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9 Great Par-3 Golf Courses to Play in the U.S.

Fancy a short round? These destinations run on fun, from the Oregon coast to the Missouri Ozarks and beyond

spinner image aerial view of the hay at pebble beach nine hole short course at pebble beach california
The Hay at Pebble Beach Resorts is a reimagined nine-hole short course in Pebble Beach, California.
Martin Miller

Short golf courses are having a moment, popping up at resorts across the country. Why? Fewer holes and condensed yardages help, but most importantly, fun’s the word at these laid-back layouts that feature nothing but par-3 holes, where one shot to the green and two putts are a player’s expected number of strokes.

Once afterthoughts in the golf world, short courses have become staples at name-brand golf destinations, inviting players of all skill levels to kick back (and, in some places, take their shoes off) and tee it up with just a few clubs and a putter. Short on distance as they may be, these imaginative one-shot tracks, drawn up by the game’s most respected architects, are long on enjoyment.

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From a Tiger Woods must-play in California to the pines of North Carolina, here are nine great public-access short courses worth seeking out in the U.S., where both beginners and single-digit handicappers can savor a quick and casual round with friends and family.

spinner image bandon preserve at bandon dunes golf resort features amazing pacific ocean views
Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort features amazing Pacific Ocean views.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon, Oregon)

Number of holes: 13

What it offers: A pilgrimage to the bluffs of coastal Oregon isn’t an option for disciples of the game, but a bucket list mandate. All five of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s regulation-length courses reside inside the top 20 of Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. Yet its biggest treasure might be its smallest parcel: Bandon Preserve, a 13-hole romp of unbridled golf bliss.

Commencing atop a sand dune before slowly funneling toward the beach, the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw layout oozes Scottish vibes throughout with its native scrub, prevailing winds and pinch-me Pacific Ocean views ornamenting the undulating, windswept surrounds.

The dreamscape is certain to bring out the child in you, especially at the downhill 109-yard final hole, where many players use a putter from the tee.

What you’ll pay: $120 in peak/summer season

Away from the course: Six miles of hiking trails snake through Bandon’s 2,525-acre property, inviting all comers to discover a variety of flora and fauna. For an unexpected treat, take the short Woodland Trail to The Labyrinth, where a soapstone replica of the mazed floor at Chartres Cathedral in France hides in a coastal forest.

spinner image top of the rock at big cedar lodge in ridgedale missouri
Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge was the first par-3 course to be included in a professional golf tournament.
Bill Hornstein / Courtesy of Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge

Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge (Ridgedale, Missouri)

Number of holes: 9

What it offers: The Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri are a natural spectacle to behold. Credit Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the visionary behind the wilderness-forward Big Cedar Lodge, for putting the family-friendly destination on the map and, in recent years, the radar of golf lovers.

When Top of the Rock welcomed the PGA Tour Champions in 2014 for the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, it became the first par-3 course in the sport’s history to be included in a professional golf tournament. Jack Nicklaus helmed the nine-hole blueprint, which snakes through grounds so immaculate it feels like you’re playing in a botanical garden. Flowering dogwoods and rhododendrons, trickling creeks, oversize rock outcroppings, waterfalls and paper-white sand traps sanctify the scene.

At the first hole, you’ll tee off next to the charming Chapel of the Ozarks. At the short second hole, you’ll hit directly into a stunning portrait of Table Rock Lake, fronted by a green 100 feet below. The sixth hole reveals an island green worthy of a magazine cover before the bunker-wrapped ninth delivers a lake-view encore best witnessed at sunset.

What you’ll pay: $135 for resort guests; $150 for the general public in peak season

Away from the course: Hop in an electric golf cart and adventure through Top of the Rock’s Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, a 2.5-mile self-guided tour through a jaw-dropping network of rock and cascading waterfalls.

spinner image the nine hole cradle short course at pinehurst in north carolina
Pinehurst in North Carolina features the nine-hole Cradle Short Course.
Courtesy of Pinehurst

The Cradle Short Course at Pinehurst (Pinehurst, North Carolina)

Number of holes: 9

What it offers: Serious golfers have long flocked to the Pinehurst in the Sandhills of south-central North Carolina for its stiff test of golf. Deemed the home of American golf, where major championships have been hosted since the 1930s, the nine-course golfing Eden is awash with storybook stands of longleaf pines and unspoiled topography that most architects can only dream of.

But it wasn’t until the Cradle opened in 2017 that the highly ranked destination could count a short course on its résumé. Gil Hanse’s inventive nine-hole design has earned a reputation for being what Golf Channel called “the most fun 10 acres in all of golf.” With on-course music, an open-air halfway house and holes ranging from 56 to 127 yards, it’s hard to argue otherwise at this sand-splashed playground.

What you’ll pay: $50 with free replay rounds

Away from the course: Be sure to walk the historic village of Pinehurst, a New England–inspired town where visitors can dine, shop or take it all in from the back of a horse-drawn carriage.

The Sandbox at Sand Valley Golf Resort (Nekoosa, Wisconsin)

Number of holes: 17

What it offers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, golf design’s most-coveted twosome, threw convention out the window when they laid out the Sandbox at Sand Valley Golf Resort, most notably with the arbitrary number of holes at the central Wisconsin short course: 17. The par-3 spread, which sits on the grounds of an ancient glacial lake turned rehabbed sand prairie, rotates its tee boxes daily for yardage variety: Eight of its holes play over 100 yards, with the other nine playing under the century mark.


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The Sandbox’s signature trait is its wild undulating green complexes, which reward the creative player and can befuddle low handicappers with their mounds, shelves and contours. Some putting surfaces pay tribute to design elements from architects of old — C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, for example. The mammoth third green features a double plateau; the ninth hole, a punchbowl green; and the Redan-style 16th green, a dramatic front-to-back slope. Barefoot golf is welcomed at the Sandbox, so kick back, grab an ice-cold drink from one of its beverage-stocked canoes, and enjoy a quick 17-hole stroll.

What you’ll pay: $65 in peak season

Away from the course: Come for the golf, stay for the tennis. Sand Valley’s 13,000-square-foot tennis center features 15 picturesque grass courts that look like Wimbledon in Wisconsin.

spinner image the hay at pebble beach golf course in pebble beach california
Tiger Woods collaborated with Pebble Beach to create The Hay, which is named after local Head Professional Peter Hay.
Martin Miller

The Hay at Pebble Beach Resorts (Pebble Beach, California)

Number of holes: 9

What it offers: Neither Pebble Beach Golf Links nor Tiger Woods needs an introduction: They’re two of the most recognizable names in the sport. Together, in 2021, they collaborated on the Hay, a reimagined nine-hole short course right up the street from the famed course where Woods won by a record 15 strokes at the 2000 U.S. Open.

The Hay is named after longtime local Head Professional Peter Hay, who dreamed up the original short course in 1957 for golfers of all skill levels to enjoy. It’s an easygoing complement to Pebble Beach’s world-class roster of regulation-length courses. With just three holes topping 90 yards, the Hay can be played in less than an hour with nothing more than a sand wedge and a putter.

The Hay’s 106-yard second hole — dubbed Seven — was designed as a replica of Pebble Beach’s seventh, one of the most iconic par-3s in the world. On a clear day on the Monterey Peninsula, brace yourself for beautiful views of Carmel Bay.

What you’ll pay: $65 on weekdays; $75 on weekends

Away from the course: There’s no shortage of scenery inside the gates of 17-Mile Drive, one of the most beautiful roads on Earth. From the Del Monte Forest to the Pacific Ocean, must-see pit stops include the beach at Spanish Bay, Crocker Grove and the Lone Cypress.

spinner image threetops at treetops resort in gaylord michigan
Threetops at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan, was made famous by the ESPN Par-3 Shootout.
Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo

Threetops at Treetops Resort (Gaylord, Michigan)

Number of holes: 9

What it offers: The tiny town of Gaylord (population: 4,314), less than 90 minutes by car from Traverse City, Michigan, has bloomed into a cool-weathered mecca for summertime golf. When it comes to par-3 tracks, Threetops, which dates to 1992, is an elder statesman. It was made famous by the annual ESPN Par-3 Shootout it hosted eight times. The made-for-TV skins game event lured the likes of Lee Treviño, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples to the Wolverine State from 1999 to 2006. Seven of the course’s nine holes are downhill doozies, and none more so than the 219-yard third hole, which nosedives 145 feet from tee to green. Nicknamed Devil’s Drop, it’s the toughest hole on the course, where both elevation and wind can sway your club selection by four clubs. In 2001, Treviño won $1,090,000 for sinking a hole-in-one at the seventh hole, the aptly named High Five, which drops 90 feet to the green.

This Rick Smith design in the pine-wooded hillside of northern Michigan is not to be missed.

What you’ll pay: $49

Away from the course: Witness one of the largest free-range elk herds east of the Mississippi River at the more-than-100,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, a short drive from downtown Gaylord.

spinner image mountain top at big cedar lodge in hollister missouri
Mountain Top at Big Cedar Lodge is the second Big Cedar Lodge short course.
Edward C. Robison III / Courtesy of Mountain Top at Big Cedar Lodge

Mountain Top at Big Cedar Lodge (Hollister, Missouri)

Number of holes: 13

What it offers: That’s right, not one but two Show Me State one-shotters that rank among the country’s finest. Fifteen minutes from Top of the Rock, on the other side of Highway 65, Big Cedar Lodge debuted its sophomore short course, Mountain Top, in 2017. Mountain Top quickly landed on every must-play par-3 course list.

The 13-hole walking-only layout wears its name well. Shaped by nine-time major champion Gary Player along the edge of a cliff atop Big Cedar’s highest point, Mountain Top feels like a manicured Alpine trek that happens to have some spectacular golf holes. Rolling 360-degree views stretch as far as the eye can see, as players wind their way through 300-million-year-old limestone crags unearthed during course construction.

From the back tees, the legendary South African’s one-of-a-kind routing tips out at nearly 2,000 yards, so you’ll have some mid-iron shots mixed in as you roam through Mountain Top’s captivating geology.

What you’ll pay: $80 for resort guests; $95 for the general public in peak season

Away from the course: South of Table Rock Lake, in nearby Lampe, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park offers a 10,000-acre playground for outdoor enthusiasts, where visitors can hike, bike, fly-fish for trout and see bison and elk. 

spinner image the baths of blackwolf run golf course in kohler wisconsin
The Baths of Blackwolf Run is peppered with moguls, pot bunkers and water hazards.
Kohler Co.

The Baths of Blackwolf Run (Kohler, Wisconsin)

Number of holes: 10

What it offers: The firm-and-fast short course joined the Destination Kohler rotation in 2021, a few months before the 43rd Ryder Cup was hosted at The Straits course at Whistling Straits, its highly ranked sister property up the road. When the ribbon was cut on this shiny 10-hole stunner, the brainchild of Chris Lutzke and the late Herb Kohler Jr., one of America’s top golf resorts rose to even loftier status.

The 27-acre tract is peppered with moguls, pot bunkers and multiple water hazards (The Baths), though, thankfully, there aren’t any forced carries. Greenside, bring an imaginative short game. Putting surfaces are heavily sloped but a joy to play.

Pro tip: The Baths is every bit as fun from the forward tees (771 yards), which means your favorite wedge and flat stick are all you need to take with you.

What you’ll pay: $80 in peak season

Away from the course: For an inside look at the business that funded Destination Kohler, book a guided tour of the Kohler factory, where the plumbing giant’s cast-iron tubs and lavatories are manufactured.

spinner image the grand national short course in opelika alabama
More than half of the holes at Grand National Short Course skirt Lake Saugahatchee.
Alpha Stock / Alamy Stock Photo

Grand National Short Course (Opelika, Alabama)

Number of holes: 18

What it offers: The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail offers 468 golf holes on 26 courses across 11 sites in Alabama, making it one of the most extensive public golf developments in the nation. Near Auburn, in the east-central part of the state, the World Golf Hall of Fame architect created a short course unlike any other on this list.

Over 3,126 yards, Grand National showcases 18 full-length par 3s plucked straight out of a championship layout. The holes play like a “big” course’s par 3s would, mixing and matching demanding tee shots with tucked pins and water aplenty (more than half of its holes skirt 600-acre Lake Saugahatchee). From the back tees, nearly two-thirds of your shots scale 170 yards, providing the ideal mid-iron practice.

What you’ll pay: $50

Away from the course: College football is a religion in Alabama. If you time your trip with a fall-colored Saturday afternoon, you can catch the Auburn Tigers on the gridiron at Jordan-Hare Stadium, one of the largest football venues in the country.

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