Altvater: Champions Tour will use par-3 for Legends of GolfWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The Champions Tour recently announced the Legends of Golf tournament, which started the concept of senior tour professional golf, will use a par-3 course in competition this year.
The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf began in 1978, when Jimmy Demaret and Fred Raphael invited a few old golf professional buddies to a small tournament in Austin, Texas.
Gardner Dickinson and Sam Snead teamed up to win that first event and the PGA Senior Tour, now the Champions Tour, grew from that humble beginning.
The Legends of Golf has been held in Savannah, Ga., for the past 11 years, but lost its sponsor and its spot on the Champions Tour 2014 schedule.
A white knight, in the form of the founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris, came to the rescue and will bring the Legends of Golf to his Big Cedar Lodge Wilderness Resort, just outside of Branson, Mo.
The tournament will be held during three days on the par-3 “Top of the Rock” and Buffalo Ridge, an 18-hole championship golf course.
True legends of the game, Jack Nicklaus, who designed “Top of the Rock,” Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Gary Player have committed to play in the event.
Many golf professionals probably first learned to play on a par-3 or executive short course. Par-3 golf courses can help you improve your short game, play an enjoyable round with your family or provide a nonthreatening venue for beginners to learn the game.
The question is do par-3 golf courses have a place in tournament play?
Threetops, in Gaylord, Mich., was host to the ESPN Par-3 Shootout for several years. The event was sponsored by Ford Motor Company and featured Phil Mickelson, along with three other professionals, in a two-day competition over the scenic par-3 course.
It brought some of golf’s biggest names to the northern Michigan golf resort and Lee Trevino added to the excitement with an ace at the seventh hole in 2001.
The tournament provided a more relaxed atmosphere for the players, who wore microphones and it provided great entertainment value for golf fans.
On the Wednesday prior to the start of the Masters, Augusta National hosts a par-3 tournament for participants and the enjoyment of the fans.
Augusta National has a par-3 course nestled among the pines and traverses around a small lake.
It annually draws a large crowd to witness the greats of the game play in a less formal setting. Many players let their children accompany them as caddies for the round.
Par-3 golf courses offer other benefits for golfers and the environment as well.
They are less expensive to maintain for superintendents. They require less acreage to build, less water for irrigation and less fertilization.
Beginners, children and older golfers can enjoy a round of golf and appreciate the shorter golf course’s demands for length off the tee.
One of the major complaints from people who no longer play golf is the time spent on the golf course. Par-3 golf courses can be played in a much shorter period of time. Six holes can normally be accomplished in one hour and a full nine holes should only require 90 minutes out of a busy schedule.
There is a certain stigma attached to par-3 golf courses. Some feel they are just one small step above putt-putt golf.
I would challenge that argument and point out that for beginners, the short course provides a perfect venue to learn the game.
Experienced golfers can use a par-3 to play an emergency nine or to improve their short game.
Many golf courses, built as part of a residential community, may lack the real estate necessary to design a suitable 18-hole championship golf course, but could fit in a challenging nine-hole par-3 and a regulation length nine-hole course.
Everyone gives lip service to wanting to grow the game of golf, but not many do anything constructive to actually change the golf culture.
I applaud the Champions Tour for using a par-3 course in the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf tournament and look forward to viewing it in June.
Tags: Bass Pro Shops, Big Cedar Lodge Wilderness Resort, Buffalo Ridge, Champions Tour, Fred Altvater, Fred Raphael, Gardner Dickinson, Gary Playe, Jack Nicklaus, Jimmy Demaret, Johnny Morris, Lee Trevino, Legends of Golf, PGA Senior Tour, Sam Snead, The Back Nine, Tom Watson, Top of the Rock