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What is Par in Golf?

A par in golf is the number of strokes that a golf course expects you need to play each hole.
What is a Par - Teebox Sign

A par in golf is the number of strokes that a golf course expects you need to play each hole. 

The USGA defines Par as the score a scratch player is expected to score on a given hole and may be allocated depending on the playing difficulty of the hole, including any effective length correction factors, for example, elevation changes, forced lay-ups, and prevalent wind.

A par in golf is a score that is considered to be average for a hole. For example, if a hole is supposed to be played in four strokes, then a par would be four. The term “par” can also refer to the number of strokes needed to complete a hole. 

There are only 3 pars in golf. A par 3, a par 4 and a par 5.

The par for a golf course is the number of total strokes for all 9 or 18 holes. This is typically 35 or 36 for a 9-hole course and 70, 71 or 72 for an 18 hole golf course.

If you’re playing on the local par 3 golf course, the par for the course will be 27 for each set of 9 holes.

Here are the Par Amounts of the 4 Major PGA Golf Tournaments

  • Masters @ Augusta National Golf Course: Par 72
  • PGA Championship @ Southern Hills Country Club: Par 70
  • The 2022 US Open @ The Country Club: Par 72
    • The US Open rotates among many golf courses. The 2021 US Open was played at Torrey Pines Golf Course with a Par of 71
  • The 2022 British Open @ The Old Course in St. Andrews: Par 72
    • The British Open rotates among 9 courses. The Royal St. George’s Golf Club hosted the British Open in 2021 and is a Par 70

How is Par Determined for Each Hole?

The golf course designer or management decides on the par for each hole. This is based on the difficulty of the hole which is typically determined by the length of the hole and any challenging obstacles or difficult terrain such as sloped fairways, doglegs, trees, bunkers or water hazards.

Below are the yardage ranges for Par on golf holes, as set by the USGA.

ParMenWomen
3Up to 260 yardsUp to 220 yards
4240 – 490 yards200 – 420 yards
5450 – 710 yards370 – 600 yards

Where there is overlap is where the difficulty factors come into play. It may seem awkward that a Par 4 can only 240 yards from the mens tee for a particular hole, but bear in mind that this hole could have a sharp dogleg with a large water hazard in front of the green. This would force many golfers to lay up and hit a 5 iron off the tee 180 yards. Or it would encourage aggressive players to possibly aim for the green directly from the tee, which has a wide risk/reward balance. 

Conversely, there could be a Par 5 that is 700 yards. This could be a single hole that slopes downhill or has an easy open dogleg to maneuver around. 

I very much enjoy playing these types of golf holes. I enjoy the mental and physical challenge of tackling unique holes. They are always memorable experiences and I also look back to see how I could have played that hole better to achieve a lower score. These types of holes definitely make me consider going back to that golf course!

What is a Par Golfer?

A par golfer is a player who averages Par on every hole. These players are considered above average golfers and expect to shoot Par on every hole. Thus, also expect to shoot Par for the course. 

What is a Zero Handicap?

Someone with a zero handicap is someone who isn’t given any strokes during their round of golf. Their handicap is based on their average scores of their most recent rounds and average par throughout those rounds. They are essentially par golfers. 

What is a Scratch Golfer?

A scratch golfer is also a term for someone who is a par golfer and maintains a zero handicap. You don’t have to be a Class A PGA Professional golfer to be a scratch golfer, and being a PGA Professional doesn’t guarantee you are a scratch golfer. 

How is a Par Marked on a Scorecard?

Since Par is a standard score on each hole, there is actually no marking for it on a scorecard. As opposed to a Birdie which has a circle, an Eagle which has 2 circles, or a Double Bogey which has 2 squares around its score.

What is a Double Par?

A double par is when a golfer takes twice the number of strokes of the par for the hole.

  • On a Par 3, a double par is 6 strokes.
  • On a Par 4, a double par is 8 strokes (also called a quadruple bogey).
  • On a Par 5, a double par is 10 strokes.

Is it Easy to Shoot Par?

For a professional golfer, yes. The pros expect to shoot a par on every hole and hunt for birdies and eagles as well. 

For the average golfer, a Par is usually a nice accomplishment. If you think about it from a novice perspective, to hit a small ball over 300 years away into a 4.25 diameter hole seems crazy difficult. 

Many amateur golfers determine the success of their golf game based on the # of pars (as opposed to the score of their round since many players end up with a few really bad holes per round which skews their overall score). My sister likes to do this when she tells me how she played in her women’s golf league. And if she hits a birdie, that’s the highlight of the week!

According to the USGA, the average handicap for men is 14 and for women it’s 27. For men, that’s practically averaging almost a bogey on every hole and women average between a bogey and double bogey per hole. So don’t get too discouraged if you don’t shoot a lot of pars. 

How to Shoot a Par

Usually shooting a par requires a series of good shots, or 1 incredible shot. On a Par 4, you need to hit a good tee shot with a clear second shot to the green. Or you can make up for a mediocre or bad shot with a great chip or a long putt. 

Please check out my feature post on performing a great golf swing and my post on some helpful putting drills to smooth out your putting stroke and preparation. 

I hope this post gives you some perspective and hope on making some pars the next time you’re out on the golf course!

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V Tongwarin

V Tongwarin

Visanu Tongwarin or “Coach V” is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional at Legacy Ridge Golf Course and Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, Colorado. V's brings his passion for teaching the game of golf to all levels of golfers from running children clinics to training state champions and seasoned professionals.