What Is Par In Golf? Golf Scoring Term Explained

A close up of golf par sign

Par is the number of strokes that a golfer should take to complete a hole, set by the course designer. If you’re new to the game of golf, you should know about this.

For the golfer, par is both an elusive and alluring target. Achieving par on a hole is often seen as a badge of honor, even among experienced golfers. But what is par in golf, and where did this golf term come from?

What Is Par In Golf?

In golf, “par” refers to the number of strokes that a golfer should take to complete a hole or a round. This number is typically set by the course designer and will range from 3 to 5.

Par Includes 2 Putts

Par is also determined by the length and difficulty of the hole, and typically includes two putts to get the ball in the hole. This means that a player is expected to hit the ball onto the green in the designated number of strokes and then take two putts to finish the hole. 

Note: some golfers may be able to complete a hole in fewer strokes, allowing for the possibility of achieving a birdie, eagle, or even an albatross

Conversely, taking more than two putts to complete a hole will result in a score higher than par.

Different Types Of “Par”

Commonly, there are three types of holes, such as “Par 3”, “Par 4”, and “Par 5”.

A close up of scorecard highlighting what is par in it

Par 3 in golf

A “Par 3” is a hole that the golfer should be able to get on the green in one stroke and then putt the ball into the hole with two shots, for a total of three strokes. Par 3’s are usually the shortest holes on the course, but they’re not always easy.

Par 4 in golf

A “Par 4” is a hole type where the average golfer is expected to reach the green in two strokes, then putt once on the green for four shots. Par 4s can have a wide variance of distances, ranging from drivable yardage to over 500 yards for professional golfers.

Par 5 in golf

On a “Par 5”, the average golfer would need to hit the ball three times before getting onto the green. If you are above average and can hit the ball farther, take advantage of this by only needing two shots instead of three, like most people. 

Par in Length

The longest holes on a golf course are typically Par 5s, while the shortest holes are usually Par 3s.

Par On Golf Course Meaning

The overall par for a golf course is determined by adding up the pars for each individual hole. Most regulation 18-hole courses have a total par of 72, though this can vary depending on the length and difficulty of the course. For example, many championship courses may have a total par that exceeds 72.

What does “par for the course” mean?

In golf, “par for the course” refers to the total number of strokes that a skilled golfer is expected to take to complete a particular course. 

A golfer who completes a hole in the expected number of strokes is said to have scored “par”. A golfer who completes a course in the expected number of strokes is said to have shot “par for the course”.

Scoring Par Individually

While the overall par for a course is important, it’s also worth noting that every golfer has their own personal par for any given course. This number is based on the player’s handicap and will give them an indication of how many strokes they should realistically expect to take on each hole.

Golf score par

Par in golf can also serve as an indicator of a golfer’s performance. When a golfer completes a hole with the same number of strokes as the designated par, it is called “parred the hole”. For instance, if a golfer completes a par-4 hole in four strokes, it is a “level-par” or “even-par” score.

Can Par On Hole Be Different For Men And Women?

In most cases, yes. The USGA (United States Golf Association) has different sets of rules for men’s and women’s courses, which include different yardage requirements. As such, it’s not uncommon for there to be slight variations in the par for men’s and women’s courses.

Hole Distance And Par In Golf

The average length of a golf hole is between 150 and 200 yards. The shortest holes, known as par 3s, can be as short as 100 yards. The longest holes, known as par 5s, can be up to 700 yards long. 

The USGA’s par yardage guidelines for men and women are as follows:

3Up to 260 yards(240 meters)Up to 220 yards(200 metres)
4240 to 490 yards(220 to 450 meters)200 to 420 yards(180 to 380 meters)
5450 to 710 yards(410 to 650 meters)
370 to 600 yards(340 to 550 meters)
6670 yards and up(610 meters and up)
570 yards and up(520 meters and up)

From where did we get the par term?

The term “par” in golf is derived from the stock market, wherein a company’s stock may be above or below its standard value. In 1870, Mr. AH Doleman asked golf professionals David Strath and James Anderson what score would be needed to win the then-trophy for The Open, Prestwick’s annual tournament held since 1861.

Strath and Anderson mentioned that if somebody played perfectly, they would score a 49 on Prestwick’s twelve holes. Mr. Doleman named this ‘par’ for Prestwick, and subsequently, Young Tom Morris won with two strokes more than the average ‘par’ score of 36  holes.

The term “par” in golf was first mentioned in Britain, but the bogey actually preceded it. Today’s rating system doesn’t use the par standard, which wasn’t created until later on. 

The Ladies Golf Association started developing a national handicapping system for women back in 1893 so that by the end of the century, it would be largely completed. Men’s association followed a few years after being founded in 1894.

Golf Par terms

Some of the golf par terms used are based on the number of the strokes they are required to complete. These include – Birdie, eagle, bogey, double bogey and condor and are separated based on over par and under par. 

What is a birdie?

A birdie is a term used in golf to describe a score of one stroke under par on a hole. This means that a golfer has completed a hole in one stroke less than the number of strokes expected of a skilled player. For example, a birdie on a par-4 hole means the player completed the hole in three strokes.

How do you describe an Eagle and double eagle?

In golf, an eagle is a term used to describe a score that is two strokes under par on a particular hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par-4 hole in two strokes, or a par-5 hole in three strokes, it is an eagle. 

A “double eagle” is a score of three strokes under par on a single hole. It is also known as an “albatross” and is a very rare feat.

Eagles are relatively rare, and they require a golfer to execute a particularly strong shot or series of shots to complete the hole in fewer strokes than expected. 

Which is the rarest type of score in golf?

The rarest type of score in golf is a condor, which is a hole completed in four strokes under par. 

This is an extremely rare occurrence and usually requires hitting the ball directly into the hole from the tee (a hole-in-one) on a par-5 hole, or holing out a second shot from the fairway on a par-6 hole. They are so uncommon that they are often considered more of a myth or a novelty than a legitimate achievement.

What is the difference between “bogey” and “double-bogey”?

In golf, “bogey” and “double-bogey” are terms used to describe a score that is above par on a particular hole. Specifically:

A “bogey” is one stroke over par on a hole. For example, if a golfer takes five strokes to complete a hole with a par of four, it is a bogey.

A “double-bogey” is two strokes over par on a hole. For example, if a golfer takes seven strokes to complete a hole with a par of five, it is a double-bogey.

The terms “bogey” and “double-bogey” are used to indicate how much a golfer has exceeded the expected number of strokes for a given hole, with “double-bogey” indicating a more significant deviation from par than a “bogey”.

Number of strokes in a par

As we mentioned earlier, the number of strokes in a par can range from 3 to 5 depending on the length and difficulty of the hole. However, most regulation holes are either par 3 or par 4.

Par in Stroke Play vs. Match Play

In Stroke Play, a golfer’s score is the total number of strokes taken over the entire round, with the winner having the lowest score. 

In Match Play, golfers compete head-to-head, with the winner being the one who wins the most holes. 

In Match Play, Par is less important than winning individual holes, whereas in Stroke Play, consistent scoring is key to achieving a low overall score.

Are all golf courses par 72?

No, not all golf courses are par 72. While 72 is the standard par score for a full 18-hole golf course, the actual par score for a particular course can vary depending on several factors. 

Additionally, shorter courses or those designed for beginners may have fewer holes and a lower par score, such as a par-27 or par-30 for 9 holes.

What is par in golf for 18 and 9 holes?

Here are the typical par values for 18-hole and 9-hole golf courses:

Par for 18 holes:

A standard 18-hole golf course usually has a par score of 72. This means that a skilled golfer is expected to complete the entire course in 72 strokes, with an average par value of 4 strokes per hole. However, the actual par value for each hole can vary depending on factors such as the distance, terrain, and hazards.

Par for 9 holes:

A 9-hole golf course will usually have a par score of 36, with an average par value of 4 strokes per hole. However, like with 18-hole courses, the actual par value for each hole can vary depending on the specific course design and layout.

How is par calculated?

The par for a hole is determined by a few different factors. The most important factor is the length of the hole. This can be measured in yards or meters. The second factor is the terrain. If the terrain is flat, then the par will be lower than if there are hills or other obstacles.

The third factor is the number of hazards of the hole. Water hazards, bunkers, and out-of-bounds areas can all increase the par for a hole.

The fourth and final factor is the difficulty of the green. If a green has a lot of undulations or is surrounded by bunkers, then it will typically have a higher par than a flat green with no bunkers.


In golf, “par” refers to the number of strokes a golfer should take to complete a given hole. The course designer typically sets this number. It ranges from 3 to 5 depending on factors such as length and difficulty. Golfers often see a par on a hole as a badge of honor. Knowing what exactly constitutes a par can help you set realistic goals for your game and measure your progress over time.

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