Defining ‘Par’ in Golf: How Does It Work?

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One of the most challenging things for new golfers to fathom is the various golf terms floating around courses worldwide. One such term happens to be “par.” 

Sure, expert golfers are very familiar with the term; recreational golfers might need a proper explanation if they want to be able to answer the question, what is a par in golf and how it impacts a golfer’s score. 

This article will delve deep into the question, what is a par in golf and how it changes with different courses or holes. At the same time, we will also discuss some other terms that closely relate to par.

What Is a Par in Golf?

An expected number of golf strokes defines par, and that number represents how many strokes a golfer should reasonably take to complete that particular hole or course. A par will have a slightly different value for different holes on a golf course.

Every individual hole in a course is assigned a par number. Usually, these are par 3, par 4, par 5, and very rarely par 6.

For a par 3 hole, an expert golfer is expected to play three strokes before the golf ball is in the hole. Similarly, for a par 4 hole, the number of strokes expected is 4; for a par 5 hole, it is 5, and so on.

A golfer is expected to reach the green with two putts in hand for all of these pars.

Now let’s come to what the total par of typical golf courses are. Most golf courses or country clubs around the world have 18 holes.

A standard golf course will have:

  • 10 par 4 holes
  • 4 par 3 holes
  • 4 par 5 holes.

If you sum all the par numbers, you will get the number 72. 

So, the par number of the entire course is 72. Usually, full-sized golf courses can have pars ranging from 69 to 74, and the most common pars that can be seen when reading a golf scorecard are 70, 71, and 72.

In short, for a golf course with 18 holes, the par is the number of strokes an expert golfer should need to complete the game.

Even though there are not strictly official rules about what distance from the tee shot to the hole corresponds to what par, there are loose guidelines published by governing bodies and golf magazines that dictate the general length of the holes.

Is Par a Good Golf Score?

As only 1.85% of golfers play off scratch, a par in golf can be considered a good golf score.

While par can mean one thing, as we described earlier, it is also a quantitative value to measure a golfer’s performance. 

Since par is the number of strokes expected of professional golfers to complete the round, golfers have been keeping their performance score relative to the par for a long time and it can be considered a good golf score for the average golfer. 

To understand these methods better, we need to gloss over a few other golf scoring terms first.

Other Golf Scoring Terms


If a golfer takes one stroke more than the course’s par, it is called a bogey. Double bogey, triple bogey, and quadruple bogey mean the golfer took two strokes, three strokes, and four strokes more than the par, respectively. 

For example, if you hit the ball a total of 5 times on a par 3 hole, you make a “double bogey,” or if you take 3 more strokes than the par on one hole, you make a “triple bogey.”

Check out our complete bogey in golf guide here.


Birdies are the exact opposites of bogey. In the golf world, when a golfer takes one stroke less than the par to complete an individual hole, they make a “birdie.” For example, if a player takes 4 strokes to finish a par 5 hole, it will be a “birdie.”

Check out our complete birdie in golf guide here.


This is simply a better version of the birdie. If a golfer hits the ball 2 times less than the par to reach a hole, it will be an “eagle.” A double eagle is taking one less shot than an eagle. 

So, for example, taking 3 fewer strokes or 2 strokes to finish a par 5 hole will get the player a “double eagle.” A double eagle is a notoriously challenging thing to achieve, and for most golf holes, the odds are 6 million to 1.

Check out our complete what is an eagle guide here.


In basic scoring in golf terms, a hole in one, or making the hole with the first shot, is called an Ace. To get a hole in one, though, you need to bag the hole of a par 3 or par 4 in one single shot. So, you can assume how difficult the execution of a hole-in-one is in golf.

With all that in mind, the golf term “scoring par” means the golfer completed the hole with even-par or took an equal amount of stroke to the par of the hole. Most golfers target this score as for most golf holes in a round of golf; par score distinguishes the novice players from the great ones. 

Do not let this scare you, as most holes will have a good par, and you won’t be too far off making a bogey or two. Be it par 4, 5, or even 3; if your score is short par or even par for any hole, you got a good score on the game.

Why Is It Called a Par in Golf?

In 1911, the USGA decided that par should be the “ideal score” or “reference score” for any hole in a golf play, be it at club level or international, and long before this “par” had been being used in almost the same meaning in clubs around the world. But where did this word come from?

According to the USGA (United States Golf Assosiation), the golf term “par” was used in describing stock prices. Here par was the normal figure, and the price was either above or below par. This is precisely the reason for the measurement of strokes in a golf hole, or round has since been described with the word par (PGA).

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does A Par Work With The Golf Handicap?

You may calculate your handicap by subtracting your average number of strokes over 10 games from your course’s overall par for every hole.

How do golf courses decide what par is for their golf course?

In 1956, what par number corresponds to what distance from tee to hole was updated for the third time, and it has been being followed ever since. It goes as follows-
0-250 yards: Par 3
251-470 yards: Par 4
471 yards or more: Par 5
Then the par of all the holes is summed to get the par of the entire round or course.

Can a par differ for women and men on a golf course?

Some of the more distant holes have different pars for women and men. As a result, a man’s long Par-4 can be a woman’s long Par-5


Par is a common golf term that all golfers should be well versed with. By having a par as an aim on any given hole you can set yourself up for success.

Holes in one or even double eagles are scarce on golf courses. As a golfer, you should always aim for the par score as your starting point as it is a realistic target for golfers of all abilities. By mastering this stepping stone you can become a better player yourself and work towards better golf scores.