The best hole I ever played: The par-4 3rd at National Golf Links of America

Our knowledgeable crew of course raters have stuck pegs in the ground just about everywhere. But which holes stand out as the greatest they’ve ever played? We asked them, and they replied with love letters about their faves. This offering comes from Tim Gallant, who has been a GOLF Magazine rater since 2019 and has played 62 of the Top 100 Courses in the World.

One hole that lingers long in my memory is the 426-yard 3rd at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y. Modeled after the original “Alps” hole at Prestwick in Scotland, this beauty is a long par-4 where players are asked to hit a strategically placed drive followed by a blind approach shot over a hill to a green that is guarded on the front side by a large, hungry bunker.

The par-4 3rd at the National Golf Links of America. The tee box is in the bottom right of the photo.
The par-4 3rd at the National Golf Links of America. The tee box is in the bottom right of the photo.
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It is heroic golf at its finest, and yet, this particular hole is an improvement on the original in a couple of ways. First, the fairway sits diagonally to the tee box, meaning there is real strategy and a decision to be made about how much to bite off on the drive (below).

The tee shot presents multiple risk-reward options.
Tim Gallant

Bolder tee shots are rewarded with a better look at the green.
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Those who successfully clear the large bunker guarding the right side of the fairway are rewarded with a shorter approach shot. But there is still ample room for the rabbit to play a safe shot to the left, and instead of having to ascend the hill — where scrub and rough await all but the purest of strikes — he or she can play safely around the hill in three shots and still have a chance at a par.

Once on the putting surface, the task is no less challenging, as the green has some of the best contours that can be found on a par-4 of this length. Simply sublime.

If you get over the bunker on your drive you are in luck, but the approach from here isn't easy either.
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