Anita Anza asks, ‘Do you strive for a certain par sequence when designing the course?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Most developers demand par-72 courses, with four par-3s and par-5s, and par and distance balanced between nines. Most sites offer many routing solutions, but a few would yield better courses with other pars, or unbalanced nines. Arguing that point consumes so much time and usually meets with rejection that I rarely try.

This fixation wasn't always so. Early championship courses sported pars from 69 to 73. Gradually, "consensus" declared par-72 best, although I've never known why. I favor par-72 because:

• I avoid arguments with clients;

• Course raters dig par-72!

• I avoid inevitable criticism; and

• Because it's easier to create 10 distinct par-4's than 12.

Some architects strive for "perfect par sequence," without consecutive holes of the same par (such as 4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3-4). I agree with the premise of varying par (and length), but there are numerous suitable par rotations, and unless a site is featureless, I don't focus on rotation at the expense of natural holes. However, anytime golf quality is similar between two possible routings using natural features, well, I opt for the more balanced par rotation.

Barring exceptional situations, I avoid consecutive par-3s and par-5s, or a stretch of several consecutive par-4s. When required, I vary their length and characteristics.

Donald Ross preferred that his final three holes contain a par-3, 4, and 5, to avoid particularly favoring one type of golfer over another. I like the final four holes to include long and short par-4s, a par-3 and a par-5, with one of the closing holes being heroic.

I am as likely to close with a heroic par-5 or easier par-4 as a "hard 4," figuring the course will sell more post-round beverages to golfers finishing well!

My favorite childhood course had a par-3 18th, and I have no qualms about that. Most golfers love par-3s, so why not let them finish on a favorite hole? Six of the top 10 courses do finish with a par-3, so it's not that unusual.

I consider speed of play in routing, too. I assume courses will start from both 1 and 10, as it adds play capacity. Then, I start both nines with either a par-4 or 5, but both should be long. Short holes slow play, as golfers wait to reach the green on short par-5s, or after flubbed tee shots on short par-4s.

Only once have I started either nine of a regulation course with a par-3. On public courses, I find locating the first par-3 back as far as the sixth hole speeds play. Similarly, I locate three-shot par-5s (is there still such a thing?) earlier, and reachable par-5s later, both to speed play and enhance their heroic potential.

Lastly, I always reverse the nines from the order I really want them. Golf pros always reverse my nines, so I end up with the rotation I want!

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