Golfweek's Best 2023: Top 40 par-3, short and non-traditional courses in the U.S.

Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

What makes a great short course? We posed that question to our huge network of course raters to establish the first Golfweek’s Best ranking of non-traditional courses in the United States. 

We included par-3 courses as well as short courses that might have a few par 4s and even par 5s. Some are crazy, over-the-top fun meant to be played barefoot with a cold drink in hand. Others are more traditional in their design. They might be at an elite private club, or they might be a muni down the street. There might be 18 holes, or there might be only six — who cares when you’re having a blast?

Basically, they all fit the bill of not being a traditional-length, traditional-par course. And just like the best short courses, we threw out some of the rules used for rating traditional courses and asked the raters to submit one overall score for each course based on how much they enjoyed the design and the environment. Those individual ratings were then combined to form one average rating, which is listed for each course. Each course had to receive a minimum number of 10 votes, and there are several other great short courses that likely will make this list when they receive enough votes. We received nearly a thousand ballots in all for this inaugural list.

Pinehurst Cradle

The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina (Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort)

And as for how we decided which courses fit the bill: All of these would be shorter than 2,700 yards if they were nine holes, compared to a traditional course typically being made up of nines measuring 3,100 to 3,800 yards. Short courses, particularly the public-access variety, are the most welcoming of all golf — everyone can take their shot. 

And there’s more to come. Streamsong Resort in Florida is adding a new short course this fall called The Chain, and the newly renovated Cabot Citrus Farms (formerly World Woods) in Florida also will have one named The 21 when the resort opens in December. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, already home to one of the best short courses in the world, is adding another. There’s no end in sight for fresh additions.

One note: Many courses have also added large putting courses, but those are not included on this list.

For this list, we included each course’s rating on a points scale of 1 to 10. We also included their locations, the designers, the year they opened, the number of holes, the total length and the par. At the end of each entry, the letter “p” indicates a private club, “d” indicates daily fee and “r” indicates a resort.

Nos. 1-10

Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri (Courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge)

1. Pine Valley (Short Course) 8.86
Pine Valley, N.J.; Tom Fazio, 1992; 10 holes, 2,006 yards, par 31; p

2. Philadelphia Cricket Club (St. Martins) 8.20
Philadelphia, Pa.; William H. Tucker, Keith Foster, Kevin Hargrave, 1895; 9 holes, 2,617 yards, par 35; p

3. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon Preserve) 8.16
Bandon, Ore.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, 2012; 13 holes, 1,609 yards, par 39; d, r

4. Augusta National (Par 3 Course) 8.03
Augusta, Ga.; George Cobb, Clifford Roberts, 1958; 9 holes, 1,115 yards, par 27; p

5. Headwaters 7.88
Cashiers, N.C.; Tom Fazio, 1999; 9 holes, 1,450 yards, par 27; p

6. Desert Mountain (No. 7) 7.84
Scottsdale, Ariz.; Wendell Pickett, Bill Brownlee, 2019; 18 holes, 3,114 yards, par 54; p

7. Whispering Pines (The Needler) 7.78
Trinity, Texas; Chet Williams, Cole Sanders, 2013; 9 holes, 1,682 yards, par 27; p

8. Big Cedar Lodge (Top of the Rock) 7.77
Ridgedale, Mo.; Jack Nicklaus, 1996; 9 holes, 1,420 yards, par 27; d, r

9. Hamilton Farms (Hickory) 7.73
Far Hills, N.J.; Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, 1998; 18 holes, 3,080 yards, par 54; p

10. Sand Valley (The Sandbox) 7.71
Nekoosa, Wis.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, 2018; 17 holes, 1,652 yards, par 51; d, r

Nos. 11-20

Gamble Sands Quicksands

The Quicksands Course at Gamble Sands in Washington (Courtesy of Gamble Sands)

11. Ballyneal (Mulligan) 7.68
Holyoke, Colo.; Tom Doak, 2017; 12 holes, informal distance, par 36; p

12. The Quarry at La Quinta (Short Course) 7.60
La Quinta, Calif.; Tom Fazio, 2002; 10 holes, 1,653 yards, par 30; p

13. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Magnolia Grove Short) 7.56
Mobile, Ala.; Robert Trent Jones Sr., Roger Rulewich, 1992; 18 holes, 3,140 yards, par 54; d, r

14. Shelter Harbor (Par 3 Course) 7.52
Charlestown, R.I.; Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, 2005; 9 holes, 1,206 yards, par 27; p

15. Olympic Club (Cliffs) 7.49
San Francisco, Calif.; Jay Morrish, Tom Weiskopf, 1994; 9 holes, 1,432 yards, par 27; p

16. Destination Kohler Blackwolf Run (The Baths) 7.44
Kohler, Wis.; Chris Lutzke, 2021; 10 holes, 1,362 yards, par 30; d, r

17. Gamble Sands (Quicksands) 7.42
Brewster, Wash.; David McLay Kidd, 2020; 14 holes, 1,610 yards, par 42; d, r

18. Scottsdale National (Bad Little 9) 7.40
Scottsdale, Ariz.; Jackson Kahn Design, 2016; 9 holes, 972 yards, par 27; p

19. Big Cedar Lodge (Mountain Top) 7.37
Ridgedale, Mo.; Gary Player, 2017; 13 holes, 1,912 yards, par 39; d, r

20. Pinehurst Resort (The Cradle) 7.31
Pinehurst, N.C.; Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, 2017; 9 holes, 789 yards, par 27; d, r

Nos. 21-30

The Staple at PGA National Resort in Florida (Courtesy of PGA National Resort/Evan Schiller)

21. Palm Beach Par 3 7.24
Palm Beach, Fla.; Dick Wilson, Joe Lee, Raymond Floyd, 1961; 18 holes, 2,572 yards, par 54; d 

22. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Grand National Short) 7.06
Opelika, Ala.; Robert Trent Jones Sr., Roger Rulewich, 1992; 18 holes, 3,126 yards, par 54; d, r

23. PGA National (The Staple) 7.05
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Andy Staples, 2021; 9 holes, 802 yards, par 27; d, r

24. Colorado GC (Short Course) 7.02
Parker, Colo.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, 2006; 9 holes, 1,103 yards, par 27; p

25. Prairie Club (Horse) 6.98
Valentine, Neb.; Gil Hanse, Geoff Shackelford, 2010; 10 holes, 1,125 yards, par 30; d, r

26. Boar’s Head (The Nest) 6.94
Charlottesville, Va.; Davis Love III, 2020; 6 holes, 667 yards, par 18; d, r

27. Madison GC 6.87
Madison, N.J.; Club members, Robert
McNeil, 1896; 9 holes, 2,240 yards, par 31; p

28. Omni PGA Frisco (The Swing) 6.83
Frisco, Texas; Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, Beau Welling, 2023; 10 holes, 770 yards, par 30; d, r

29. Farmington (East) 6.75
Farmington, Va.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, 2017; 10 holes, 2,206 yards, par 35; p

30. Forest Dunes (Bootlegger) 6.73
Roscommon, Mich.; Keith Rhebb, Riley Johns, 2020; 10 holes, 1,135 yards, par 30; d, r

Nos. 31-40

The Hay short course

The Hay short course at Pebble Beach in California (Courtesy of Pebble Beach Resorts)

31. Audubon Park 6.69
New Orleans, La.; Dennis Griffiths, 2002; 18 holes, 4,220 yards, par 62; d

T32. Sutton Bay (Short Course) 6.67
Agar, S.D.; Graham Marsh, 2003; 9 holes, 1,244 yards, par 27; p

T32. The Park (The Lit 9) 6.67
West Palm Beach, Fla.; Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, 2020; 9 holes, 679 yards, par 27; d

34. Winter Park CC (WP9) 6.65
Winter Park, Fla.; Harley A. Ward, Dow George, Keith Rhebb, Riley Johns, 1914; 9 holes, 2,480 yards, par 35; d

35. University of Texas GC (Spieth Lower 40) 6.60
Austin, Texas; Roy Bechtol, Jordan Spieth, 2017; 6 holes, 532 yards, par 18; p

T36. Olde Farm (Orchard) 6.50
Bristol, Va.; Bobby Weed, 2011; 8 holes, informal distance, par 24; p

T36. Shady Oaks (Little Nine) 6.50
Fort Worth, Texas; Robert Trent Jones Sr., Michael Clayton, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking, Ashley Mead, 1958; 9 holes, 1,228 yards, par 28; p

38. Bluejack National (The Playgrounds) 6.34
Montgomery, Texas; Tiger Woods, 2016; 10 holes, 747 yards, par 30; p

39. Pebble Beach Golf Resorts (The Hay) 6.33
Pebble Beach, Calif.; Tiger Woods, 2021; 9 holes, 670 yards, par 27; d, r

T40. Mountain Shadows (Short) 6.30
Paradise Valley, Ariz.; Jack Snyder, Forrest Richardson, 1961; 18 holes, 2 yards, par 54; d, r

T40. The Concession (The Gimme) 6.30
Bradenton, Fla.; Chris Cochran, 2019; 9 holes, 1,088 yards, par 27; p

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