In golf, par is the vocabulary term used for the expected numbers of shots it should take to complete the hole. For example, a par 4 means that it should take you 4 shots to get the ball into the hole.
The entire golf course is rated with a par score as well. Therefore, par can also mean the expected score you should have for all of the golf holes combined.
For example, if the “Par” of the golf course is 72 (which is pretty standard for most golf courses) then you would be expected to score a 72 to shoot par golf.
Other uses include telling your score relative to par. For example, “I am 6 over par for my round of golf” which means the golfer has taken 6 extra shots than the recommended par for the holes played thus far.
How Do Golf Courses Determine the Par of a Hole?
The score assigned to represent the par value of that hole is always determined by adding two strokes for putting. The remaining strokes that comprise that par score are determined by the distance of the golf hole.
For example, a Par 5 hole is much longer in total yardage as compared to a Par 4 or Par 3. Therefore, you will need an extra shot to get the ball to the hole since it’s longer in total yardage.
Here is a typical breakdown of distances on each par value of a hole:
- Par 5 – range between 450 yards and 600 yards
- Par 4 – range between 250 yards and 500 yards
- Par 3 – range between 50 yards and 250 yards
Using the Par 5 as an example, you would subtract 2 shots off the Par 5 value to get 3. This is the number of shots it should take you to get the ball on the green so that you can finish with the two putts to complete the par.
On a par 4 a golfer should need two strokes to reach the green, followed by the 2 putts to get the ball into the hole and complete the par 4 score.
On a par 3, a golfer should need 1 stroke to get the ball on the green, followed by the 2 putts to complete the par 3 score.
How Do Golf Courses Determine the Par of the Entire Course?
The par of the entire 18 hole golf course is determined by adding up the par of all individual holes on the golf course. The total sum usually comes out to 72 for most golf courses but there are others who have par value of 70, 71, and sometimes 73.
To achieve a par 72, most golf course designers create the following number of holes for each par score:
- Par 3 – four total (2 on the front nine and 2 on the back nine)
- Par 4 – ten total (5 on the front nine and 5 on the back nine)
- Par 5 – four total (2 on the front nine and 2 on the back nine)
In order to achieve a par 70 or par 71 for the golf courses final expected score, some golf course developers remove a par 5 and substitute an extra par 4 instead. Or they may add an extra par 3 and remove a par 4.
The Par for a Nine Hole Golf Course
While most golf courses are 18 holes in total, they split them in half creating two sets of 9 holes. The first set of 9 holes is called “The Front Nine” and the second set is called “The Back Nine.”
In golf, once you complete the first 9 holes, it’s considered half-time like in other sports, where you are allowed to take a brief 10-15 minute break at the club house before starting your back nine set of golf holes.
Since the Par of an 18 hole golf course is usually 72, the par for 9 holes is often 36.
Occasionally, you may find a golf course has a par 37 for one set of nine holes and par 35 for the other to still compromise the 72 par total.
Scoring in Relation to Par
Once par has been set for a golf course, a golfer attempts to play the course at par score or better. This is known as a scratch golfer and they make up only 1% of golfers worldwide.
In other words, scoring par in golf is very difficult and challenging, hence why the game of golf can be quite addicting once a golfer gets into it.
The journey to always try and shoot lower scores and break the par score can keep men and women coming back week after week to try their best.
In order to judge your performance in golf, you score yourself relative to par.
- If it takes you one shot more than the recommended par for the hole, that is called a bogey and scored as +1.
- If it takes you one less shot than par, this is known as a birdie and scored as -1.
Here’s the vocabulary for scores on a golf hole:
- Albatross = -3 score
- Eagle = -2 score
- Birdie = -1 score
- Par = 0
- Bogey = +1 score
- Double Bogey = +2 score
- Triple Bogey = +3 score
Ideally, a golfer wants to minimize bogey scores or worse and make as many pars and birdies as possible.
The professional golfers on the tour, for example, make 3 to 6 birdies per round while only making 1 or 2 bogies, and the rest are pars, allowing their final score to be under par.
Final Thoughts on the Meaning of Par in Golf
Overall, par can be used multiple ways in golfer terminology and vocabulary. You can refer to the par of the golf course or the par of the individual hole. You can also refer to your score relative to par.
The end goal is to achieve the par of a golf course, which is very hard to do especially if you’re a beginner and new to the sport of golf.
We created several resources below to help golfers achieve better performance and lower their scores relative to par. Feel free to check them out as well as join our email newsletter for free golf tips each month.