Rich Unger has been the director of golf at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club in Pasco County for 10 years. It has a regulation 18-hole track, and it also has a nine-hole, par-3 course.
Through the years, Unger has seen play pick up more and more on the par 3, commonly known as an executive course. According to the National Golf Course Owners Association, an executive course is defined as having a variety of par 3s, 4s and 5s, usually is 5,200 yards or less and has a par of 65 or less.
"It's getting busier and busier,'' Unger said. "We're getting more of the older players and the beginners playing our course. I think that's because it takes less time to play and it certainly costs less.
"It can't hurt anyone who plays it. It can only make you better.''
Cypress Links Golf Course in St. Petersburg is set up much the same way as Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club. The nine-hole par 3 is adjacent to Mangrove Bay, an 18-hole regulation course. Jeff Hollis, director of golf courses for St. Petersburg, said Cypress Links has 37,000-39,000 rounds played per year.
"It's great for beginners, but it's also great for the golfer that doesn't have much time,'' Hollis said. "You can play a round in about an hour and 15 minutes. It allows you to work on your short game. And I would also say that a course like this is easier to walk and you can get some exercise while you're playing.''
Sure, executive courses aren't as challenging as the bigger courses. But they do serve a purpose. The cost to play most executive courses is $20 or less. The time to play is cut nearly in half.
Advanced golfers can work on irons and putting while beginners and older players can work on their whole game.
"It's good for junior golfers and new golfers,'' Hollis said. "It's not as intimidating. You can work on your game there and then maybe move up to the big course.''
There is another benefit to having an executive course.
"It doesn't cost as much to maintain,'' Unger said. "You can maintain all nine holes in the cost that it takes to maintain two holes on the big course. From an ownership standpoint, that's important.''
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8810
Work on the irons
Courses with only par 3s
• Twin Brooks, St. Petersburg, 18 holes, par 54.
• St. Andrews Links, Dunedin, 18 holes, par 54.
• Treasure Bay Island Course, Treasure Island, nine holes, par 27.
• Cypress Links, St. Petersburg, nine holes, par 27.
• Magnolia Valley Golf Club, New Port Richey, nine holes, par 27.
• Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, San Antonio, nine holes, par 27.
Take all the clubs
Courses with more than par 3s
• Heather Golf and Country Club, Weeki Wachee, nine holes, par 33 (six par 4s).
• Quarry Golf Course, Brooksville, nine holes, par 29 (two par 4s).
• World Woods short course, Brooksville, nine holes, par 29 (two par 4s).
• Countryway, Tampa, 18 holes, par 61 (seven par 4s).
• Persimmon Hill, Tampa, nine holes, par 29 (two par 4s).
• Terrace Hill Golf Club, Temple Terrace, nine holes, par 30 (three par 4s).
• Gulf Harbor, New Port Richey, 18 holes, par 60 (six par 4s).
• River Ridge, New Port Richey, 18 holes, par 68 (six par 4s, four par 5s).
• Sea Pines, Hudson, 18 holes, par 59 (five par 4s).
• Summertree Golf Club, New Port Richey, nine holes, par 34 (five par 4s, one par 5).
• Forest Hills, Holiday, nine holes, par 35 (six par 4s, one par 5).
• Baypoint Golf Club, Seminole, 18 holes, par 61 (seven par 4s).
• Clearwater Executive, 18 holes, par 63 (nine par 4s).
• Largo Municipal, 18 holes, par 62 (eight par 4s).
• Mainlands, Pinellas Park, 18 holes, par 65 (nine par 4s, two par 5s).
• Pinecrest Golf Club, Largo, 18 holes, par 55 (one par 4).
• Palm Hill Golf and Country Club, Largo, nine holes, par 30 (three par 4s).