, a sustained flight, and, last but not least, some control of the ball when it meets the turf.”
The courses of today, especially the more modern ones, reflect a departure from Hunter’s classical position. They emphasize precision over length in many cases. But the classic principles of accuracy and control remain in evidence on some of the best par 3s in the tri-state area. Local pros noted for us some of their favorites. We believe you’ll see some of yours here as well.
Kick back and take a virtual tour of the best one-shotters we have. (Note: All yardages are from the back tees.)
Coatesville Country Club No. 6
Coatesville, Pennsylvania | 213 yards
West Chester Golf Club’s Casey O’Reilly describes this troublesome par 3 as “long, hard but picturesque.” The fact that the green needs no bunkers to protect it suggests that length and contour make this one of the toughest on the Coatesville course. The small undulations on the green are said to “disorient” the player.
Chisel Creek Golf Club No. 3
Landenberg, Pennsylvania | 165 yards
Can’t make it to Sawgrass again this year? No worries. Check out one of the area’s niftiest island greens here. “Our third hole plays downhill to a large (40 yards deep) green with a kidney-shaped bunker guarding the left,” says Cory Sheldon. “We like to tuck the pin back left for tournaments, making for an even more difficult shot over the bunker to an area of green with little dry land to save a wayward approach.” Most (smart) players will aim for the middle of this big target, then let the green’s contours funnel your safe approach toward the middle for an easy two-putt par—and no penalty stroke.
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White Clay Creek Country Club No. 7
Wilmington, Delaware | 221 yards
Beautifully framed by trees surrounding the green complex, the virtual two-tiered green is also guarded by left and right bunkers. “The hole demands a high level of accuracy with a long iron, plus you must be able to bring that long iron in high in order to hold the undulating green,” says golf director Ryan Kidwell.
Delaware National Country Club No. 3
Wilmington, Delaware | 135 yards
Glen Mills pro Bob Pfister says this hole proves you don’t need length to be memorable. “It has water from tee to green (down the left side) and is guarded on the right by a steep hill and challenging rough.” A false front sheds tee shots hit short, so proper club selection is vital, Pfister says. Look for an early birdie here, “which provides a good start for the next string of tougher holes,” he says.
Gulph Mills Golf Club No. 4
Conshohocken, Pennsylvania | 120 yards
Springfield Country Club’s Philip Sheehan describes this short one-shotter, a Donald Ross design, as having “a small green surrounded by a lot of trouble. Bunkers guard the front and there’s a dropoff in back. You expect to make par, but the severity of the green may fool you.”
Philadelphia Country Club No. 5
Gladwyne, Pennsylvania | 167 yards
Whitford Country Club’s Mike Ladden describes this shortish par 3 as one “having many challenges. It has water on three sides, and the left side of the green features a large tree that prevents a bailout there. It’s very easy to make a two or a six on this demanding hole.”
Hartefeld National Golf Club No. 6
Avondale, Pennsylvania | 198 yards
Your eyes may deceive you on this little beauty, Hartefeld’s signature hole. “From the tee, it appears the green is level with you,” says Bob Munkittrick. “But it’s actually an uphill shot, requiring half to a full club more than it looks.” The hole also requires a full carry over water and a severe bunker left. There’s a swale beyond the green that makes an up-and-down difficult. The undulating green doesn’t help in that regard, either.
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Applebrook Golf Club No. 11
Malvern, Pennsylvania | 121 yards
It’s only 120 yards from the back tees, but don’t let this little guy—the shortest 3 on the course—fool you. According to Aronimink’s Jeff Kiddie, “The hole’s small green will really play tricks with your mind. The wind is always a factor, and always seems to play in between clubs.”
Plymouth Country Club No. 7
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania | 152 yards
Woods Golf Center’s Don DeAngelis cites the two-tiered green as making No. 7 difficult for both amateurs and pros. “Although one of the shortest, it plays as one of the top three or four hardest holes on the course,” he says.
Aronimink Golf Club No. 8
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania | 237 yards
Applebrook’s Dave McNabb loves this husky one-shotter, which plays downhill and is guarded by a pond in front. “The green is bisected by a mound, and with left and right bunkers, the hole challenges the player’s accuracy control, as the green runs diagonally right to left and is narrow in depth.” The elevation change poses a visual puzzle. It plays one club less than it would appear from the tee.
Jeffersonville Golf Club No. 8
Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania | 181 yards
It’s a true muni operated by West Norriton Township, but don’t let this track’s humble origins cause you to turn up your nose. It is a Donald Ross original that was renovated by Ross “fixer” Ron Pritchard in 2002. Mainland Golf’s Steve Pross describes this one-shotter as “old school. It’s lengthy with a tiny green and water in front. There’s little margin for error.”
Fieldstone Golf Club No. 8
Greenville, Delaware | 183 yards
Though a candidate for the golf hole annual swimsuit issue, this visual stunner is a great test for the medium iron, says Rick McCall Jr. of Wild Quail. “The green is receptive to a five- or six-iron with a bailout area left. The pond in front protects against miss-hits that are short, and back of the green is no good either.” All the par 3s at Fieldstone are good, McCall says, but No. 8, because of its visual beauty, will stay with you.
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French Creek Golf Club No. 3
Elverson, Pennsylvania | 216 yards
Honeybrook’s Tom Piersol says accuracy is the premium for this challenging one-shotter. “You have about a 20-yard target to hit,” Piersol says. “Short puts you in the ravine in front and long puts you in deep fescue over the green.” It’s all carry over that ravine to a small green with many contours that make a one-putt birdie or two-putt par no gimme, even after mastering the tee shot.
Stonewall Links Old Course No. 9
Elverson, Pennsylvania | 215 yards
Kimberton Golf Club’s Bob Hays likes the precise quality of this lengthy par 3, which requires a middle iron. It’s designer Tom Doak’s first short hole built around a pond. “You need to be exact, because it’s a complete carry over water.” Bunkers guard the right of the green, which slopes heavily toward the drink.
The Peninsula Golf & Country Club No. 9
Millsboro, Delaware | 216 yards
“When you step up to this tee, typically with a 10 to 20 mph right-to-left crosswind, you feel like you have to hit your best iron shot of the day just to arrive safely on the green,” says former White Clay Creek pro John Rudolph. “Depending on the wind, you may have to start your shot over the water and pray the wind blows just right to land your shot on the green.” Due to the extreme depth of the green, you may arrive to find “one of your longest putts of the day, depending on the hole location.” It’s another par 3 where par is a good score, one that Rudolph says always gives him “a great sense of accomplishment and relief that it is over, as well.”
Fieldstone Golf Club No. 13
Greenville, Delaware | 220 yards
“Don’t be short and right here,” says Frog Hollow’s Kyle Mullin. That’s because there’s a deep-face bunker lurking there. “You basically have a blind shot out of it,” Mullin says. The carry is over a large ravine and a hill guarding the green’s entrance will knock you back into that ravine if you hit short. “You need accuracy control to negotiate this one,” Mullin says.
Kimberton Golf Club No. 14
Kimberton, Pennsylvania | 208 yards
An unusual green here, according to Jim Maack, in that “visually it appears to slope back to front, when in fact it runs front to back.” The left-side bunker pushes up and shapes that side of the green, making for a difficult approach over that bunker when the pin is left. The hole is visible from the entrance to the course, so pay attention as you drive in—you may learn something you can save for when you arrive at the 14th later.
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Downingtown Country Club No. 12
Downingtown, Pennsylvania | 170 yards
Brandywine Country Club golf pro George McNamara says this is his favorite par 3. “I was the golf professional there for 13 years and it used to be the first hole,” he says. “It is a downhill shot over water and plays around 160 yards. There is out of bounds left and long. The wind is always a factor. And it features an undulating green that is guarded by a large bunker.” The green complex also embodies elements of the classic “Redan” in its right to left slope from that large bunker.
Newark Country Club No. 14
Newark, Delaware | 199 yards
A long iron must be hit dead straight between trees that guard both sides of the fairway, according to pro Doug Frazier. “The hole demands accuracy, as the green is small and well-guarded by bunkers. It’s our highest scoring average, over-par hole here.”
Odessa National Golf Club No. 15
Townsend, Delaware | 226 yards
“It’s the intimidation factor of the wetlands area that gives this hole it’s character,” says Dale Loeslein. “It’s all carry over the marsh, which guards the right side of the green as well.” The hole plays downhill to a large green with a bailout area to the left. But watch out: There’s a bunker lurking on the left as well.
Rolling Green Golf Club No. 16
Springfield, Pennsylvania | 233 yards
Penn Oaks pro John Cooper likes the visually attractive bridge that spans the valley between tee and green. “It is a great-looking uphill par 3. The coolest part is walking across that bridge to the green.” The elevated green is a full 10 feet above the tee box, and all the hazards are staring you full in the face. Anything hit right will find either a deep-faced bunker or carom off into the valley.
Bidermann Golf Club No. 16
Wilmington, Delaware | 235 yards
“I’ve played it about 10 times and haven’t made par,” says Rob Mancill of Delaware National Golf Club. “The green is set up at a tough angle and is very long and very difficult. It’s got my number. I’m losing a lot of money on that hole.” Porky Oliver’s Jim Grimes believes Mancill shouldn’t beat himself up too much. “It plays longer than it looks to a narrow green guarded by bunkers on both sides. Par is a good score here.”
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Commonwealth National Golf Club No. 12
Horsham, Pennsylvania | 183 yards
Kurt Zolbe of Deerfield Golf and Tennis Club says No. 12 “is aesthetically pleasing, with a forced carry over water to a peninsula green.” The combination of swirling winds and a deceptive green feature forces you “to hit nothing less then a solid shot,” he says, so it’s a one-shotter that demands accuracy as well as distance control—water is a lateral hazard all down the right side, and it virtually surrounds the green. “Miss the green to the left, and a giant willow tree will reduce your chances of an up and down,” Zolbe says. “Miss it right and you’re in the water.”
Wilmington Country Club South Course No. 17
Wilmington, Delaware | 203 yards
Marc Levine of White Manor Country Club in Malvern played this hole many times when he was an assistant at Wilmington. He describes this “beauty” as a “challenging play over water to a very fast, undulating green. It was always one of my favorites.” With water left and a back bunker, this hole, which is subject to the vagaries of the wind, demands both accuracy and distance control.
Merion Golf Club East Course No. 17
Ardmore, Pennsylvania | 230 yards
Jack Nicklaus once described this course as “the greatest test of golf in the world,” and no fewer than five of our pros named its 17th hole as their favorite. Kennett Square’s Tom Carpus cites its “surrounding trouble.” Waynesborough’s Nick Wolfe says, “You’ve got to hit the green and hope for the best.” Radnor Valley’s George Foster talks about having to play over the quarry to a downhill, well-bunkered green with a false front that repels poor tee shots. Finally, Overbrook Golf Club’s Eric Kennedy says it’s one of the most difficult par 3s in golf. “I’m nervous just thinking about it.”
Rehoboth Beach Country Club No. 19
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware | 147 yards
No, we’re not talking about the bar. The club maintains this par 3 to play when maintenance or renovations are being done to any hole in the standard 18. Baywood Greens’ Anthony Hollerbeck likes this nifty little “service” par 3 for the visual stimulation of being at the water’s edge. “But the wind there can change the hole dramatically, making it as short as 125 yards or as long as 160.”
Bayside Resort Golf Club No. 13
Selbyville, Delaware | 174 yards
Maple Dale Country Club pro Steve Farrell describes this nifty par 3 as “more of a scenic hole, with great bunkering and pin positions.” He adds that the wind—always a factor so close to the ocean, especially on Assawoman Bay—can make this hole easy or difficult. But beauty is what captures Farrell’s imagination. “It’s beautiful. No houses. Just wetlands and nature.”