The 10 best par 3s on the Monterey Peninsula, as ranked by Jim Nantz
Inside the Del Monte Forest you will find seven splendid golf courses, each of them special and several ranking among the best layouts in the world. Particularly outstanding—and often overlooked—is the sum quality of the par 3s on these courses. As a resident of Pebble Beach and frequent visitor to all the courses here, I’ve argued that a traveling golfer could spend a week playing only the par 3s and leave for home not only satisfied but reeling, the senses overwhelmed as though they’d fulfilled some long-cherished bucket list.
The seven courses are Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills and two courses at Monterey Peninsula. Together they embrace 29 short holes, all within three miles of one another. Nowhere on the planet will you find as dense a collection of legendary one-shotters. The elements that make a group of par-3 holes memorable— challenge, setting, variety and historical significance—all are embodied here.
The group is about to get even better. In December 2019, the Pebble Beach Company, home to the PURE Insurance Championship that benefits The First Tee, announced yet another commitment to grow the game and make it more accessible to all golfers. The par-3 layout known since 1957 as Peter Hay Golf Course will be rebuilt in 2020 under the direction of designer Tiger Woods. By year’s end it will provide the area with a transformative short course inviting to everyone—juniors, beginners, neighborhood residents, time-crunched families, budget-minded golfers and even guests at Pebble looking to add a quick nine before dinner. Just as Pinehurst’s The Cradle Short Course enriched the sandhills of North Carolina with a new and idyllic version of the game, so will the short course at Pebble add dimensions here.
Tiger’s den is well-suited for the initiative. The late Peter Hay was Pebble’s head pro during the 1940s and ’50s and was a big promoter of junior golf. With the support of Pebble’s founder, Samuel F.B. Morse, Hay built the par-3 course to give adults a place to play a warm-up round before tackling Pebble, and kids a place to tee it up anytime. For years the course thrived, but in recent times it was perhaps being underutilized. In recent years it was even being used as a staging area during the big events at Pebble. It seemed to be begging for a more dignified purpose and project like this to come along. With Tiger’s keen eye for detail, you know it’s going to be special.
To say the locals are excited is an understatement. The new course promises to add a populist dimension to the world-class resorts here. Just as The First Tee serves as a charitable outreach to kids and helps assure happy futures, so will the course serve to develop the game going forward. It’s all being done on eight sloping acres with gorgeous views of Carmel Bay, within steps of The Lodge and the Pebble Beach Practice Facility. With Tiger at the helm, I have a hunch one or two holes at Pebble’s short course might find their way onto my ranking of the best par 3s in the Del Monte Forest. Right now that countdown looks like this:
10: SPANISH BAY, No. 8 An all-carry tee shot over marshland with the symphony of the ocean surf just steps away.
9: MONTEREY PENINSULA (DUNES), No. 10 Breathtaking views. Are we in Ireland or California?
8: SPYGLASS HILL, No. 3 When the winds are up, one of the most daunting short-iron shots in golf.
7: CYPRESS POINT, No. 7 The bowl-shape green built out of the dunes signals the start of Cypress’ Amen Corner.
6: MONTEREY PENINSULA (SHORE), No. 11 The elevated tee shot from a rock outcropping delivers expansive views of four of America’s 100 Greatest Courses, as ranked by Golf Digest.
5: PEBBLE BEACH, No. 17 Is there a par 3 in the world with more history? Nicklaus’ 1-iron. Watson’s chip-in. Woodland’s brilliant up-and-down.
4: MONTEREY PENINSULA (DUNES), No. 14 Some say this coastal hole belongs closer to the top.
3: CYPRESS POINT, No. 15 The opener to the greatest back-to-back par 3s in golf.
David Cannon/Getty Images
2: PEBBLE BEACH, No. 7 It measures 106 yards from the tips, and with all due respect to Troon’s Postage Stamp eighth hole, this is the greatest short 3 ever created.
1: CYPRESS POINT, No. 16 Carry distance to the center of the green is 238 yards over indescribable cliffs. The greatest hole in the world, irrespective of par.
Many will quibble with these rankings, but when Tiger’s masterpiece comes to fruition, nine more holes will merit serious consideration. Not just for the architecture, but for their impact on the game.