You only get three shots to get the golf ball into the cup, can you do it? Par 3’s can be tricky and are the hardest holes to score low on. Because there is very little room for error, your primary goal should be to try and get as close to the green as possible.
Here are my quick tips to conquer Par 3’s!
What is a Par 3
A par three is a hole that the USGA assumes you can make the golf ball in the cup in three strokes. They are the shortest holes on the golf course and range between 50-300 yards long. (#8 at Oakmont Golf Club is 288 yards!) Most standard courses have two par 3’s per 9 holes (four for 18 holes). There are also Par 3 courses where every hole is a par 3, which are great for training and improving your short game
Look at the Scorecard
Alright, so the first step to conquering par 3’s is to look at the hole on the scorecard. (If you want to know how to read a scorecard, I have a whole post here you can check out)
This may seem obvious, but some golfers do forget to look at the yardage before they tee off on par 3’s. The easiest way to check the yardage is to look at the yardage distance on the scorecard from the tee box that you are playing from.
Use this information to determine which golf club you need to you hit (more on this later)
Locate the Pin Position
Our next goal is to find out where the hole is located on the green (front, middle or back)
Golf courses use a few different methods to let you know where the pin position is located:
- Flag colors: Some courses use flag colors like red, blue and white to show you where the hole is located on the green. Each course is different so make sure to check either the scorecard or cart tags to see what the color of the flag means.
- Secondary Flags: Some courses use secondary, placement flags that are located towards the middle of the flagstick. A lower flag means that the cup is towards the front of the green. A middle flag indicates it’s more towards the center. And a small flag high on the stick shows that the cup is in the back of the green.
- Pin Placement Numbers: This is another standard method that courses use to let you know the location of the pin. Here’s how it works: The greenskeeper will tell the pro shop each morning, a number that corresponds to the hole locations for each hole that day. Before your round, you will be given a map of each green that has a multitude of numbers on it. (Sometimes located on the golf cart) Either the pro shop staff or hole starter will tell you which number is being used that day so you will be able to know where each pin is located.
It is also getting more popular to use rangefinders to find the “exact” distance to the flagstick. You can read about my rangefinder here!
Tee Box Strategy
Too often do I see beginners throw down a tee and hit without looking at the ground slope. When you are on the tee box, make sure that you tee the ball up on a FLAT surface. Your tee should also be straight up and down and not lean towards any side. This helps make the low point of your swing right over the golf ball, improving your contact consistency.
Locate the Danger
Be sure to locate all of the hazards “before” you hit your shot.
Observe to see if there are:
- Out of bounds
This will help you better determine which club to use and which side of the tee box you should tee up on.If there are hazards and danger to the left, tee up on the left of the tee box and aim more right. If there are hazards and risk on the right, tee up on the right side of the tee box and aim left. (if you are right-handed)
Aim for the back of the green, so you know you have enough club to reach the green. I see a lot of beginners muscle a club up to the green, hoping for that perfect shot. By using a lower lofted club will guarantee that you have enough distance thus improving your confidence and your chances of getting close to the green. (Remember, that’s our goal!)
Take Note of the Wind
Pick up a few blades of grass and drop them to see which way the wind is blowing. You’d be surprised how much the wind can affect the flight of your golf ball. You need to club up when there is a headwind and club down if there is a tailwind. Take a look at my article here to know exactly how to play in the wind!
Visualize your Shot
Mentally prepare yourself for your shot, before making contact. One of the best ways to improve your ball striking and consistency is to see you’re desired shot before you swing. It’s like a “test drive” for your brain which helps your muscles respond better during the actual swing. To visualize your shot effectively, it is crucial to develop a pre-shot routine that you use for every swing. This helps quiet your mind and focus in on the shot at hand.
Hold your Finish
After you make contact with the ball, make sure that you keep rotating your hips through the ball and complete your swing. There is a lot of energy and momentum that is generated from the golf swing that all needs transfer THROUGH the golf ball. Next, I want you to hold this finish for three seconds, feeling all of your weight past the golf ball. What this does is train your body to have proper weight transfer during your swing, improving your distance and consistency.
Minimize the Damage
Alright, so now you know the tee box strategy for teeing off on Par 3’s. But what if you miss the green?
Remember, our goal is to get as close to the green as possible so that we can “chip on” if we miss. The key here is to tell yourself that you HAVE to get the ball on the green to give yourself the best chance for a lower score. I see too often when golfers try to be too cute with their chip shots and end up either chunking or blading their shots over the green, only to have to chip again!
- If you are in the rough, just off the green, use a sand wedge or a pitching wedge to pop the ball up onto the green. To do this, open up your stance and clubface and let the club “slide” underneath the ball. (Use your shoulders to make the swing)
- If you are on the fringe or fairway, use either a 9 iron or 8 iron to hit a “bump and run” shot onto the green. To do this, treat your chip like a big putt. Stand tall over the ball and keep your weight on your front side. (Use your shoulders not your wrists!)
What we are doing with these shots is minimizing the damage and giving ourselves “at least” a putt to save our par by getting the ball on the green.
Putt with Speed
Now that we are on the green, we can not afford to three putt!
If you have read my article on how to putt like a pro, you know that putting with speed is more important than learning the break! Here are some more tips to help you avoid the three-putt:
- Imagine a prominent hula- hoop sized circle around the hole and try and get the ball in that circle so you can tap in the ball if you miss.
- Use your upper body to make your putting stroke, not your wrists or lower body
- Try changing your putting grip styles to feel more confident
The purpose of this article is to help decrease the amount of error that occur during par 3’s. Making sure that you are getting “as close to the green as possible” you will start to see your scores begin to drop.
- Look at the scorecard for the yardage of the hole
- Locate the pin position, so you know where the hole is located
- Make sure that your golf tee is straight up and down on flat ground
- Locate the danger on the hole
- Club up so you “know” you have enough club
- Take note of the wind
- Visualize your shot and go into your pre-shot routine
- Hold your finish for 3 seconds to make sure your weight is past the golf ball.
- If you miss the green, make sure that your next shot makes the green
- Putt with speed to avoid the three putt