Hit it or else: The 9th at Mountain Lake

An in-depth analysis of the 9th hole at Mountain Lake Colony House


Short par-3s are often the most revered, memorable and photographed holes at a course. For a single shot, any player can outperform another no matter their skill level.

The design of a great short par-3 is not simple; it’s all about psychology. A well-designed short hole creates an exacting test for the skilled golfer and provides an achievable shot for the regular player. The 9th at the Seth Raynor designed Mountain Lake does just that, even though it plays to a max distance of 146 yards.

At first glance, the hole looks quite simple – a wedge or short iron to a large squared off green. The green can be hit by every level of golfer.

A closer examination finds it’s unique horseshoe green design, which infuses interest. The large depression in the center of the green wrecks havoc on every pin position. To make a birdie, a shot needs excellent accuracy and distance control. Approaches that find the wrong side of the horseshoe face a difficult two-putt. It removes the safe play option for players looking for a birdie; dead aim is a necessity. Aggressive plays bring the trouble that lies on the outside of the green complex. Deep bunkers surround the green, and a short sided miss almost guarantees bogey and disappointment.

C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor, Charles Banks and many architects include Short holes in their designs. They are a match play equalizer as well as a fantastic test of a critical aspect of every player’s game.