What Is Par In Golf? (One of the Most Common Golf Terms Explained!)

What is ‘par’ in golf? What does it really mean and how does it matter? Everything you want to know about this commonly used golf term is discussed in the most straightforward manner below.

You might think it’s a complicated term to understand, but that’s really not the case. Par just represents the number of strokes you need to take for completing a single hole on the golf course. This implies that every hole has its very own par value or rating (set by the USGA).

Par is also related to the length of the hole. A simpler explanation – longer holes equal to higher par ratings equal to more strokes.

What Is A ‘Par’ In Golf – Meaning of Par

One of the most commonly used golf terms is PAR. So what does it mean exactly?

“Par” refers to how many strokes you need for completing a single hole or all holes on the golf course.

Par of An Individual Hole

Take any single hole on the course, for instance par-5 hole. What this means is that you need to play five strokes to complete that particular hole. It’s really as simple as that.

But how is this par value assigned to individual holes? The value that represents ‘par’ consists of the number of strokes a highly skilled golfer would take for reaching the green + two putts.

Holes on a golf course are most commonly labeled as par-5, par-4, and par-3. Although I have also come across par-6, this is very rare. Par-5 is longer in comparison to par-4 and par-4 is longer in comparison to par-3 (that’s how it works).

  • Par-3 hole – just one stroke is needed for reaching the green, and then two putts.
  • Par-4 hole – two strokes are needed, then two putts.
  • Par-5 hole – three strokes are needed to reach that green + two putts, so that’s a total of five strokes.

There are well-established yardage guidelines for par-5, par-4, and par-3 holes set by the USGA.

Par of A Golf Course

So for an 18-hole golf course, ‘par’ refers to the total strokes a pro golfer would take for completing his/her whole round of golf on that course. If the golf course is full-sized, the most common pars here include par-70, par-71, and par-72.

Add the par of every single hole on the course and you get its total par. For example, 10 par-4 holes, 4 par-3 holes, and another 4 par-5 holes = par-72 as a whole for that particular golf course.

How About ‘Par’ Being Used In Relation to Scoring

Scoring performance is often described in relation to par. This could be either for the entire round of golf or on a single hole. When you’ve completed the par-4 hole with four strokes, you’ve successfully “parred” that hole, also can be called “level par” or “even par.”

But what if you took five strokes instead for playing the par-4 hole? In that case, you’re “1-over par.” Much the same way, three strokes on the par-4 hole means “1-under par.”

And you can use the same method for the whole round of golf (18 holes). For instance, if it’s a par-72 situation and you’ve shot 68, you’re “4-under par” while you’re “13-over par” if you’ve shot 85.

How Does ‘Par’ Work In Golf?

Par is the benchmark you should be aiming for. And these standard numbers aren’t just randomly selected for each hole. Rather they’re a total of the number of strokes needed for completing those individual holes.

How Did ‘Par’ Come to Be Known What It Is In Golf?

‘Par’ as one of the most common golf terms has a history that goes back to the early 1900s. In the U.S. Opens and Open Championships back then, the total score was calculated by the total number of strokes the players hit. However, this tallied total was not then brought into relation with par.

The term ‘par’ officially came into play in 1911. That’s when the USGA explained ‘par’ as the total score any expert golfer would make for the given individual hole. This means the expected number of strokes by a pro-level player under normal weather conditions, and then two putting strokes.

Before golf, the word ‘par’ had to do with stocks (for example, stocks might be below or above their par or normal figure). As for golf before the 1900s, the term was used synonymously with bogey.

And then eventually par came to be recognized as the expected score on an individual hole whereas bogey is the ideal score for recreational or weekend golfers.

How about the differences in yardage variables or par values assigned to individual holes back then and now?

In 1911:

  • Par-3: Till 225 yards
  • Par-4: Between 225 and 425 yards
  • Par-5: Between 426 and 600 yards
  • Par-6: 601 yards or higher

Then in 1917, they were changed:

  • Par-3: Till 250 yards
  • Par-4: Between 251 and 445 yards
  • Par-5: Between 446 and 600 yards
  • Par-6: 601 yards or higher

Finally, the last update was made in 1956 (golf technology has certainly boomed since then)

  • Par-3: Till 250 yards
  • Par-4: Between 251 and 470 yards
  • Par-5: 471 yards or higher

How Many Strokes In A Par?

Par is not the same between holes, it varies of course. And length is what is taken into account in determining the number of strokes needed for completing a hole. This is why the par-3 hole, since it’s a short one, requires a single stroke (by a highly skilled golfer), followed by two putts. And if it’s a long hole, then its rating is par-4 or par-5.

Connection Between Par and Scoring – Under Par Golf Scoring Terms

  • BIRDIE – 1-under par, that is 1 stroke under par is referred to as a birdie. Good examples would be 4 strokes on par-5, 3 strokes on par-4, and 2 strokes on par-3.
  • EAGLE – This is 2-under par on the individual hole, meaning 2 strokes under par on that hole. For example, 3 strokes on par-5 and 2 strokes on par-4. While 1 stroke on par-3 may be an eagle, it’s more commonly described as “ace” or “hole-in-one.”
  • ALBATROSS (also known as DOUBLE EAGLE) – It is 3-under par, so that’s 3 strokes under par on the individual hole. For instance, 2 strokes on par-5. Or hole-in-one on par-4!
  • HOLE-IN-ONE or ACE – These golf terms are used when you hit your first shot itself into the hole or cup.
  • CONDOR – This particular score refers to 4-under par on the individual hole. On the majority of golf courses, you can get a condor by scoring a hole-in-one on par-5. But the fact that you may not have heard about “condor” means it rarely ever takes place because it’s practically impossible for hitting the golf ball that far on a par-5 hole.

Connection Between Par and Scoring – Over Par Golf Scoring Terms

  • BOGEY – 1-over par i.e. 1 stroke over par on an individual hole.
  • DOUBLE-BOGEY – A score of 2-over par on the individual hole.
  • TRIPLE-BOGEY – 3 strokes over par on an individual hole.
  • QUADRUPLE-BOGEY – As you can guess by now, 4-over par, this means 4 strokes over par on the individual hole.

Connection Between Par and Distance

The logic is pretty straightforward – longer holes equal to higher par.

According to USGA yardage guidelines:

  • Par-3: Till 250 yards
  • Par-4: Between 251 and 470 yards
  • Par-5: Between 401 and 690 yards

And those for women:

  • Par-3: Till 210 yards
  • Par-4: Between 211 and 400 yards
  • Par-5: Between 401 and 575 yards

What is also taken into consideration is every hole’s ‘effective playing length.’ So that means if the hole is at an altitude or downhill, it may be longer in comparison to a typical hole having the same par value. And the other way around when a hole is uphill (closer to the sea level).

What Is the Average Par On A Golf Course?

That would be 72 for your regular 18-hole round of golf. As for a 9-hole golf course, the average is par-3.

Every hole on the course has its own value in relation to par, right? So for an 18-hole turf, when you add all the 18 par values, the total you get is about par 72, which consists of 4 par-3s, 10 par-4s, and 4 par-5s.

Quick FAQs About ‘Par In Golf’ Answered!

Is Par Good In Golf?

‘Par’ does indeed create that distinction between expert golfers and recreational golfers. If you’ve managed to maintain the par score on each hole, consider yourself being as competitive as the former.

What Is Par In Golf for 18 Holes and 9 Holes?

Golf courses, most of them, have 18 holes. When you split them, each half consists of 9 holes, which is known as “The Front Nine” while the second half is referred to as “The Back Nine.”

Now the par of 18-hole golf courses is almost always 72. And that of a 9-hole course is the half of that, so that’s 36.

What Is the Meaning of Par-70, Par-71, and Par-72?

Does this mean very long holes? Nope, that’s not it.

As already mentioned before, every hole comes with its own value or par, right? Commonly, golf courses have 18 holes. Add all the 18 par values and you get something between 69 and 74. Take any regulation golf course, its par will be 72, which is equal to 4 par-3s, 10 par-4s, and 4 par-5s.

What Is A Par 1 In Golf?

This score is actually a ‘birdie’ in golf – it refers to a score of 1 stroke under par on the individual hole. For instance, when you score 4 on par-5.

‘Bogey,’ on the other hand, is 1-over par on the hole.

What Is A Par 2 In Golf?

2 strokes under par on the individual hole is called ‘eagle’ while 2-over par is ‘double-bogey.’

Is There Par-6 and Par-7 In Golf?

Par-6 exists in golf (the longest being 1,007 yards at Marquette, Michigan), but it’s very rare indeed. USGA guidelines state that a hole above 575 yards for women and 690 yards for men is considered par-6.

As for par-7, it’s the longest hole in golf at Gunsan Country Club (South Korea), and it measures 1,100 yards.

Time to Wrap Things Up!

You can use the term ‘par’ in multiple ways for the game of golf. But USGA defines it as the total number of strokes any expert golfer would take for completing an individual hole. And it goes without saying that this also depends on the difficulty and length of the hole.

Par then just means you reach the green (complete the holes) in regulation, then take two putts for sinking the ball.

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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