What makes a good par 3? Any course designer can stick a hole in the ground 120 yards from the tee box, dig a few bunkers around a small green and call it a hole. But what about the ones that have some imagination? The kind of holes that make you wonder if you have enough golf balls … or nerves? Now that's a good par 3. They are the kind of holes you remember after the round. TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra is a world-renowned course, but the main reason people want to play it, or watch the Players Championship every year, is because of the island green on the par-3 17th hole. So what par-3 holes in the bay area usually have people talking? We know it's impossible to get everybody's favorite onto our list, but here is what we think is a pretty good start. And this list (in no particular order) goes to 11, because as every rock musician knows, if it's good, it has to go to 11.
Hole: No. 5 at Avila Golf and Country Club (Tampa)
Distance: 123 yards.
Description: Try to ignore the lake that runs right up to the green. And forget about the rock wall that will ricochet short shots in any direction. Oh, and the sand and trees that surround the green? Try to block that out, too. When you do get on the green, expect a slick, sloping putt. Otherwise, this short hole is no problem.
Hole: No. 17 at Brooksville Country Club
Distance: 127 yards
Description: The tee shot is from atop a rock quarry, and the small green is in the basin of the quarry. It is guarded in front by a lake, and behind the green are the sheer walls of the limestone quarry. It is a short hole, made even shorter by the downhill shot. Doesn't take much club to get there, but it does take some nerves.
Hole: No. 16 at the Bayou Club (Largo)
Distance: 200 yards
Description: It's late in the round, and now you have to deal with this tough hole. There are two choices: You can hit from the bridge-side tees and have a bailout area to the green, or you can pick the island-side tees and carry your shot over water and marsh. The island side is more of a blind shot. Either way, it's a long iron shot that requires accuracy.
Hole: No. 8 at the Dunes Golf Club (Weeki Wachee)
Distance: 183 yards
Description: A unique hole because of the elevation. It also has a sand waste area framing the left side and back of the green. It is intimidating because it is hard to see the green on top of the hill, and only the hazards are highlighted. Make sure to use at least one extra club because of the steep elevation. And once you reach the green, it is sloping and undulating, which makes for some tricky putts.
Hole: No. 14 at Heritage Harbor (Lutz)
Distance: 263 from gold tees, 131 from blues
Description: If you play this hole from the back tees, it is a monster. There is a carry over marsh as well as a blind carry over water. Probably the only par 3 in the area that requires a driver or, perhaps, a layup shot. Much more manageable from the blue and white tees, but there is still a carry over water. "It's kind of a pray and hope situation,'' pro shop manager John Panno said.
Hole: No 17 at TPC Tampa Bay (Lutz)
Distance: 170 yards
Description: A killer hole where par is a great score, even for the seniors who play it during the Outback Steakhouse Pro Am. There is water skirting the right side with sand protecting the green. What makes this hole difficult is the length. It takes a long iron to get there with plenty of hazards in the way.
Hole: No. 15 at Summerfield Crossings (Riverview)
Distance: 158 yards
Description: This hole features an island green, which is hard enough. But what makes it even more difficult is the yardage. It takes more than a wedge to hit the green, so you better be accurate with your mid irons. There are also bunkers around the green, and the green itself is undulating. Good luck.
Hole: No. 17 at Cypress Run (Tarpon Springs)
Distance: 205 yards
Description: This hole plays longer from the gold tees, but even from the blues it is lengthy. It has a big bunker to the right of the green and a cypress swamp to the left. There is also a narrow green, which is slick and undulating. As many readers have pointed out, par is a possibility, but so is a triple bogey.
Hole: No. 17 at the Golf Club at Cypress Creek (Ruskin)
Distance: 245 from black tees, 201 from whites
Description: Ridiculously long no matter what tees you are playing. It is 245 yards from the tips and 201 yards from the white tees. The 17th has a carry over water, and the longer the tees, the longer the carry. There are also two well-placed sand traps in front of the right and left sides, so a full carry is a must.
Hole: No. 3 at Westchase Golf Club (Tampa)
Distance: 185 yards
Description: The view is intimidating. There is marsh to the left, which shouldn't come into play but is there to taunt you. Then there is a full carry over water with sand in front and in back. Because of the yardage, it is going to take a long iron to get over the hazards.
Hole: No. 12 at Plantation Palms (Land O' Lakes)
Distance: 175 yards
Description: Talk about hit it and hope; this hole offers almost no view of the green because there is a huge waste area between the tee box and the landing surface. Then, just to make things tougher, the hole is elevated and the green is undulating. It's kind of like trying to get the ball to stop on an upside-down bowl.
For information about all public golf courses in the area, check out tampabay.com/golf.