Arden and Linda Downey had just finished sinking their balls in the third hole of the east course at Midway Par 3 Golf in Myrtle Beach.
Going on 51 years of marriage with a honeymoon that started in this city, the couple from Sherman, N.Y., plays par-3 golf once or twice a week, depending on weather, whenever they vacation on the Grand Strand.
“I like getting out and walking,” Linda said as she plucked the balls out of the hole, undeterred by the breeze and overcast sky threatening a few raindrops.
Her husband said golfing for an hour or two not only yields quality time, but aids in his long-term recovery from a heart attack while she reaps extra exercise after coping with a back problem.
“I love it here,” Arden said. “It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon.”
He said the course also affords him the opportunity to work on “little short stuff” with chips and putts after driving his ball down the fairway.
“This is why I do it,” he said.
Sherry Johnson is general manager for Burroughs & Chapin Company Inc.’s entertainment golf properties, which includes Midway Par 3 and Cane Patch Par 3 & Driving Range, also in Myrtle Beach.
Johnson said par-3 golf is for people who want a quick outlet for an easy round of golf. Such a course lets people who have not pursued golf regularly or acquired much golf equipment – even clubs – a a way to play without pressure and high costs.
Whereas an outing on a championship course requires more skills and time commitments, 18 holes on a par 3 might take only 11/2 hours in a casual fashion.
“You feel like you’ve walked the course and swung the club,” Johnson said. Many seniors,she said, no longer have enough energy for a full, regulation course, but find a new home on par 3s.
“Eighty percent of your game is 80 yards,” she said, referring to an average length of the fairways, “which is 80 percent of the fun.”
Midway Par 3 also sits by the runway approach/takeoff path for Myrtle Beach International Airport, on a former U.S. Air Force base, so planes and helicopters blend with the background for golfers there.
“Where else can bomber planes fly over you and not get bombed?” Johnson quipped. “And this is Myrtle Beach.”
She said par-3 golf gives families a way to enjoy themselves in 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Rita Kreutter, manager of Harbour View Par 3 & Driving Range between Little River and Myrtle Beach, finds families turn out more in winter as well.
‘Very family oriented’
“It’s very family-oriented,” she said. “Grandparents playing with their kids, and young adults or middle-age adults playing with their partners who are older, who don’t have the stamina for 18 long holes of golf.
“It’s something for groups of people when they’re here for the weekend or weddings. They get out and get some exercise.”
Kreutter said at Harbor View, which also includes Tribal Island Tiki Adventure Golf, she sees people who want to play par 3 after the miniature golf. Couples embrace par-3 courses, too, especially because “the lady doesn’t feel intimidated” on such courses, Kreutter said.
Kreutter also enjoys par-3 rounds herself.
“It’s great for your short game,” Kreutter said. “I play because I can see what’s on the players’ point of view. It’s good, too, when you’re hitting the ball on the green, and it gives you a good perception. ... It’s fresh air and exercise.”
Joe Green, manager of Tupelo Bay Golf Center in Garden City Beach, S.C., said par 3 melds convenience and fitness. He said “the speed of play” keeps the game popular for people year round.
“You can play nine holes in an hour,” Green said, “and you walk it.”
Green said families represent the bulk of par-3 golfers at Tupelo Bay, which includes a driving range, an 18-hole executive course, and par-3 course with cages for disc golf, played with flying discs such as Frisbees.
“We have a lot of fathers and sons,” Green said, “and because they don’t get held up, they can get out and take the time and have fun.”
Not just duffers
Par 3 golf isn’t limited to the more casual golfer, either, for it can turn into a proving ground for more serious golfers who want extra practice.
“We try to open it up to everybody,” Green said. “We have guys come out here and are very good. They’re just kind of working their irons.”