The Monterey Peninsula is loaded with incredible par 3s: The short, coastal seventh hold at Pebble Beach Golf Links is the finest public par 3, while private Cypress Point boasts back-to-back coastal thrillers designed by Alister Mackenzie: 15 and 16.
One of the earliest signature par 3s is by Stanley Thompson at the Fairmont Banff Springs' famed Devil's Cauldron, built in 1927: a shot played over water to a green beautifully guarded by bunkers and alongside a steep mountain slope.
Created in 1964, Mauna Kea on the Big Island helped to set the standard for the coastal par 3 in Hawaii, featuring a daring shot, into the wind over water and the island's famous volcanic black rock.
A course I recently played in Tucson, Ariz. boasts the Sonoran desert's
greatest par-3 spectacle: The short third hole on the Tom Fazio-designed Mountain Course at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club. Heavy on boulders and drama, this hole sets the standard for desert golf design bravado.
Other par 3s warrant imitations. The sixth hole on the Jones Masterpiece course at Treetops Resort in northern Michigan, playing 120 feet downhill, spawned scores of imitations in the region – now known for its wealth of elevated tee shots.
Some quests for a signature par 3 can get a little gimmicky:
Coeur D'Alene Resort in Idaho upped the ante on the 17th at Sawgrass with its island 14th: a floating green requiring a boat ride out to the hole that can be moved daily to change the hole's yardage.
But the silliest is in South Africa at Legends Golf & Safari Resort's 'Extreme 19th' that requires a helicopter to play from a rock peak down about 1,400 feet to a giant green shaped like the continent of Africa, 630 yards away.