Big plays in small packages: Orlando par 3s aren't all Mickey Mouse
ORLANDO -- Golf is one sport where size doesn't matter. Take your par 3s, for example.
On a par-5 hole, there's room for error, and it is okay to play it safe, going for the green in three. On a par 3, you have one choice: Go for the green and -- since most par 3s are surrounded with all kinds of tricky obstacles, bunkers or water hazards -- you don't have much of a choice. Hit the green or pray that you brought your short game.
There are plenty of those holes in Orlando. The city may be known as America's playground, but there are some par 3s in the Orlando area that can turn it into America's nightmare, at least when it comes to golf.
Here are some examples of holes that can make or break a round:
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, No. 11
You can stay short on no. 11 at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, a 238-yarder, but that doesn't make it safe.
The green is surrounded in the back by a horseshoe-shaped trap, and there's a two-tier green that makes for a difficult chip if you are short of the green. Either you have to putt or chip up a deep slope to a tight backside of the green and risk slipping into the bunker, or hit past the hole and simply stick the tee shot.
That doesn't make it any easier, because when the pin is in the middle, just above the slope, a courageous putt will drift away and ruin any chance of par.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, No. 2
Arnold Palmer doesn't make it easy early on with no. 2 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, a 230-yarder that goes downhill from the tee, straight into the pot bunker that fronts the green if the tee shot isn't far enough.
When the pin is on the back left, like it usually is for the PGA Tour members, it plays to around 254 yards. There's also a creek that runs behind the green, so anyone in the pot bunker up front better watch the blast out of the bunker.
Osprey Ridge Golf Course at Walt Disney World, No. 18
Disney golf is always up to something. Just last month, the closing hole at Osprey Ridge Golf Course, arguably Disney's toughest course of all, went from being a benign par 4 to a long par 3.
During a small makeover, it now uses what used to be the opening tee at Eagle Pines as the tee box and made it into a 213-yard hole where the wind plays tricks and requires a long carry over water. There are rocks fronting the two-tiered green.
Magnolia Golf Course at Walt Disney World, No. 6
No. 6 at Disney's Magnolia Golf Course is the one most golf fans know as "The Mickey Mouse Hole," since it has a round bunker next to the green with two smaller bunkers where Mickey's ears would be.
It's one of the more photographed holes in golf, but even if Mickey is smiling, it isn't an easy hole. At 231 yards, it also has water in the front, and it requires a big carry.
National Course at Championsgate, No. 14
No. 14 on the National Course at Championsgate is over water with a swamp fronting the green and is lined with pine trees on both sides.
At 210 from the tips, there is no room for error. It's a thinking golfer's hole, with a layup area, but going for the pin is a risk.
International Course at Championsgate, No. 17
At only 147 yards, the wind is the protector of the 17th hole on the International Course at Championsgate. Not to mention the mounds behind the green that makes for a tricky pitch.
The green is small, so don't let the distance fool you.
MetroWest Golf Club, No. 17
There's water down the left on 17 at MetroWest Golf Club, and the green is surrounded by bunkers and mounds that make it by far the toughest par 3 on the course.
The green is elevated with a large slope in front that leads to a creek that runs across the fairway.
Grand Cypress Resort's East Course, No. 5
Out of all the difficult par 3s at this 27-hole resort, no. 5 on the East Course at Grand Cypress Resort is the toughest.
It plays to 153 yards but has an island green that makes sticking it imperative. There's room in the center but sand just behind, so don't end up short. Go for par and get out.
Mission Inn Golf & Tennis Resort - El Campeon, No. 12
Water doesn't come into play on 12 at Mission Inn's El Campeon Course, but bunkers line the green on all sides of this monster.
The green is long but tight, and while you can lay up, the green is small enough that even a mediocre chip won't work.
Shingle Creek Golf Club, No. 5
No. 5 at Shingle Creek Golf Club has been described as a giant sand trap.
At 225 yards, there is water most of the way down the left side and three monster sand traps that almost completely surround the green. It's uphill, and with the bunkers all around, it makes for a blind tee shot, so check on the pin placement before hitting.
It plays into the wind almost every time, so it's a swing and a prayer.
January 11, 2012