I Attended The Masters Par 3 Contest For The First Time...And It's By Far The Best Augusta Tradition

With the world of professional golf in such a fractured state, the Masters Par 3 Contest reminded me why I love golf

I Attended The Masters Par 3 Contest For The First Time...And It's By Far The Best Augusta Tradition
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I've never previously harbored any great emotion towards the Par 3 Contest at the Masters. As a viewer at home, it's the kind of event that doesn't get all that much TV coverage and my interaction with it often only came from the brief clips I'd see of holes in one or interesting moments with players and their families. However, after attending the Par 3 Contest for the first time in person this year, I think it should be heralded as the Masters' greatest in a long line of traditions. 

Played for the first time in 1960, the Par 3 Contest is the informal curtain raiser for the tournament itself allowing current and past players - alongside their families - to play the stunning par 3 course at Augusta National. There have been some memorable moments of course - like Tony Finau's dislocated ankle after his hole in one in 2018 or Gary Nicklaus Jr.'s hole in one in the same year - but until I saw it and experienced it with my own eyes, it's a hard event to properly appreciate. 

The atmosphere on site is like nothing I've ever experienced at a live golf event. A selection of the best golfers in the world in as a relaxed a mood as you're ever likely to see all within touching distance huge crowds of Patrons. With partners, children and grandchildren by their side dressed in the traditional white boiler suits, it gives a peek into the lives of the players in moods we rarely see them in - and that's a real treat. It's also worth expressing just how large the par 3 course is at Augusta National. Coming it at just over 1000 yards, it's not a long par 3 course in its own right, but its surrounded by huge banks and lakes which make for ideal viewing platforms for the Patrons. 

I also love the groupings the Par 3 Contest throws out. The sign up sheet which is posted in the clubhouse for players to scrawl their names onto often means friends off the course sign up to play as a three, or a player will put their name down and sees who wants a knock. I also loved being able to see past champions with club in hand again at Augusta National. Sir Nick Faldo, Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal - it was quite special to see them hit golf balls in a 'tournament' like this once again. The partners and kids often get a putt or a chip too as they caddie. Bubba Watson, who was out playing today with Ben Crenshaw, let his daughter have a putt on the final hole and she duly sank a 30 footer to rapturous applause. 

Masters Par 3

Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry paired up this year with their wives and children. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the golf and scoring itself really doesn't matter, watching the players flick nothing more than pitching wedges into the small, undulating, glass-like greens that mimic the main course is still a marvel to behold in itself. The course is set up in such a way that you're almost guaranteed to see a hole in one at some stage. This year there have been three, but countless other balls came close as the groups made their way around the course. Much like on the main course, roars from the crowd echo far through the trees, and you're never far away from the best parts of the action on course. 

The 7th hole in particular was set up perfectly for a hole in one, and Lucas Glover duly found the bottom of the cup in one. The 6th saw two of them today from Gary Woodland and Luke List and 5th saw one from Sepp Straka. Of course there's also the unfortunate record that no player has won the Par 3 Contest and the Masters in the same year - sorry Rickie Fowler fans. 

The world of professional golf is in a fractured and tetchy state as of right now. For many, the shouting match between the various rival tours has turned people off the game they once loved watching entirely as it becomes a contest of who has the biggest bank balance. For me, the Par 3 Contest reminded me of everything that is great about golf. Friends, family and a competitive edge is why we all play the game. What better way than on the eve of the game's great major championship to host an event as relaxed and as enjoyable as this. 

With the TV coverage patchy at best and no ability for the broadcast to bring the best bits of the contest into people's living rooms, it's certainly one for the Patrons who are lucky enough to be on site rather than the viewing public at home. However, in a very, very long line of great traditions, I think the Par 3 Contest is Augusta National's crowning glory. 

Dan Parker
Staff Writer

Dan has been with Golf Monthly team since 2021. He graduated with a Masters degree in International Journalism from the University of Sussex and looks after equipment reviews and buying guides, specializing in golf shoe, golf bag, golf cart and apparel reviews. Dan has now tested and reviewed over 30 pairs of golf shoes and is an expert in the field. A left-handed golfer, his handicap index is currently 6.5 and he plays at Fulford Heath Golf Club in the West Midlands. 

Dan's current clubs: 

Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 

Fairway: TaylorMade Stealth 2 15°

Hybrid: Ping G425 

Irons: Cobra King Tec Utility, Ping i230 (5-PW) 

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged Pro

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour X

Ball: Titleist AVX