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This article provides a general definition of par on a golf hole. For the specific scoring system, see Par (golf scoring format)
In golf, a par is a predetermined number of strokes that a scratch (or 0 handicap) golfer should require to complete a hole, a round (the sum of the pars of the played holes), or a tournament (the sum of the pars of each round). Pars are the central component of stroke play, the most common kind of play in professional golf tournaments.
The length of each hole from the tee placement to the pin determines par values for each hole primarily, though not exclusively. Traditionally, holes are assigned par values between three and five strokes. For a casual player from the middle tees, an average par-three hole will range between 100 yards (90 m) to 250 yards (230 m) from the tee to the pin. Average par-four holes range between 250 yards (230 m) and 450 yards (410 m), although tournament players will often encounter par-four holes as long as 500 yards (460 m) or more as it is not uncommon for short par-five holes for normal play turned into par-four holes in championship play. Average par-five holes are between 450 yards (410 m) and 600 yards (550 m), but in the 21st century holes of over 600 yards (550 m) are becoming more common in championship play. Other considered factors include terrain and objects that may require a golfer to take fewer or more shots to overcome (such as trees, water, hills, or buildings). Some golf courses offer par-sixes and, rarely, par-sevens, as well. Par-sevens are not recognized by the USGA.
Typical championship golf courses have par values of 72, comprised of four par-threes, ten par-fours, and four par-fives. While 72 is typical, championship course par can be as high as 73 to as low as 69. Most 18-hole courses not designed for championships still have a par close to 72, though some will be lower. Courses with pars above 73 are extremely rare.
Course and tournament scores
A golfer's score is determined by how many shots have been taken by the golfer relative to par. If a course has a par of 72 and a golfer takes 75 strokes to complete the course, the golfer's reported score is +3, or "three-over-par". This means that the golfer has taken three shots more than par to complete the course. If a golfer takes 70 strokes, their reported score is -2, or "two-under-par".
Tournament scores are calculated by totaling the golfer's score relative to par in each round (there are usually four rounds in professional tournaments). If each of the four rounds of a tournament has a par of 72, the tournament par would be 288 and the golfer's score would be recorded relative to the tournament par. For example, a golfer could record a 70 in the first round, a 72 in the second round, a 73 in the third round, and a 69 in the fourth round. This would give the golfer a tournament score of 284, or four-under-par.
Scores on each hole are reported in the same way that course scores are given. Nicknames are given to common scores on holes.
One-over-par (+1). "Going round in Bogey" originally meant an overall par score, starting at the Great Yarmouth Golf Club in 1890, and based on a popular music hall song "Here Comes the Bogey Man". Nationally players competed against "Colonel Bogey" and this in turn gave the title to a 1914 marching tune.
As golf became more standardized in the United States, par scores were tightened and recreational golfers found themselves scoring over par, with bogey changing meaning to one over par. Bogeys are relatively common, even in professional play - so much so that it is considered somewhat noteworthy if a player manages to complete a 'bogey-free' round - and they are standard for most casual and club players. A player with a handicap of eighteen would be playing to his or her handicap if they scored a bogey on every hole.
More than one shot over par is known as a Double-Bogey (+2), Triple-Bogey (+3), and so on. However, it is more common to hear higher scores referred to by the number of strokes rather than by name. For example, a player, having taken 12 shots to negotiate a par-three, would be far more likely to refer to it simply as a 12, or being nine over par, than a nonuple bogey. Double-bogey or worse scores are relatively uncommon for top performers in professional play.
Even (E). The golfer has taken as many strokes as the hole's par number. In theory, pars are achieved by two putts, with the remaining shots being used to reach the green. For example, on a par-five hole, a player would be expected to take three shots to reach the green and two shots to putt the ball into the hole. Par derives its name from Latin, where "par" means even.
One-under-par (-1). This expression was coined in 1899, at Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, New Jersey. It seems that one day in 1899, three golfers - William Poultney Smith, founding member of Pine Valley, his brother Ab Smith, and George Crump (who later built Pine Valley, about 45 miles away) – were playing together when Crump hit his second shot only inches from the cup on a par-four hole after his first shot had struck a bird in flight. Simultaneously, the Smith brothers exclaimed that Crump's shot was "a bird." Crump's short putt left him one under par for the hole, and from that day the three of them referred to such a score as a "birdie." In short order, the entire membership of the club began using the term and, since as a resort the Atlantic City Country Club had a lot of out-of-town visitors, the expression spread and caught the fancy of all American golfers. The perfect round (score of 54 on a par 72 course) is most commonly described as scoring a birdie on all 18 holes, although no player has ever recorded a perfect round in a professional tournament.
Two-under-par (-2). Eagles usually occur when golfers with great enough distance can drive to the green with fewer strokes than expected. This most commonly happens on par-fives, though it occasionally occurs on short par-fours. A hole-in-one on a par-three hole also results in an eagle.
Three-under-par (-3); often called a double eagle. These are extremely rare, and occur most commonly on par-fives with a strong drive and a holed approach shot. Holes-in-one on par-four holes (generally short ones) are also albatrosses. The most famous albatross was made by Gene Sarazen in 1935, which propelled him into a tie for first at The Masters Tournament. He won the playoff the next day. The sportswriters of the day termed it "the shot heard 'round the world'". Between 1970 and 2003, 84 such shots (an average of fewer than three per year) were recorded on the PGA Tour.
Four-under par (-4); this is the lowest possible score on most golf courses, (par 6's do exist, but are exceptionally rare). This would be a hole-in-one on a par 5. It has only been recorded 4 times in history, only once on a straight drive (for a record 517 yards) and never during a professional tournament.