The long Par 3 (for this list over 200 yards) is something that strikes fear into most golfers. The feeling of walking up to a short hole tee, peering towards the green and wondering quietly, is this really a Par 3? is not easily forgotten. On the flip side, however, there is something really quite satisfying about striking a long iron, hybrid or even Driver to the heart of a putting surface.
From an architectural point of view, long ‘short’ holes do impose a type of straight-jacket on the design options. If the green is made too small or sloping, or the surrounding hazards too penal, then the hole is no fun (or practically impossible) for most golfers.
The design features that I would look for on these holes are a visually stunning setting, a large putting surface and either an opening at the front of the green to allow the ball to be run in, or at least a bail out area on one side to allow the strategic lay-up shot. I also enjoy these holes when the ground contours offer a chance for a shot to be gathered towards the hole, with the PunchBowl design a favourite.
Perhaps the most famous long Par 3 in world golf is the 16th at Cypress Point, which is certainly stunning but does also offer a large green and a bail-out option to the left.
Whilst my home county of Norfolk in England does not have anything to quite match this magnificent example, there are some fine holes from which to choose. Lets look at my top 5:
5. Swaffham Golf Club – 6th Hole – 204 yards
From the tee, the 6th at Swaffham offers a limited view of the green, which is very long but quite narrow. The contours at the front and to the right side offer a chance to feed the ball towards the hole, but anything to the left will be swallowed into the sand.
With a 40 yard long and contoured green, club selection from the tee is vital or else your distance control with the putter will be severely tested.
Getting the design balance just right for the length of the hole and the club that will be used is the key to a great long Par 3 and this is an example where that is achieved to near perfection.
4. Sheringham Golf Club – 6th hole – 210 yards
With an elevated tee offering views along the North Norfolk coast and the cliffs and North Sea hard to your right, this is perhaps the nearest that Norfolk gets to the majesty of Cypress.
The design of the hole itself is minimalistic, with just a pair of bunkers guarding the front left and right of the green, and plenty of room to run a low shot in at the front. A bank to the left of the putting surface also gives the opportunity to feed the ball in from this side in a semi-punchbowl effect.
With the exposed location, it is often the ability to read the wind that is the key to success here. Depending upon conditions, this can require anything from a mid-iron to a Driver and when the breeze is off the sea, the brave golfer will aim over the cliff to allow the wind to return the ball towards the target.
3. Feltwell Golf Club – 16th Hole – 221 yards
The 16th at Feltwell Golf Club in West Norfolk is made all the more interesting by the fact that you have played it as a 170 yard hole as the 7th on the front side of this 9-hole course. It is difficult enough at this range, but from the back tee it really shows its teeth.
Playing slightly uphill and bordered on both sides by amphitheater style banking of long grass, there is nevertheless a pleasing aesthetic to the hole with plenty of fairway to run the ball into the narrow green.
The green complex is fantastic. A gentle ridge runs through the green from front left to midway along the right side offering plenty of different hole locations and some tricky putting angles. A deep bunker at front right is a popular resting place but if anything this is a more preferable spot than the diabolically thin trap that runs along the left side of the surface and almost inevitably leads to a ball near the front or back lip of the bunker. At the back left of the green is a huge bomb crater of a depression which is an apt name if your ball ends up there.
2. Thetford Golf Club – 11th hole – 206 yards
Enclosed in a little world of it’s own by some magnificent heathland, pine trees and gorse, the 11th at Thetford offers a beautiful vista from the tee.
Once again, the key aspect to the playability of this hole is the size of the green and the opening at the front to allow the ball to be run onto the putting surface. In contrast to our previous entries, however, it is the width rather than the length of the green that offers the greatest generosity.
There is slightly more room to the left and right of the green than may appear from the tee, and depending on the hole location there will be an opportunity to make an up and down par from most positions.
1. Kings Lynn Golf Club – 12th hole – 210 yards
It is the magnificent 12th at Kings Lynn that takes the title of Best long Par 3 in Norfolk.
The wonderful setting is more claustrophobic than the previous holes on the list, with the pines, heath and ditches providing a stunning but visually intimidating presence.
The ground game is once more possible here, although the entrance to the green is quite narrow. Any tee shot leaking to the right will leave an almost impossible up and down and may in fact end up at the bottom of a ditch. Whilst it is often possible to play your ball from this hazard, it is no easy task.
Despite being on the small side for a hole of this length, the green itself is relatively flat and so offers the chance to make a putt.
And so five great holes, although perhaps you would not wish for them all to be on the same course if you wanted to maintain your handicap.