Big Cedar Lodge Champions Tour Event to Play Par-3 Golf Course

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Big Cedar Lodge Champions Tour Event to Play Par-3 Golf Course
Rob Carr/Associated Press
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem recently announced the new Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf would use a par-3 golf course.

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 for 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 over three days and will include play on the par-3 Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge, an 18-hole championship 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 courses can help you improve your short game, enjoy a round with your family or provide a non-threatening 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 Trevino made an ace there in 2001.

The tournament provided a more relaxed atmosphere for the players, who wore microphones, and 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. Players are allowed to let their children accompany them as caddies for the round.

Par-3 golf courses offer benefits for golfers and the environment as well.

They also are cheaper to maintain for superintendents. They require less acreage to build, less water for irrigation and less fertilizer usage.

Beginners, children and older golfers can enjoy a round of golf and appreciate the shorter 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 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 that have been built as part of a residential community may lack the real estate necessary to design a suitable 18-hole championship golf course but could build one challenging nine-hole par-3 and regulation length nine-hole course.

Everyone gives lip service to wanting to grow the game of golf, but not many actually do anything constructive to 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.

The tournament will be played June 2-8.

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