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Par-3, Par-4 or Par-5 holes: Which is best?

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If you asked a dozen golfers which type of hole they prefer — a par-3, a par-4 or a par-5 — I’d be surprised if any said they liked the par-4 best.

At least none did when I asked that question last week around some local courses.

The par-3 got some votes for its one crack at glory ethos; its closest to the pin competitions and the only semi-legitimate hope most golfers have for a hole-in-one.

Overwhelmingly though, in my admittedly small sample, the majority prefer a par-5.

[quote_box_center]“Especially if it bends a little left and maybe has an elevated tee,” G told me at Vellano Country Club. And it was instantly obvious. “If I catch my drive I can go after the green on my second shot.” Even if the 23-year old with a powerful, though ungainly swing mishits it a little, he’ll still have an attacking short wedge for his third. “Par should be the worst score I make then,” he said.[/quote_box_center]

“I like short par-3s,” Josh said. He’s probably in his early 30s in age and mid-teens in handicap and he was getting ready to play at Woodhaven. “But even when the par-3s are longer, over 165 say, I can still have a couple of ‘short par-3s’ if I hit two good shots on the par-5s.”

And he lost me there for a second, then I realized he meant he was playing the par-5s to make them into par-3s.

It’s true. A 520-yard par-5 sounds long and possibly intimidating to many golfers, but if you can hit two shots a total of 400 yards, your third shot on that par-5 will only be 120. And that’s shorter than three-quarters of the par-3s that most of us play.

The par-3 did get some outright love from the golfers I asked.

[quote_box_center]“Everybody in the foursome has the exact same shot, so it’s a chance to beat the other guys,” an older man, Richard, told me at Mesquite, a public course in Palm Springs. “Guys remember who hits it close on the 3-pars.”[/quote_box_center]

And I thought calling them 3-pars was something they only did on TV. Then I wondered away, wondering why no one ever mentions 5-pars during the telecasts.

[quote_box_center]“I like a golf course that opens with a par-5,” Luke told me at Shandin Hills, a course where the first hole is a 490-yard par-5 from the blue tees. “You can get a lot of roll here and have a shot at it, but with those traps in front of the green [on both sides] today I’ll probably lay-up unless I crush it.”[/quote_box_center]

On the PGA Tour, par-5s are the scoring holes, whether players are laying-up to their favorite distance or if they’re two-putting for birdie. Bubba Watson currently leads the Tour in percentage of birdies or better on par-5s, making a score of either 3 or 4 over 60 percent of the time.

On the par-3s, the leading pros are barely above 20 percent, though surprisingly to me, that’s slightly below the birdie or better percentage leader for par-4s. Then again, it’s Jordan Spieth leading that category, so maybe there’s no reason to be surprised.

[quote_box_center]“Par-4s don’t always give you a chance to recover from a bad shot,” Freddy told me at PGA West. And with that mindset, I told him I hoped he wasn’t playing the Stadium Course today.[/quote_box_center]

“With a par-5,” he said, “you can usually still recover from a not-so-great drive. Or if you hit a good drive but not a good second, you’ll still have a chance to get on the green in regulation,” he reasoned.

“But don’t most par-5s have more trouble than other holes?” I asked. “The greens are usually smaller on par-5s and there’s generally trouble around them.”

“There’s usually trouble on all the holes,” Freddy said, and I could see he was familiar with Pete Dye’s Stadium Course.

A woman named Jenny who was making the turn at Escena told me, “The par-4s and par-5s are usually too long for most women, so I prefer a par-3. I’ve made a hole-in-one before, in fact I have two of them, but I’ve never eagled a par-4 or a par-5.”

And with that she got in her cart to go try her luck at No. 10, a 260-yard par-4 from the forward tees.

The last golfer I asked was Damien, a deeply-tanned desert player wearing all white. “I’m pretty long off the tee,” he said, not bragging I knew since I’d seen him pound a few drives already. “I’ll usually have at least a short iron in on any par-4 or par-5. But sometimes, when par-3s are over 200-yards, then I’ll have to hit a 4-iron or hybrid.”

And thinking about hitting my driver from that distance on a par-3, I was sure Damien could feel my sympathy.

[quote_box_center]“I have a better chance on the par-4s and 5s,” he said. “But any hole, par-3, par-4 or par-5, if you hit a couple of good shots, or even a good chip, you should have at least a putt for par.” [/quote_box_center]

What’s your favorite par hole?

Let us know in the comments section below, and read the first three chapters of Tom Hill’s humorous golf book, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth: 18 Holes of Golf in Pursuit of the Round of a Lifetime, for free at 7-ironpress.com. Get free shipping on the paperback or $4 off on the e-book when you enter the code GOLFWRX1 at check-out.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Dave N

    May 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Absolutely a short (drive able) par 4. So much variety based on where they put the tees, what the weather is doing, etc. especially like one that requires skill to hit the green… No straight aways, plenty of risk to go for it. Options to lay back with an iron but still a challenging approach. Hole 12 at Chambers Bay is an example. Used to play a course with a hole that was 275-290 with a sharp dog leg right, over trees, three bunkers short and right, two bunkers left, tri-level green with a hill in the back. So you could go for it, but usually ended up with a sand shot or a downhill pitch onto a downhill green. Laying up off the tee still required long iron or hybrid to get around the corner– 220-250 and still required a good pitch because the green was tricky. So much fun to play.

  2. TheCityGame

    May 6, 2015 at 8:58 am

    First thought i had was par 4’s. Par 4’s are the thinkers. The risk-reward decisions on par 5’s are always obvious : Hit driver, then go for it or lay up.

    Par 4’s challenge you with club choice, ball flight, taking on a trap, finding the best angle.

    One course I play, the 5’s are long and straight with occasional bunkering. The 4’s challenge you to hit draw, draw, draw, then 2 in a row that demand a fade. Then, a draw where you can reach if you carry some trees followed by a 420 uphill par 4. On the back, the 4’s require a draw, a fade, a fade, a draw, a fade and then a draw.

    On my home course, my club selection on the par 4’s from the whites is typically driver, hybrid, 4W, driver, 4W, 4 iron, 4 iron, hybrid, 4W, driver, 6 iron. On the par 5’s, every one of them is driver-4W, unless you catch a good drive on one and then it’s driver driver-whatever. There’s no logic in laying up on that hole.

    Most par 3’s are just a matter of club selection and good contact. They might have options to be beautiful, but strategically, the only question is really “how aggressive do I want to be?”

    Par 4’s are the spice of a golf course.

  3. other paul

    May 5, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    All holes are par 3s… Sort of…

  4. CRiley

    May 5, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Definitely a 270-310 yrd par-4. I love the variety and challenge. You can lay up with an iron if you hit it long, or for sorter hitters hit driver or 3-wood of the tee. Either of these leaves you a short iron in and a chance at Birdie. If you can hit it 240+ you can bomb and leave yourself a pitch or try and drive the green. Either way this risk can lead to a tricky short side or easy pitch. I just love the creativity and options. A short hitting kid with a good wedge can beat a Big hitter straight up. That is one of the things I love about golf.

  5. acemandrake

    May 5, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Any hole where the approach shot is a 7-iron or less.

  6. Mke

    May 5, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    A par 5 you can reach in 2.

  7. Craigar

    May 5, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    The one thing I have noticed in my area are the some of the disadvantages for the people playing from the forward tees. Most of the par 4’s & 5’s with elevated tee boxes have some sort of forced carry. As you move forward and by the time you get to the forward tee box, not only can you not see the flag most of the time, there are a few holes you can’t even see the 150 yard marker due to the hill you have to hit over. I am not sure how you can reverse the tee boxes to where the forward tee boxes are at the highest point and the tips are at the lowest to challenge the better players. The problem I have witnessed is that the majority of the players from the forward tees have the length to get to the 150 yd marker on a par 4, but don’t have the height to make it over the hill. Theoretically these become a par 5 for most of those players. My wife doesn’t complain because that is just the way has been for decades, but I have seen younger women starting out get frustrated and quit after a couple of years. Unfortunately I don’t know if there is a cost effective way to rectify the situation.

  8. MHendon

    May 5, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Well if you putt a gun to my head and made me pick one over the other I guess it would be a par 5 for the chance at eagle. However I like them all, a par 3 gives you a chance at one swing glory for a hole in one, long par 4’s give me the opportunity to stripe a long iron onto the green, and short par 4’s give you a chance to drive the green. Any one of the above scenarios will have you sticking your chest out a little more than usual. The one hole I don’t like is the supper long par 5 that even with your best drive you still have to lay up.

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