The 16th at Cypress Point: A par 3 that would make the world's greatest short par 4
But the hysteria over the limitation of distance has created an unhealthy climate of opinion in golf, especially among architects who tend to believe these days that anything under 7,000 yards is a pitch-and-putt course. This obsession with length and power has led to a decline in one of the glories of golf, the short par 4, from 251 to about 360 yards. You still find them in new courses, but they are nondescript holes calling for a routine drive and pitch. The vanishing short par 4 that I have in mind is a rare jewel, the embodiment of the dictum that small is beautiful.
Good architects of the strategic school chortle with malicious glee as they draw their plans. "Every shot must challenge the mind and skill and the nerve of the golfer," the architect reasons. "There must be a straightforward way to play the hole, but I will deny the robot golfer his birdie with this little stratagem. I will entice him to drive over here into this broad expanse of fairway and then cut off his line to the green with an obtruding stand of trees.
"Now, for the man who thinks and can play all the shots, I will disguise his options and even if he detects the optimum placement I will make him play a superb shot to get there. If he falters I will grab him and punish him with this pond or this ravine. He must tread dangerously to follow this way but if he has the guts and the finesse and the power to find the promised land then I will offer him the reward of a likely birdie."
That is the philosophy behind the greatest of the short par 4s. On both shots through the green the player should be assailed by a barrage of emotions-from fear, to greed, to puzzlement-and he should be forced to assess his own capabilities with complete honesty. Power and bravado should never be enough to conquer a great, short par 4. Oddly, Augusta National does not have one. Both the third and seventh, which qualify by length, are difficult without being devious. The same goes for the eighth at Baltusrol and the 10th at Merion. I would qualify them as penal holes.
We are getting closer with the 17th at Pine Valley, a little brute of a hole at 344 yards, where you drive over a daunting desert to a deceptively generous oasis of fairway, tempting you to swing all out. What does it matter if the ball fades or hooks slightly? It matters. There is an area about the size of a tennis court that offers the golfer a chance to play a birdie-winning approach shot with confidence. That is the reward, if he is smart enough to recognize it and good enough to find it.
|Breathtaking aerial view of 16th at Cypress Point|
The only drawback is that in the process you would destroy the most splendid par 3, possibly, there is.