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What does par mean in golf?

What does par mean in golf? Better understand golf lingo to up your game

A person taking a swing on the golf course.
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Trying to keep score in sports like basketball is pretty simple. There are only a few ways to score, and it’s all number-based, so keeping track of what shot gets you what points isn’t hard to remember. But in a sport like golf, not only is the scoring a little different, the points aren’t always tracked in numbers. Get a birdie? Have a handicap? What about par? What does par mean in golf? Here’s how to understand this golf term so you can focus on your swing.

What does par means in golf

A person making a shot on a golf course in France.
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In its most basic definition, par is the predetermined number of strokes it will take a player with a zero handicap to finish a hole, round, or course, with room for two strokes on the putting green. To completely understand it, you need to know what a handicap in golf is.

Handicap rundown

A handicap is simply the number of strokes a golfer will take over or under the par number. If the 18-hole round you are playing is a 72-par course, and it takes you 85 swings to finish, subtract 85 from 72, and you are left with a 13 handicap.

The higher the handicap, the less experienced the golfer, and the lower the handicap, the better the golfer. If you finish the course with the exact number of strokes it is, you are a scratch golfer, and your handicap is zero. Newbies usually have a higher handicap, with an average of 18 or up. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a beginner to have a handicap of even 30 or more.

Back to par

Now that we all understand what a handicap is, let’s swing it back to par. Each hole has a par, leading to every course having a par total. Most holes are par 3, par 4, or par 5, meaning it would take a scratch golfer that many strokes to sink the hole. Courses usually have a mix of pars throughout, which makes it fun to figure out your score at the end.

How a course determines par

A golf course with water views.
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The designers come up with the numbers while creating the course, so it’s not a random assortment. A course with 18 holes usually has a par of 70 or 72, with smaller executive courses or 9-hole ones rocking a par between 27 and 60.

If every hole has a par assigned to it, how is it figured? Well, the United States Golfing Association did the work for you. Par is factored by how many yards there are from tee to hole.

For men

  • If a hole is 250 yards or less, it is a par 3.
  • A hole 251 up to 470 yards is a par 4.
  • A hole 471 up to 690 yards is par 5.

For women

  • If a hole is 210 yards or less, it is a par 3.
  • A hole 211 up to 400 yards is a par 4.
  • A hole 401 up to 570 yards is par 5. 

Keep in mind it is experts, experienced golfers, setting the par numbers. You are working towards those swings, so don’t get frustrated and pull a Happy Gilmore if you don’t hit par on every hole.

The next time you walk on the green, ready to take your first swing off the tee, feel more confident in your game. There is a lot of lingo to learn when trying to pick up golf, so take your time with it. The important bit is you learn a little more with each round you play, and now you can add knowing what par in golf means to your bag.

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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