Play Short Courses to Sharpen Iron Golf Game, Strategy

Some experienced golfers shun any golf course measuring less than 6,000 yards, regardless of how challenging, well-conditioned, convenient or pretty it may be. That rules out not only undersized regulation tracks (par 70 or higher), it disqualifies par 3 and executive-length courses from consideration.

By dismissing shorter layouts, these golfers miss a great opportunity for enjoyment – and improvement.

Par 3 and executive courses offer many benefits over conventional tracks. For starters, they’re less expensive and much quicker to play. An 18-hole round can often be completed in less than three hours on an executive course, less than two hours on a par 3.

Short courses tend to be more relaxed as well, which helps many golfers play better (and shows them the benefit of a laid-back approach).

Even if those factors don’t appeal, consider how rounds on short courses can make you a better player. For example:

  • It’s superior to practicing your iron play on the range: Your practice area may feature real grass hitting stations, target greens and accurate yardages, but there’s no substitute for hitting to actual greens. On a par 3 course, as opposed to a range, you’ll face changing wind directions, a variety of lengths, hazards and different shot requirements throughout the round. Greens tend to be on the small side as well, putting a premium on accuracy and distance control.
  • Your strategic skills will get a workout: Most executive courses feature 10 to 12 par 3 holes, 4 to 6 par 4s and perhaps a couple of par 5s. The two- and three-shot holes are often rather short – with par 4s around 280 to 350 yards – requiring a strategic approach from the tee. Do you try to drive the green? Lay up with an iron or hybrid? What’s the best angle from fairway to flag? What’s the ideal yardage for the second shot?
  • These same decisions must be made on full-length courses, where golfers often reach mindlessly for the driver regardless of a hole’s nuances. Play an executive course, leave your driver in the trunk and exercise those strategic brain muscles.
  • Scoring well may boost your confidence: You’re pretty much guaranteed to shoot a “low” score on a course with a par of 54, 58, or 62. Sure, “low” is relative in this case, but you might be surprised how firing a 59 or 67 or 73 gives you a shot in the arm.

As an alternative to playing a par 3 or executive course, try your full-sized home course from a shorter set of tees. You’ll enjoy similar benefits when you step back to your usual markers, and you might just break out of your personal comfort zone.