For anyone just beginning to play golf, or for those of us experienced players looking for something a little different, a Par 3 or short course can be a great option. It is quicker to play, easier to walk, great for players of varying handicaps, cheaper to maintain and often a great departure from the commitment of a full 18 holes. Par-3 golf is not a new concept and exists throughout the golfing world in the form of par-3 only courses, pitch and putts or executive-length courses which feature a mix of par 3s and shorter par 4s and 5s. In fact, way back in golf’s early days, the game was probably played on some form of “short course” dictated by available natural terrain deemed suitable for golf.
Shorter golf holes don’t automatically mean lesser quality golf holes. Par-3 layouts can take advantage of smaller parcels of unique varied terrain that are simply not large enough for a full size holes. Shot quality, creativity and golfing excitement all exist on short courses just like they do on the full-length layouts. All throughout Canada, short courses of all shapes sizes and lengths provide great affordable and easy access to the game of golf.
In the Lower Mainland, one of the best short course offerings available to the public is the Meridian Golf Par 3 located in South Surrey. The course opened in 1959 on land once occupied by a hazelnut farm. It is a friendly family owned course built in a gorgeous rolling parkland setting. Large trees and remnant hazelnuts are found throughout, along with a gently meandering stream and many humps, hollows and undulations.
At 2,152 yards, the 18-hole layout is average length by par 3 standards. The shortest hole measures 80 yards and the longest at 155 yards, with the majority a little over 100 yards. What sets Meridian apart from other par-3 offerings is the unique property upon which it is built. Greens are set on both natural high spots and in neat little nooks and crannies guarded by large trees or bends of the stream. You hit shots with both wedges and mid-irons to greens that slope, fall away and genuinely make you think. You are asked to shape the ball both directions, as well as pick landing spots and trajectories to best attack tricky greens. In the summer, the firm, dry conditions provide an awesome test for low handicappers, yet still allow even the newest golfer a chance to make par or birdie.
Two of the best holes are the uphill fourth hole and the short downhill 13th. At 155 yards, the fourth hole is one of the longest and most challenging on the course. The tee is tucked back in a narrow, low-lying chute, and you are hitting uphill towards a circular green located on a plateau. There is a sharp fall away guarding the right and a large tree with a big canopy protecting the left side of the green. The tee shot calls for a well struck mid-iron, curving slightly from left to right. Too much curve and your ball will bound down the slope on the right; a shot pulled a little left risks an unfavourable bounce off the big tree. Par is a great score and standing on the tee, visualizing and strategizing about the shot and club to play is loads of fun.
The 13th is a gem of a downhill par 3, offering much more punch than the mere 103 yards listed on the scorecard. You hit from an elevated position, downhill towards a small green, sloped back to front. A stream guards the front edge while forest is present all along the left flank and a treacherous downhill chip awaits a shot hit a little too far. You must pick a yardage, commit to it and truly trust your swing. Like many a great par 3s, you may find yourself holding your breath as you watch your ball flying through the air.
Meridian Golf provides ample opportunities for creativity and golfing interest. It challenges top players (the course record is only five under par, held by myself and a few other local pros) yet there are many fun holes with enough space for those just starting out or who do not hit the ball very far. It is a fun, enjoyable layout with loads of shot quality, and is a great place to hone your game, no matter your skill level.