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What Is Par in Golf?

There’s nothing like a good game of golf to get the blood going. It’s just you, maybe a couple of buddies, the deep blue sky, the green grass beneath your feet, and the swishing sound of golf balls flying through the air. 

Now, if you’re a beginner, getting the basics down is essential. You want to build a solid foundation first, and only then can you focus on the more complex stuff. Replacing bad, ingrained habits is a chore and can seriously set you back. So, let’s start with the basic terminology, namely what does par in golf mean? Let’s find out.

What Does “Par” Mean in Golf?

Do you want to be an expert golfer? Then let’s give you something to aim at (pun intended). 

In golf, a “par” represents the number of strokes (i.e., swings of the golf club) a golfer needs to make to complete either a specific hole or a round of multiple holes (think 18 or 9). 

It’s both a goal to aim at, and it can describe the expected difficulty of a hole (or entire course).

So, just to give you an example, for a par-4 hole, you’re expected (as a burgeoning pro) to complete it through 4 strokes. If you manage to do this with two strokes, you’re “2 under par” or just “2 under”. 

Similarly, the term can be used for multiple holes on a golf course. So, if you’re on the nine-hole golf course with a par-36, having a total score of 40 means, you’re “4 over par”. Note that a single golf course does not necessarily have to have all of its holes be of the same par. In fact, usually, you’ll have a mix.

par in golf

Par In Golf Defined – Standardization and Guidelines

You might have noticed that a par in golf basically denotes the difficulty of a specific course or hole. So if you’ve been thinking – what about downhill holes, playing uphill, well that is accounted for as well.

First off, the United States Golfing Association has set distances for specific parts (divided by gender). So, for men:

  • Up to 250 yards is Par 3
  • Between 251 and 470 is Par 4
  • 471 to 690 is Par 5

For women, it:

  • Up to 210 yards is Par 3
  • Between 211 and 400 represents Par 4
  • 401 to 575 yards is Par 5

As we’ve mentioned, the difficulty of the course can also hinge on its topography. The people designing and managing golf courses use the term “effective playing length” for specific holes. Uphill holes closer to sea level are technically more complicated than those downhill and at an altitude. 

In other words, even if the same two holes have the same “literal” yardage, one might be considered shorter than the other. Think of it this way – for downhill holes, gravity can help prolong a single stroke. A 5 over score on a par-5 uphill hole would simply not be nearly as easy to get on a downhill hole. 

Expertise and Getting Discouraged

Now we can’t emphasize enough that scoring a par in golf on every single hole on an entire golf course is for experts. It’s a great number to aim at, but if you’re consistently hitting pars (or under!) on entire courses with little training or experience, congratulations – you’ve been blessed by the gods of golf.

For the rest of us mortals, these numbers are just something to aspire to. 

Pars, Strokes, and Putts

Pars technically include putts, as well as strokes. So, an expert playing a par-4 golf hole should reach the green (a place where the flag and the holes are) in two strokes and then get the ball in through 2 putts. For a par-5 golf hole, it’s three strokes and two putts…

Extra lingo

Some other par-related terms might be confusing for beginners. By know you understand what par in golf means, but here are some extra definitions as well:

  • A Condor – The be-all to end-all, the Condor means getting four strokes under par for a specific hole. In other words, it’s a hole in one on a par-5 hole. This is incredibly rare since par-5 holes are the longest and require significant power, skill, and pure luck. 
  • The Ace – Also known as the mythical hole-in-one, it’s pretty self-explanatory. No matter the yardage, it means getting the golf ball into the hall with one single stroke.
  • A Birdie – easier to accomplish compared to the two above. It means getting a ball into a hole with one stroke to spare. So, that means getting a ball in with two strokes on a par-3 hole, three strokes on a par-4 hole, etc.
  • The Eagle – The birdie grew into an eagle. It’s getting two strokes under par for a specific hole. 

Conclusion

And there you have it, folks, a quick little guide on some golfing basics. So keep our article in mind the next time you go out on the green, and remember to practice, practice, practice!

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