When you think about a par-3 designed by the legendary Pete Dye, the first hole that naturally comes to mind is TPC Sawgrass No. 17. Having played that hole, the aura is spectacular. However, my favorite golf hole is a different par-3 designed by the man known for near-impossible layouts, and that would be The Cardinal by Pete Dye No. 12. Located in Greensboro, NC
Picture TPC Sawgrass No. 17, then add about 80 yards and narrow the green. At 220 yards from the tips, it is truly the most daunting and exhilarating golf hole I have ever encountered. Standing on the tee looking toward the flag, all you see is water and a sliver of land that is the green. Unlike the Sawgrass version, this par-3 is not an island. Rather, the water wraps in front, to the left, and behind the green. On the right-hand side, there are two very small bunkers and then another creek.
My standard approach to this hole is to aim in the right bunkers and hope the ball draws onto the putting surface, so hitting the green is almost an accident. If the ball happens to fade at all, then the ball will find the creek. I always found hitting in the creek less demoralizing than finding the massive lake to the opposite side. Like most Dye designs, this hole is very penalizing and provides little room for error.
Dye himself was so fond of this hole, that he installed a plaque beside the teeing ground that says, “the hardest par three I ever designed – Pete Dye, 2007.” When the master of hard holes puts his stamp of approval acknowledging the difficulty, you know it’s the real deal.
One of my most fond memories of playing professional golf occurred on this very hole, where I played several mini tour events. As I was putting on the 11th green during a tournament, the weather horn sounded, meaning I had to stop playing. I had to think about one of the hardest shots in golf for two hours during the delay. After the lengthy delay, I stood on that tee shaking, somehow managed to hit it to 15 feet and then made the putt for birdie! That is my only birdie ever on that hole.
Would this be your favorite or least favorite hole? I guess I like torture!