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Open Venues

Par 3s


The Open's toughest short holes

Par 3

There's nothing that sorts the men from the boys quite like a tricky par 3 and The Open's rota of courses present some of the toughest examples in world golf.

From the 16th hole at Carnoustie, Royal Portrush and St George’s to the iconic 1st at Royal Lytham & St Annes or 8th at Royal Troon – many a golfer’s dream of lifting the Claret Jug has been broken on the short-yardage tests.

Conversely, a prospective Champion Golfer of the Year can make a name for themselves on these memorable holes and set themselves up nicely to achieve a lifelong goal.

Either way, drama is guaranteed, so we’ve given you the lowdown on the toughest par 3s that The Open has to offer.

Carnoustie – hole 16 – ‘Barry Burn’

What better place to start than with the hole that Jack Nicklaus labelled “the hardest par 3 in golf” – the Barry Burn at Carnoustie has broken the heart of many an Open contender.

Its wind tunnel provides one of the sport’s toughest natural defences and means it can often play considerably longer than its 248 yards.

In the midst of perhaps the most fearsome four finishing holes in golf, three bunkers guard the right of the 16th green and if any confirmation of just how tricky it is were needed, the great Tom Watson failed on each of his five attempts to make par en route to a first Claret Jug in 1975.

Only 19 birdies were recorded when The Open visited Carnoustie in 2007 and that makes Francesco Molinari playing it in even-par (one birdie, one bogey and two pars) across the week while becoming Champion Golfer of the Year earlier this summer, quite an achievement.

Royal Troon – hole 8 – ‘Postage Stamp’

The shortest hole in Open golf at just 123 yards, the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon may be small but it packs quite a punch.

Cavernous bunkers protect, as the name suggests, a small green – two bunkers on the left, a large crater bunker shielding the approach and two deep bunkers with near vertical faces on the right.

The tee is on high ground and players are hitting over a gully but the ball simply must find the minimalist green to stand any real chance of making par.

Small it may be but as Colin Montgomerie put it: "You can run up a big score in a hurry there if you're not careful. You've got to be very, very careful and treat that little hole with an awful lot of respect."

Even the greats have learned Montgomerie’s advice the hard way – a young Tiger Woods was going along nicely in 1997 until he triple-bogeyed the hole


Royal Portrush – hole 16 - ‘Calamity’

The ominously-named ‘Calamity’ or ‘Calamity Corner’ will severely test the field when The Open heads to Northern Ireland, and Royal Portrush, for the first time since 1951 next summer.

With the newly-established 7th and 8th holes, designed for The 148th Open, Calamity will now play as the antepenultimate hole for the world's best golfers.

The uphill, 210-yard challenge is one of the most iconic holes on the rota with a yawning chasm between tee and green that must be cleared to stand any chance of making par – although a 75ft-deep ravine on the right with dense rough is also to be avoided.

Vicious winds whipping in off the Atlantic make an already tricky par 3 all the tougher and while it’s visually stunning, there will be more than one player left cursing the name ‘Calamity’ come July.


Muirfield – hole 13

At just 190 yards long and with a green that is 46 yards deep, the 13th hole at Muirfield doesn’t sound particularly heinous on paper.

However, the green is no more than 15 yards wide at any point and falls away on both sides, towards three deep bunkers on the right and two on the left.

Add in that the green drops sharply from back to front and falls away to the right and you’ve got the makings of a game-changing par 3.

Find the sand and you’ll be ecstatic to escape with bogey, although Ernie Els landed in a left-hand bunker in 2002 and played a truly remarkable shot to save par – a three that played a huge part in getting him into a four-way play-off with Thomas Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington and eventually lifting the Claret Jug.


Royal St George’s – hole 16

The 149th Open will head to Royal St George’s in Kent and the destination of the Claret Jug in two years’ time could well be decided on the deceptively devilish 16th hole.

Playing 163 yards and with a wide green that slopes down from the back, birdie can be made but equally, players could leave themselves a 50-foot putt or find one of the seven bunkers that circle the green just waiting to gobble up an errant tee shot.

Thomas Bjorn's hopes of lifting the Claret Jug in 2003 evaporated when he took three to get out of the sand on the right but conversely, Tony Jacklin made the first televised hole-in-one at the 1967 Dunlop Masters.

A tough – especially when a prevailing wind blows into golfers’ faces – but fair hole.


Royal Lytham & St Annes – hole 1

The only course on The Open rota to start with a par 3 – Royal Lytham & St Annes certainly doesn’t offer a gentle introduction to proceedings.

Just the seven bunkers surround the green on the 206-yard hole with those on the left more in play as a right-to-left wind is most common.

A precise iron straight off the bat probably isn’t what most players, nervous before the first shot of The Open, want to have to begin with but Lanny Wadkins did make a hole-in-one here in 1988.