Not many par-3 courses are designed by a bona-fide golf architect, which is what makes Iron Play a real treat. This 18-hole course, located north of Greensboro in Summerfield, is the work of noted architect Kris Spence.
Spence, who's known for restoring classic Donald Ross golf courses, definitely gave Iron Play the feel of a Scottish links. The bunkers are punctuated with large grass faces covered in whispy, heather-like vegetation -- definitely not the token "sand traps" of a typical par-3.The greens are also not what's generally expected at a par-3. They're built to higher specs and feature a healthy mix of A1 and A4 bentgrasses. Although I played the day of an aerification, it was easy to see how plush they were. A lot of regulation golf courses would be tickled with greens of that quality.
As I walked the layout, I was struck by its ability to appeal to both the experienced golfer and the beginner. As an "experienced" golfer, I found the course appealing because of its strong bunkering and the moderate undulation of the greens. The greens have character, including run-off areas. They're not flat and boring.
However, those same greens are not too severe for the beginner/junior golfer. I think it would be a great place for novices to learn about reading putts and accounting for break. The yardages are also manageable. Most holes are around 90-110 yards from the blue tees and 70-90 yards from the whites.
Overall, Iron Play measures 2,015 yards from the blues and 1,655 from the whites. The two longest holes -- Nos. 8 and 16 -- are 140 yards from the blues, while the sixth hole plays 130. Obviously, you don't need a full bag of clubs, probably nothing longer than an 8-iron (although I carried a 7-iron to punch out from under trees).
The routing is solid. The first five holes weave through the lower portion of the property, the only part that is wooded. I liked the feel of the third and fourth holes as they played into and out of a hollow. The third hole also has a fairway bunker, an unusual design element on a par-3, while the fourth is slightly uphill to a green fronted by an attractive rock wall.
Don't fly your shot over the 105-yard fifth hole or you'll discover a little pond. It's a great place to find bullfrogs but a bad place to locate your ball.
As the course moves away from the sixth hole, it transitions to rolling, open expanses. One of the few greens I hit all day was from the eighth tee, unfortunately I got confused and hit the first green (Oops!). The uphill 12th has a very nice look from the tee with a deep, grassed-faced bunker hugging the left.
If you grew up around orchards, you'll recognize the aroma of the apple tree behind the 13th green, while the 15th is a darn good golf hole that would make an excellent par-3 on a regulation course.
The course closes by moving slightly downhill to the clubhouse, an attractive house that appears to have pre-dated the golf course. It has a nice patio out back overlooking a large putting green. A great place to enjoy a soda and lament 18 missed chances at a hole-in-one.