Mar 06, 2024
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What Is Par in Golf?

Understanding the terminology is a big challenge for new golfers. Some words are self-explanatory, but others, like ‘birdie,’ ‘eagle,’ ‘albatross,’ and ‘ace,’ don’t offer many clues about their meaning.

Par is a little more complicated because it's subdivided into different categories, but this is one word every golfer needs to know. 

Being below or above par in common parlance suggests something is under or over a defined standard or level, often used to refer to feeling under the weather.

Read on to discover what par means to your golf game.

What Are the Different Types of Par?

A par is a standardized calculation based on how many strokes a professional golfer would take to play a particular hole and founded on the distance (measured in yards) and the difficulty, which factors in things like the terrain and the weather.

There are three types, which reflect the total number of strokes taken to complete the hole. The strokes are usually allocated between the fairway and the green. However, if a player makes the hole with a different apportionment but the correct total, it's allowed. 

Par 3

Par 3 means an advanced golfer would take three shots to land the ball in the hole; this refers to holes of a distance of around 250 yards.

Players should get to the green in one stroke with two putts remaining to reach the hole. These are the shortest on the course but are not always the easiest.

Par 4

Par 4 is when a player takes an average of four strokes to reach the hole, two to get to the green, and two putts to make the hole. The average range is 251-470 yards.

Par 5

Par 5 is the longest, measuring at 471 yards or more. It will take five strokes to make the hole. The expectation is that it will take a golfer three shots to get to the green because of the distance with two putts remaining.

This can offer a potential tactical advantage as players with a strong swing reaching the green in two shots will have an additional putt to make the hole.

How Do Golf Courses Determine Their Par?

The word ‘par’ became a regular part of the golf vocabulary in 1911 when the USGA gave it an official definition. Modern rules of golf prescribe defined distances, but playing difficulty also determines the hole's classification. As well as yardage, the allotted number reflects a complex calculation based on distance and other factors like elevation changes, lay-ups, and the prevailing wind.

Obstacles like water hazards, mounds, trees, and bunkers can also increase the difficulty of a hole. However, in most cases, distance is the most significant influence on hole classification.

The aggregate score for all the holes on the course is called the Course Par; this differs from the average score, which relates to player performance.

On some courses, holes have multiple pars or classifications reflecting a difference between the men’s and women’s tees.

Occasionally, you'll see a Par 6, and in South Korea, at the Gunsan Country Club, there is even a Par 7, which measures a monumental 1,110 yards!

Par and the Handicap System

Par ratings give golfers an idea of how they play each hole on the course. 

Handicap is a numerical measure that allows players of different skills to compete on a level playing field. Handicaps are calculated from previous scores. Newer players tend to have higher handicaps.

In simple terms, par is the player versus the hole/course, whereas handicap reflects your golf journey and how you rank against other golfers.

However, par and the handicap system are connected, as inexperienced players tend to have much higher over-par rounds, reflected in their handicaps. There are lots of ways novice players can lower their handicap.

Is a Par Considered Good in Golf?

Making par on a single hole is an excellent score; on an entire course, it’s exceptional. 

Remember, this is based on the performance of a very accomplished golfer.

It's also possible to score below par, but that’s unusual other than for advanced players - or unless you get lucky!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Par Mean in Golf?

Par in golf is a predetermined number of strokes an experienced golfer takes to make a hole. The calculation includes a few factors: distance, terrain, and, sometimes, prevailing wind.

Each hole is given a number, usually between three and five, indicating the prescribed number of strokes a player should take to make the hole.

How Many Strokes Are in a Par?

Golf courses rate each hole with a number. The number indicates the strokes required to get the ball to the green and the putts to make the hole.

Typically, the lower the number of strokes, the more difficult the hole.

What Is Par for 18 Holes?

To calculate the par for 18 holes, add the number for each of the individual holes to make a total. The average figure for an 18-hole golf course is between 69 and 73.

Reaching the course par is what every player aspires to achieve. It may mean a player being over and under at different holes but still being close enough at each hole to meet the course average.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how par works in golf is crucial for any level of player. Essentially, the number allocated reflects the hole's difficulty and guides how many strokes a player needs to make a particular hole. 

However, the classification is based on the skills and experience of an advanced golfer, so it can take a long time for new players or novices to come anywhere near the required number of strokes.

There are several different ways for players to improve their par and handicap, including training with a professional, improving physical strength, fitness, and flexibility, and taking a look at the type and quality of the equipment they’re using. 

Stitch Golf has a comprehensive collection of equipment, gear, and apparel to help you play your best game. Now, not only can you impress your fellow golfers with your familiarity with the lingo, but you’ll look the part, too!