A "par" is both a scoring term and a term to signify the length of a golf hole. Par 3's can be reached in one shot, par 4s in two shots, and par 5s in 3 shots.
I made a par on that hole.
Before "par" became integral to golf scoring, early championships lacked a clear way to indicate a player's score relative to the standard. For instance, the inaugural U.S. Open champion, Horace Rawlins, scored 173 in 1895, yet without a par reference, the significance remained obscured. The term "par" found its official place in golf in 1911, although its financial roots existed well before. Originally linked with stocks, "par" indicated a security's nominal value.
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New to golf and trying to figure out what all the golf scoring terms mean?
Let's talk about one of the most common golf scoring terms—the "par".
A par in golf is a golf term to describe a score made on a golf hole where the golfer takes exactly how many strokes was designated for the hole. This is often expressed as "even par", "level par", or more commonly, just "even".
Here's how you'd hear this on a golf course:
I made par on the last hole
I was level par for the round
Here is how many shots it takes to make a par on each type of golf hole.
- Par 5 hole - On a par 5, a par is equal to five strokes.
- Par 4 hole - On a par 4, a par is equal to four strokes.
- Par 3 hole - On a par 3, a par is equal to three strokes.
The evolution of the term "par" stems from stock market terminology.
Before "par" became integral to golf scoring, early championships lacked a clear way to indicate a player's score relative to the standard. For instance, the inaugural U.S. Open champion, Horace Rawlins, scored 173 in 1895, yet without a par reference, the significance remained obscured.
The term "par" found its official place in golf in 1911, although its financial roots existed well before.
Originally linked with stocks, "par" indicated a security's nominal value.
In golf, it signifies the score an expert player should achieve, distinct from "bogey," a term synonymous until "par" was officially designated the ideal score. Despite yardage variations over time, the enduring impact of this word on the game is evident in its historical transformation.
In golf, each individual golf hole has a designated "par" based on the hole's distance. This number assumes that a golfer will take two putts on the green, so in general...
- If the green can be reached on your first shot, it will be a par 3 (1 stroke + 2 putts = 3)
- If the green can be reached in 2 strokes, it is a par 4 (2 strokes + 2 putts = 4)
- If the green can be reached in 3 strokes, it is a par 5 (3 strokes + 2 putts = 5).
These distances are different depending on what tee box you are playing from. Players who hit the golf ball shorter will play from the "forward tees" so they can reach the green in the designated number of strokes.
From the championship tees ("back tees"), here are some general distance estimates for each type of hole.
- Par 3 - Generally, a par 3 is 100-180 yards from the championship tees.
- Par 4 - Generally, a par 4 is 360-410 yards from the championship tees.
- Par 5 - Generally, a par 5 is between 450-575 yards from the championship tees.
A golf course will add up all the "pars" for the holes to get the total course par. Generally, this will be either 70, 71, or 72. A golf course with a par of less than 70 are referred to as "Executive Course".
On a golf scorecard, if you make a par, you write the number down without any markings around it. This is because it is the "standard" score expected for the hole (even though this is not the case for most average golfers).
The easiest way to understand a par in golf is by example, so here is a video of me making a par in real life!
The hole I am playing is a par 3 hole, which means that a par is equal to 3 strokes.
In the video, you'll see me take one tee shot, one lag putt, and one short putt, which is called my "par putt".
For the average golfer, a par is a great score, and will generally happen a couple times per round.
Most golfers shoot between 85-110. In this scoring range, it is common to have anywhere form 2-10 pars for the round.
As you improve your score to the range of 75-85, you will generally make par on about half the holes during a round.
And as you start shooting between 65-75, you will generally make par on the majority of holes in your round with some birdies and the occasional eagle mixed in.
An expert golfer will generally make 10-15 pars in a single, 18-hole golf round. This is mainly because the other holes will be birdies or eagles.
When a golfer says, "I par-ed out", they mean they had a streak of pars to finish their golf round.
Typically, this is a good thing that most average golfers would be excited about!
A common phrase you will hear in golf is a "par save". This typically refers to a scenario when an expert golfer misses the green on their approach shot, but then "gets up and down" for a par.
For example, let's say you are playing a par 4 hole. On a par 4, you are expected to hit your ball on the green in two shots. If you do so, you have "hit the green in regulation".
If you miss the green, you have "missed the green in regulation".
If you miss the green, you will have to "get up and down" (chip and a putt) to "save par".
Here is an example of this where I missed the par 4 green in two shots, but then was able to hit one chip and one putt to "save par".
While there is no single hole that is always easier, some holes tend to give more par opportunities than others, depending on the golfer's skill level.
- Amateur golfers - generally, amateur golfers make most of their pars on par 3 holes and par 5 holes because these holes give the golfer a larger margin for error than a par 4 does.
- Pro golfers - generally, the pros make most of their pars on par 3 holes and par 4 holes because on par 5 holes, they are typically trying to take advantage and make birdie or eagle.
For average golfers, yes. For pros, not so much. Pros will make lots of pars on any course you put them on.
That said, golf courses will use all of the following techniques to make it harder for golfers to make a par.
- Longer holes - the longer the hole, the harder it is to make par
- Faster greens - faster greens make putting harder, and thus, make it harder to make that par putt!
- Hazards - Water hazards, bunkers, and other challenging course features make it harder to make par
Below are other golf scoring terms related to a par in golf:
- Hole-in-one - Also called an "ace", this is when you hit your tee shot in the hole and is most common on par 3s. On a par 3, a hole-in-one is also an "eagle". On a par 4, it is considered an "albatross" or "double eagle".
- Condor - Also called a "triple eagle", this is the rarest golf score in golf because it requires you to get a hole-in-one on a par 5 hole. This has only happened a handful of times in history, and has never been caught on camera.
- Albatross - Also called a "double eagle", an albatross is when you shoot 3 shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is impossible to make. On a par 4, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 5, this is when you hit your second shot in the hole.
- Eagle - An eagle is when you shoot two shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 4, this is when you make a 2. On a par 5, this is when you make a 3.
- Birdie - A birdie is when you shoot one shot under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a 2. On a par 4, this is when you make a 3. On a par 5, this is when you make a 4.
- Bogey - A bogey is when you shoot 1 stroke over par. For example, on a par 5, this would be a score of 6.
- Double bogey - A double bogey is when you shoot 2 strokes over par for the hole. For example, on a par 3, this would be a score of 5.
- Triple bogey (and worse) - A triple bogey (and worse) is when you take 3 strokes over par or more. For example, on a par 4, a score of 7 is a triple bogey, a score of 8 is a quadruple bogey, a score of 9 is a quintuple bogey, and so on.
About the author: Zach Gollwitzer
Hey, I‘m Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission—I wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.
Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.