What Does Par Mean in Golf? [Learn the Golf Term]

Getting started in golf is as much about learning the terminology as it is about swinging a club out on the golf course.

Today, we will answer the question, “What does a par mean in golf?” And we will take an in-depth look at how this term came to be used.

What does par mean in golf? A par in golf is the typical number of shots a good golfer would shoot to put the ball in the hole. It’s primarily based on the length of the course. Par ranges from 3 to 5. Par is a great score for beginner golfers.

If you’re new to golf, you’ll want a further understanding of par and what it means to know better how to improve your game.

Read on to learn:

  • What does par in golf mean?
  • Is a par good in golf?
  • Where did the par term come from?
  • How is par determined for a hole?
  • Different types of par
  • The importance of knowing par

Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Definition of Par

Golfers on course at olympic golf and country club, ca 1925 (mohai 1533)

What does par mean? It all began about 100 years ago.

Leighton Calkins, the godfather of the handicap system, also introduced the par rating concept to the golf course. He designed the concept based on the abilities of Jerry Travers, who won the US Amateur in 1907 and 1908.

The USGA initially rejected the par concept, but in 1911, it became the standardized system throughout golf.

The USGA tweaks the rating system occasionally to account for new technologies, but the overall system formed over 100 years ago remains intact. How far the number of strokes is will depend on the distance, but the strokes for a par range from 3 to 5, depending on the hole.

How Did Par Become a Golf Term?

The USGA added the par golf term to its lexicon in 1911, but looking at the actual meaning of par, it means the standard. The word itself existed long before golf, but Leighton Calkins helped to popularize the term in golf.

Par for the course gives us another example of this term’s use. The dictionary defines it as what is normal under a given set of circumstances.

Also Read: Golf Terms Explained – A Complete A to Z of Common Golfing Terms and Sayings

Is Par Good in Golf?

When you score a par on the course, it means that you maintained the standard for that hole.

Since the USGA uses golf experts to set the par, getting a score at par is good for most golfers.

Beginners and intermediate golfers would be happy to score par. Even pro golfers are happy with par often (as long as they’re also shooting under par often too).

This article should show you the average golf scores and how hard it is to score under par.

How is Par Determined for a Golf Hole?

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The playing length of each hole is the chief factor determining the par.

The USGA assigns a par value from three to five for each hole, which looks at the average number of strokes to reach the green for a scratch male golfer.

Better technologies in golf clubs forced the USGA to make a few changes due to the increase in distance. The golf courses do this most often when PGA Tour pros play on the course.

Another thing that determines par is gender. Women often play with a par different from men on the longer holes. In other words, you might see men playing on a par-4 hole, but women will play that same hole on a par-5. All of this relates to distance. Women can’t hit the ball as far as men, so they rate the hole as a different par.

They will usually determine the par on a course during the design phase. The course architect designs the 18 holes from 70 to 72. Most golf courses will have a par between 70 and 72.

You would think of 72 as the most common, but it depends on many factors and will range from 68 to 73.

General Guideline for Par Design on the Golf Course:

  • 4 par-3s
  • 10 par-4s
  • 4 par-5s

Keep in mind that this is only a very general guideline of what a course architect aims for with par.

The Different Types of Par (Regular, Bogey, Stableford)

Every hole on the golf course will receive a par score of either par-3, par-4, or par-5.

While you have par-6 holes, they rarely happen with a hole longer than 670 yards for men and 570 yards for women. They play par-6 the same way as a par-5, but you can take an additional shot to the green.

The other types of pars and distances that they happen at include:

Par Men Women
Par-3 260 yard 220 yards
Par-4 240-490 yards 200-420 yards
Par-5 450-710 yards 370-600 yards
Par-6 670+ yards 570+ yards

Whenever you score above par, which means that you scored in less than the recommended strokes, you scored a bogey. This means 1-over par on the hole.

In some cases, they will use a Stableford scoring system, which differs from the total number of strokes.

The Stableford scoring system looks at the number of strokes at each hole. In traditional golf, you want the lowest score, but the Stableford scoring system makes you want the highest score.

With a regular par, that’s the total number of expected strokes to reach par.

Using Par as a Measure of Difficulty in Golf

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Par is determined based on the distance of the course. Most golfers will need more strokes than the par to score, and they set this up as a standard to create the scoring system. The system sometimes doesn’t account for the difficulty of the course. You could play on two courses of the same length, but their difficulty varies from one to the next.

Think of par as what you want to aim for because it’s what the average professional golfer will score. However, don’t get upset if you miss the mark since scoring a par is hard for a beginner.

The Importance of Knowing Your Par

You want to know the par of each hole because it gives you a target to aim for to score better.

The USGA doesn’t randomly choose those numbers; it has more to do with distance. Knowing the par for each hole helps you keep score as you play. Even beginners should know the par before they start to calculate their score.

This also gives you a point to start improving your scores later. You may start with a higher score, but don’t feel too bad since even the pros started as beginners.

In some cases, like with Tiger Woods, they even had a bit of a headstart over the competition. For example, his father, Earl Woods, states that Tiger Woods is famous for swinging a golf club at 11 months of age.

Also Read: Average Golf Scores for 9 Holes


What is the Highest Par in Golf?

The highest par in golf is a par-6, meaning the hole’s distance is 670 yards or more. This is rare, but it does happen from time to time. One of the longest golf holes on a course is 783 yards. This is at the 15th hole at the D+D Real Challenge in Slovakia.

Is a Par Better Than a Birdie?

The birdie scores higher than the par because you made one less stroke than the set par on the hole. Getting a birdie will vary depending on what they set the par at for each hole.

What Does Par Mean in Golf? Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this answers the question, “What does par mean in golf?” We looked at the par golf meaning, the different types of par in golf, and how to use it to understand your golf score.

  • A par in golf represents the number of strokes a good golfer would require to put the ball in the hole.
  • The par value is primarily determined by the golf course length, ranging from 3 to 5.
  • Beginner golfers are encouraged to aim for a par score, which is considered a good score.
  • A par score indicates a golfer’s skill level, with more experienced players aiming to score below par.
  • Golfers can use the par value to plan their strategy for each hole and decide which shots to take.

Overall, par is an important metric in golf that serves as a benchmark for players to measure their performance.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about an average golf score, check out our article.

Matt travels the world as a professional writer and blogger trying out different golf courses in exotic spots like the Philippines. He loves the challenge and tranquility in the sport of golf. Golf, for him, is a way of relaxing and enjoying life. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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