One of my favorite par threes is the closing hole at Manchester (Conn.) Country Club, a longish-iron one-shotter with no elaborate bunkering or heroic water carry - just a green, a fairway and a lovely backdrop of the Globe Hollow Reservoir, only in play if you scream your tee ball well over the green. Oh, and an intervening rise in the ground that obscures the green frontage and the bottom third of the flagstick.
Manchester's early architects - Tom Bendelow, Devereux Emmet and A.W. Tillinghast, at different times - did not have the same access to powerful earth-moving equipment that today's architects have. Those from the age of the bulldozer might have leveled that little hill to appease golfers who hear PGA Tour pros praise golf courses that are "right in front of you" and nod approvingly.
Thank goodness the landform stayed. What makes it a brilliant hole is what you can't quite see: a helpfully angled bit of fairway short and right that can help kick a running shot onto the two-tiered green, which falls off on every side but the front. The result is a confrontation with the most maddening golf hazard of all: the mind. Even golfers who've played the hole before, or were clever enough to study it while on the putting green before the round, get nervous when they can't see something that's important. Besides, even at the best of times, a long iron or hybrid shot is tricky. Every golfer has parked a few such shots next to the cup, but also knows how frustratingly few those memories are. Success on this hole hinges not just on overcoming physical obstacles, but mental ones as well.