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In Praise of Par-3s: Shorter Rounds for Shorter Days

A 9-Iron and a Putter Can Get You Across Md.

Guests at the North Glade Inn near Deep Creek Lake, Md., have privileges at the Waterfront Greens course, which is short on yardage but long on challenge.
Guests at the North Glade Inn near Deep Creek Lake, Md., have privileges at the Waterfront Greens course, which is short on yardage but long on challenge. (North Glade Inn)
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By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 10, 2007; Page C02

Txt msging instead of writing letters, downloading ring tones instead of whole songs, squeezing annual vacations into one weekend. In this Age of Abbrev. -- where everything's short, kwik, reduced -- par-3 golf courses make perfect sense.

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With most par-3s, you need only a fistful of clubs, your eco-footprint is minuscule, and you're in and out in less than an hour. Play your score cards right, and you can golf your way across Maryland in one pretty weekend.

And autumn -- before winter weather forces the courses to close -- is the perfect tee time: Fall colors are appearing, and vacationers have vanished. I recently played my way from Annapolis to Deep Creek Lake, waking early on a Saturday morning and returning home by suppertime on Sunday. Along the road, I saw hawks circling in the air and dead leaves floating to the ground. And I pitched-and-putted, at my own pace, around three very particular par-3s.

* * *

I eschewed the courses on beaches and in big cities and started at the Severna Park Golf Center about 9 a.m. Saturday. It's a pretty little course -- with lights so you can even play at night -- just north of Annapolis on Ritchie Highway.

The first tee is a slab of carpet on the sidewalk that runs to the pro shop, while the hole itself is a junior gem that slides along the driving range. I 9-ironed a ball onto the green, walked 32 steps down to the fairway, drained the putt and was on my way.

Birdies on the green; birdies in the trees, chirping over the whirring of the mosquito fans. The fairways are small and easy, the greens small and difficult. There is one water hole. Had everything I needed, except shades for the sun low in the east.

On this day, the pace was leisurely. With only a few other people on the course, I even played a couple of practice balls now and then.

A father was teaching his son how to putt. "He's my retirement plan," says Andrew Arulanandam of Jack, his 4-year-old. Arulanandam lives in Annapolis but works at the National Rifle Association in Fairfax. To him, time is of the essence -- and a par-3 is parfait.

I strolled the Severna Park course easily in 45 minutes. And still had time to thwack a small bucket of balls at the driving range.

* Severna Park Golf Center is at 1257 Ritchie Hwy. in Arnold. Nine holes costs $11; a bucket of balls, $6. Open every day. Info: 410-647-8618, http://www.severnaparkgolf.com.

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