What is Par in Golf and What Does it Mean for You?

You have probably heard the term “Par” used in golf, but may not be sure what it means. “Par” is the number of strokes that a golfer is expected to need to complete a hole. The average golf course has a par of 72, which means that a golfer should be able to complete the course in 72 strokes or less.

The term “par” comes from the Latin word for “equality” or “level.” In golf, it’s used to signify that a hole is of average difficulty. When I first started playing golf, I was always told that par is your friend. It’s the score you’re supposed to aim for on each hole, and it’s a good benchmark to gauge how you’re doing overall.

According to USGA par reflects the score a scratch player is expected to score on a given hole and may be allocated depending on the playing difficulty of the hole, including any effective length correction factors, for example, elevation changes, forced lay-ups, and prevalent wind.

The Par of the Golf Course

The par for the entire course is determined by adding up the par for each individual hole. For example, let’s say you’re playing a course that has a par of 72. That means that the sum of the pars for all 18 holes should equal 72.

The general score for most 18-hole golf courses is between 68 and 72. The most common par for public golf courses is 72, and private golf courses usually have a par between 70 and 72.

The par for a hole can range from 3 to 5 depending on the length of the hole. The longest holes are usually par 5s, while the shortest holes are typically par 3s.

The Par of an Individual Hole

Now that you know what par means for the golf course, let’s take a look at how it applies to individual holes.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a par 4 hole that measures 420 yards. A scratch golfer should be able to reach the green in two shots and then sink the putt in two more shots. That would give them a total of four strokes, or par for the hole.

Similarly, a par 3 hole that measures 150 yards should be able to be completed in three strokes by a scratch golfer. They would hit the ball onto the green in one shot and then sink the putt in two more strokes.

Level Par

If you score exactly the same number of strokes as par for the golf course or per individual hole, then you are said to be “level par.” For example, if you are playing a course with a par of 72 and you finish the course with a score of 72, then you are level par.

Bogey – 1 Over Par

If you score one stroke more than par for the hole, then you are said to have made a “bogey.” For example, if you are playing a par 4 hole and you finish the hole in five strokes, then you have made a bogey.

Double Bogey – 2 Over Par

If you score two strokes more than par for the hole, then you have made a “double bogey.” For example, if you are playing a par 5 hole and you finish the hole in seven strokes, then you have made a double bogey.

Triple Bogey – 3 Over Par

If you score three strokes more than par for the hole, then you have made a “triple bogey.” For example, if you are playing a par 3 hole and you finish the hole in six strokes, then you have made a triple bogey.

Birdie – 1 Under Par

If you have not heard of a birdie dance, you soon will if you play golf long enough. A birdie is one stroke under par for the hole. So, if you are playing a par 4 hole and you finish the hole in three strokes, then you have made a birdie.

Eagle – 2 Under Par

Since I have been playing golf I have only managed to make two Eagles. An eagle is two strokes under par for the hole. So, if you are playing a par 5 hole and you finish the hole in three strokes, then you have made an eagle.

Albatross – 3 Under Par

Even professional golfers do not get many of these. An albatross is three strokes under par for the hole. So, if you are playing a par 6 hole and you finish the hole in three strokes, then you have made an albatross.

Hole In One

What are the odds of making a hole in one? It is said that the odds of making a hole in one are about 1 in 12,500 for the average golfer and 1 in 2,500 for professional golfers.

A hole in one is when you hit the ball into the cup with your very first stroke on a par 3 hole. It is said that there are two types of golfers in the world, those who have made a hole in one and those who have not.

I have not yet had the pleasure of making a hole in one, but I am sure that it will happen one day.

Par and Hole Distance

The United States Golf Association (USGA) has set the minimum and maximum hole lengths for each par. These are the guidelines that most golf courses follow:

The USGA yardages for Men

Par 3 – up to 250 yards

Par 4 – 251 to 470 yards

Par 5 – 471 to 690 yards

Par 6 – 691 yards+

The USGA yardages for Women

Par 3 – up to 210 yards

Par 4 – 211 to 400 yards

Par 5 – 401 to 575 yards

Par 6 – 576 yards+

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Jan Hanecak
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