What Is a Par-3 Course in Golf?

A “par-3 course” is a golf course that consists of nothing but par-3 holes. A “regular” or “regulation” 18-hole golf course most commonly has four par-3 holes, four par-5 holes and 10 par-4 holes. The specific mix of par ratings can change, but a regulation course features a variety of hole lengths, from short to long.

But par-3 courses most commonly have only nine holes (although some do have 18 holes) and, as noted, all of them are par-3s. A 9-hole par-3 course has a par of 27; an 18-hole par-3 course has a par of 54.

Par-3 holes are holes that an expert golfer is expected to need only three strokes to finish (one stroke to get the ball on the green, followed by two putts). A par-3 hole is usually less than 200 yards in length, and on par-3 golf courses you can expect most of the holes to be 150 yards or less.

Par-3 courses are particularly good for beginning golfers and higher scorers, since they provide shorter holes, but are often played by skilled players with time constraints or those who want to work on their short games.

Par-3 Courses Exist in Golf’s Upper Echelons, Too

There are two professional golf events that spotlight par-3 courses every year:

  • The Masters Par 3 Contest: Played on the Augusta National Par-3 Course, which is the most famous par-3 course in golf. This is annually a highlight of tournament week at The Masters.
  • British Par 3 Championship: Dating to 1933, it’s an annual pro-am tournament played on a par-3 course and whose past winners include European Tour members Robert Rock, Tommy Fleetwood and Barry Lane.

In recent years, the Legends of Golf tournament on the Champions Tour has included rounds for the 65-and-over golfers on a par-3 golf course.

Where Will You Find Par-3 Courses?

Par-3 golf courses are most commonly found as:

  • part of a multi-course facility, such as at a golf club or golf resort that wants to provide its members or customers a shorter playing option;
  • part of a practice facility (e.g., Fred’s Driving Range and Par 3);
  • or as a standalone golf course for those who don’t have the time (or inclination) to play a regular (full-length) golf course.

It’s unusual for golf courses to be lighted for night-time play. But one of the nice things about par-3 courses is they are generally short enough and cover a compact-enough amount of space that lighting them is an option. Therefore, golfers will occasionally find lighted par-3 courses open for play after the sun goes down.

Are Par-3 Courses and Executive Courses the Same Thing?

Not necessarily, although they can be. An “executive course” is also shorter than a regular golf course, and typically composed mostly of par-3 holes. But unlike a par-3 course, an executive course usually has at least one, maybe two or three, longer holes: a couple par-4 holes, for example, or one par-4 and one par-5, in addition to the par-3s that make up the majority of its nine(s).