The term “par” in golf resonates with every player, from the seasoned professional to the eager beginner. This seemingly simple concept plays a central role in the sport, serving as a critical benchmark for performance, shaping strategy, and informing course design.

Yet, despite its ubiquity, the idea of par can be elusive, particularly for those new to golf. This article delves into the concept of par, exploring what it means, how it is determined, and its influence on the sport of golf.

Whether you’re a scratch golfer, a recreational player, or simply curious about the game, understanding par is a crucial step in appreciating the nuances and challenges of golf.

The Basics of Golf Scoring

Golf, a sport of precision and skill, boasts a unique scoring system that can be puzzling to those new to the game. “Par” is a fundamental term in golf scoring. But what is par in golf, exactly? It’s the predetermined number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to require to complete a particular hole or an entire round on a regulation golf course.

Par values are an essential part of this intricate game, determining the benchmark for scoring and shaping the strategy players adopt for individual golf holes. The total par, or the cumulative par for all the holes on a golf course, also aids in evaluating a golfer’s score and the course’s difficulty level.

Determining Par on Different Golf Courses

Par varies across different golf courses, influenced by individual holes’ length and difficulty. It’s not unusual for most golf courses to have par values between 3 and 5 for each hole. The longest hole recorded is a par seven at Satsuki Golf Course in Japan, measuring a mind-boggling 909 yards.

Course designers carefully evaluate each hole’s layout, considering how many strokes an expert golfer would need to reach the green and then make the golf ball drop into the hole. It’s typically assumed that two putts will be needed on the green, with the remaining strokes accounting for the drive and approach.

Understanding Par Scores

In par golf scoring terms, a par score indicates a golfer has completed a hole or round in the expected number of strokes. For a typical hole, a par 4, for instance, an expert golfer is expected to reach the green in two strokes, leaving two putts to finish. For a very long hole, like a par 5, three strokes are expected to reach the green with two putts to complete.

Moreover, golf scoring terms extend beyond par. If a golfer hits the ball into the hole in one stroke less than par, that’s a “birdie.” Two strokes under par is an “eagle,” and three under par, very rarely achieved, is a “double eagle” or “albatross.”

Scoring over par also has specific terms. One stroke over par is a “bogey,” two strokes over is a “double bogey,” three strokes over is a “triple bogey,” and four strokes over is a “quadruple bogey.”

Different Types of Golf Courses and Their Par Ratings

There’s a wide variety of golf courses globally, each with its par rating, creating unique challenges for experts and beginners alike.

A regulation golf course typically has 18 holes, with most golf courses having a total par between 70 and 72. However, there are also shorter golf courses known as executive courses. These are particularly appealing to beginners or those looking for a quicker game. Executive systems usually have a higher number of par three holes and a lower total par.

Then, there are par-3 courses, entirely comprised of par-3 holes. While these shorter courses might seem easier, they demand high accuracy, as golfers generally aim to reach the green with their first shot.

Par as a Tool for Strategy and Course Management

Understanding par work in golf can heavily influence how golfers plan their game. This is particularly evident on longer holes, where reaching the green directly is not feasible.

On a long hole, like a par 5, an expert golfer’s strategy might involve reaching the green in three strokes, allowing two putts to achieve par. However, for a recreational golfer, the same hole might be planned differently, perhaps focusing on ensuring a clean fairway progression and avoiding hazards, even if it means accepting a higher par, like a bogey or double bogey.

How Players Use Par to Evaluate Performance

For professional golfers, par serves as a performance benchmark. While it’s quite a feat to play golf and score even par for an entire round, the best golfers in the world often aim for birdies and eagles to finish under par. This is where terms like “one under par” or “two under par” come into play.

Recreational golfers, on the other hand, often aim for bogey golf or one over par. A golfer’s score in relation to par is useful for tracking progress and improving their game.

The Role of Par in Professional Golf

In professional golf, understanding par is crucial. Match play formats might focus on winning individual holes, but in stroke play, the total score in relation to par over a complete round or series of rounds determines the winner.

Par values also dictate the strategy professionals use. On a short par 3, for example, they might aim for the green with the first shot, hoping to score a birdie. On a longer par five hole, they plan their shots to reach the green in fewer strokes, hoping to secure an eagle.

Par as a Learning Tool

For beginners, learning golf involves understanding the term “par” and what it represents. By setting a performance standard, par provides a target to strive for and a framework for evaluating progress.

Recreational golfers and beginners can use the concept of par to set personal goals and track their improvements. For instance, moving from consistently scoring double bogeys to bogeys represents a significant step forward.

Even if par seems like a lofty goal for new golfers, the journey towards “par golf” provides a structured pathway for improving skills, enhancing understanding of the game, and increasing enjoyment on the golf course.

Par’s Impact on Amateur Play

For amateur or recreational golfers, understanding what par is in golf and how to aim for it can enhance their playing experience. Knowing par can help plan their shots better and set realistic expectations.

For instance, an amateur golfer may not reach the green in two shots on a par four hole like an expert golfer. Still, knowing how par works in golf allows them to plan their strategy effectively, even if they are aiming for a bogey or double bogey instead.

The Influence of Par on Golf Course Design

Par plays a significant role in how golf courses are designed. The designer considers the layout and length of individual holes, the placement of hazards, and the greens’ contours when determining a hole’s par.

For instance, Gunsan Country Club in South Korea presents an unusual challenge with three par-6 holes, demanding strategic play over brute force. Such thoughtful course design ensures an exciting game for golfers at every skill level.

The Future of Par in Golf

The concept of par is so ingrained in golf that it’s hard to imagine the game without it. Technological advancements give players more resources to analyze their game and work towards scoring at or under par. Executive courses with a lower overall par rating offer recreational players a more approachable version of the game while maintaining the essence of par play.

Par will remain an integral part of golf in the foreseeable future, continuing to be the benchmark against which all golfers, from beginners to professionals, measure their performance.

History of Par in Golf

The ” par ” system is a relatively recent addition to the long history of golf. Introduced in the late 19th century, par was initially used to define the ideal number of strokes an expert golfer should take to complete a hole or a round. Over time, this concept has evolved and become integral to how golf is played, scored, and understood.

How Handicaps Work with Par

In golf, handicaps are a system used to level the playing field, allowing golfers of differing skill levels to compete against each other fairly. A player’s handicap represents the number of strokes above par that the player might be expected to score over a round.

For instance, if a player has a handicap of 15, they are expected to play 15 strokes over par for a complete round on a regulation golf course. When this player competes against a scratch golfer (a golfer who can regularly play to par), the handicap system will deduct 15 strokes from their score, effectively placing both players on an even footing.

Exceptional Records Related to Par

While par serves as a benchmark for the average golfer, some exceptional golfers have set astonishing records related to par. One notable record is the lowest round in relation to par in a major championship, held by Kim Hyo-Joo with a round of 61, 10-under-par at the 2014 Evian Championship.

On the men’s side is Jim Furyk’s remarkable story. 2016 during the Travelers Championship, Furyk shot a record-breaking round of 58, 12-under-par, the lowest single-round score in PGA Tour history.


Understanding what par in golf means and how it is calculated is fundamental to appreciating and mastering the game of golf. Whether you’re a weekend warrior trying to break 90 or a scratch golfer aiming to finish under par, the concept of par guides your strategy and assesses your performance. In the grand scheme of the sport, par is more than just a number—it’s a challenge, a target, and a measure of success.


  1. USGA: The Rules of Golf
  2. PGA: What is Par in Golf
  3. Golf Digest: Understanding Par

Chris is an accomplished health and fitness writer with a strong passion for helping others optimize their physical and mental well-being. With a degree in Exercise Science and a diverse background in the wellness industry, Chris brings a depth of knowledge to his writing that is both comprehensive and compelling.

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