Date: Tue 03 Jan 2017

An open letter to golf club managers about Par 3 golf courses

From Alan Walker, PGA Master Professional & EIGCA Council Member

©Mark Alexander Photography

©Mark Alexander Photography

Have you considered building a Par 3 golf course? If not, then simply put, a Par 3 golf course can be highly lucrative and attract new audiences.

Having a 6, 9, 12 or 18-hole Par 3 course at your club will attract a varied cross-section of people, but importantly, will open up your club facilities to a much wider and diverse market – all of whom are potentially long-term customers. If the course is well designed and maintained, it is not uncommon for a prominently located Par 3 course to have in excess of 15,000 rounds played with green fee revenues generated of between £50,000 to, in some cases, over £100,000.

Could you have a Par 3 course at your club?

Alistair Mackenzie’s draft plan for a nine green, multiple hole, ‘approach and putt’ course at Augusta National

Alistair Mackenzie’s draft plan for a nine green, multiple hole, ‘approach and putt’ course at Augusta National

An interesting 9-hole Par 3 course only uses approximately five hectares of land and can easily be added onto your greenkeeping maintenance program. A stand-alone Par 3 course can be busy, especially if you include a driving range, golf coaching, an adventure golf course, café and golf retail facilities.

The concept of nine shortish length Par 3 holes goes back many years and a number of golf clubs have benefitted from including this type of facility in their overall offering. Thousands of golfers will have started playing golf, or regularly play golf, at Par 3 golf courses.

You will be in great company as some of the best-known courses in the world have Par 3 courses such as Valderrama (host of the 1997 Ryder Cup matches) and Augusta National Golf Club – many champion golfers play on this course every year on the Wednesday before the start of the first ‘major’ of the season.

The benefits of a Par 3 golf course

Ingrebourne Links, Rainham, Essex - Par 3 course known as the ‘Mini Links’ built from inert infill from London’s ‘cross-rail’ project and designed in a links style

Ingrebourne Links, Rainham, Essex - Par 3 course known as the ‘Mini Links’ built from inert infill from London’s ‘cross-rail’ project and designed in a links style

If you are still not convinced of the merits of a Par 3 course and why it would be a good investment for your club, here are my top reasons why you should give building one serious consideration:

  1. A much less daunting proposition - we all know that golf is a difficult game to master and is a fairly long process from taking up the game to attaining reasonable proficiency. For raw beginners, the first hurdle is to actually make contact with the ball; and the second is taking their ball-hitting skills onto the golf course and attempting to actually play golf – a daunting proposition for many. A Par 3 golf course offers a much lower level of intensity and is therefore a ‘stepping stone’ towards a full-length course. The facts are that new golfers feel more ‘comfortable’ on a par 3 course.
  2. Less time to play – ‘golf takes too long to play’ has been the message from golfers and non-golfers at all levels for a few years. The 9-hole Par 3 course addresses that issue head-on. A Par 3 course can be played, in most cases, in less than an hour so it is not time consuming at all and can be played before or after work, at the weekend or holiday time as it does not take a large chunk of time out of the day. Clubs with Par 3 courses are able to promote this opportunity and attract an audience who may well use the other facilities on offer at your club before or after they play.
  3. Attracts juniors, ladies, seniors, families and friends - Par 3 courses can be enjoyed by many individual groups of golfers - juniors play with their parents or grandparents, a husband with wife and/or children, seniors who just want a ‘few holes’, groups of friends for some fun, and so on. For many, playing golf is a social occasion offering some mild exercise as well – a Par 3 golf course is perfect for those who are not necessarily looking for competitive play or club membership.
  4. A great ‘stepping stone’ for new golfers - the game needs new players as participation levels are still on the decline. Par 3 courses are a great first step for those new to golf and are a part of the progression from golf tuition as a beginner, to practicing in-between sessions, and then trying out your game on a Par 3 course. A similar concept to the shallow-end of a swimming pool when you have just learned to swim, the Par 3 course eases a player into the main course.
  5. Par 3 courses are a sound financial proposition - in most cases, a 9-hole par 3 golf course will require a relatively small piece of land to build but the percentage return can be far greater than the main course generates. Although they require upkeep, the time and manpower needed is much less than on your main course making Par 3 courses very cost effective when you consider return over investment and daily running costs.
  6. They are great fun and break down the ‘golf is an exclusive game’ attitude - Par 3 courses offer the opportunity for golf clubs to tap into more markets than just those people wanting membership and are already experienced golfers. For many, Par 3 golf is their first introduction to the sport, and if you provide them with a positive experience, the long-term benefits for golf clubs are numerous.

What next?

If you have spare land or you could create an area for a few Par 3 holes, then get in touch with an EIGCA golf course architect to discuss how you can take advantages of the many benefits from building a Par 3 golf course at your club.

I have no doubt that a Par 3 course will reap rewards and be a sound investment for your club.

Click here to read more about Alan.

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