Whether you look up scores in golf or take a stroll at your local golf course, you’ll encounter the word “par” everywhere. In general, being on par with someone means being equal to them. But what is par in golf terms equal to?
Par in golf refers to the number of strikes it takes an average zero-handicap golfer to complete a milestone. There are pars for each hole on a course and a par for the entire course. The course par is a total of par values for all the holes.
In this article, you will learn how close to par professionals are and how close an average hobbyist can expect to play. You will also discover ways to improve your score so you’re under par alongside the historical instances of pro golfers going way above and below.
Can You Play Over Par In Golf?
You can play over par in golf, but you will most likely go over par during your early golfing years. It takes three to ten years of golfing to reach the par ratings. Most golf courses are par-70, and a good golf score for a professional is in the low 70s.
So you cannot expect a course’s par rating to be your maximum score when you start golfing. Even accounting for your golf handicap, your score is going to be over par by ten shots on average.
Most hobbyists, weekend golfers, and fresh amateurs cannot finish a course on par. In general, “par” refers to “average,” so fresh golfers might take the par rating to imply an average golfer’s score.
But in golf, “par” measures the score expected from an average expert golfer and not an average golfer.
What Happens If You Go Over Par?
If you go over par, there is no specific penalty or consequence, but you’re considered to have made a bogey. Moreover, if your opponent doesn’t go over par by as much as you, you score higher.
And the person with the highest score loses. So going over par might not have direct consequences, but it does point towards a potential loss.
You can make a bogey on one hole as long as you go under par in the next one and come out with an on-par score. You can also make multiple bogeys but let your handicap allowance bring your overall score to under 90.
What Happens If You Play Under Par?
If you play under par, you win against players whose score is over par. But if you and your opponents are both under par, then having a score that’s under par rating doesn’t have any specific advantage.
Ultimately, the par rating is simply a tool to assess how close your performance is to that of an expert. If you deduct the score that your handicap allows, you can even assess how close your performance is to an amateur average.
What Factors Affect The Par Rating?
The main determining factor in a hole’s par is the distance between the teeing ground to its putting green. Only when the terrain is especially challenging is it factored into the par rating?
Most holes have par 3 or 5 ratings, but a few courses with par-7 holes are notoriously long. It is much easier to get an ace on par-3 holes than on par-5 ones. It is impossible to complete a par-7 hole with a single shot.
When a golfer finishes a round on par without any deductions, he can be considered a no-handicapper. Finishing a round on or under par is a sign of professional expertise. A golfer who is regular under or on par can apply to play in amateur tournaments.
Any player who can get a perfect round (on par on all holes) within one to two years of golfing is considered naturally talented and might be able to compete professionally in the future.
Par And Pros: Noteworthy Statistics
Par ratings are used to crown zero-handicap performance and maintain a standard for experts to manage their scorecards. Generally, pros go over or under par value of the course by 5 to 7 shots.
But every now and then, a performance can be so far above or below a course or a hole’s par that it creates a historical statistic. Here are a few noteworthy performances in relation to a course’s par:
23 shots to complete a par-5 hole – 1927 Shawnee Open is not fresh in most golf fans’ memories, but it is immortalized in history for the first ever Archaeopteryx (15 over par) to be recorded in a professional round.
55 shots to complete the round – Gibson currently holds the record for the lowest score adjusted for par. There have been multiple instances of a 55 score on easier courses, but a 55 on a par-71 course has yet to happen again since Gibson set the record in 2012.
93-over par after an injury – In the 1974 Tallahassee Open, Reasor got injured between rounds. A horseback riding incident to torn ligaments and a separated shoulder.
Since it was 1974, Reason couldn’t abort the Open without sabotaging his upcoming exemption. So he finished the round with one arm and was 93-over par by the end of it.
How To Play On Par In Golf?
As you can see, even pro golfers go over par. And finishing a round with a score under 60 is a feat bordering on a world record. So, it is important to set realistic expectations regarding course par values as well as par ratings for holes.
On average, shooting 5 to 10 over par is normal for relatively skilled casual golfers. Only golfers with zero-handicap feats (perfect rounds) can hold themselves to par-perfect standards.
Still, you can do a few things to improve your score and get close to the course par.
Get Your Clubs Right
If you’re not fitted for your equipment, then this might be one of the first things to do to lower your handicap. You can shave quite a few points off your handicap by opting for the right materials and head and shaft measurements for clubs that work best for you.
Focus On Reducing Your Handicap
If you try to run a marathon without any trekking or running experience, you’ll give up pretty quickly. Similarly, you’ll be discouraged if you try to play a perfect round as a scratch golfer.
Improvements in golf happen in increments and over a long period. If you shave shots off your handicap, you’ll eventually become a zero-handicapper playing perfect rounds effortlessly.
Cultivate Distance Control
As a fresh golfer, you might guestimate how hard you must swing to get close enough to the next hole. This strategy works only during driving. It doesn’t work beyond that and contributes to your handicap.
By understanding the relationship between your swing force and the consequent shot’s distance coverage, you can start becoming more efficient in your long game.
Record And Analyze Your Stats
Just like with any goal, progress tracking is important. When you’re working on lowering your handicap, you should get the stats of each of your games and study them. Your performance stats reveal where you’re solid and where you need to put in more work.
Be Selective With Your Practice
Fresh golfers play complete rounds for practice. But those looking to stay under par practice only the holes and distances that they find most challenging. That’s why getting your stats and studying them is important.
At the broadest, you can tell if you need work in your long or shot games. More specifically, you can tell which holes you find challenging and at what distance you’re likely to rack up a high score.
Manage And Improve Your Tempo
Tempo improvement drills help regardless of where your game is weak. By cultivating a 3:1 tempo in your long game and a 2:1 tempo in your short game, you can significantly improve your game.
Understand Your Swing
While your tour tempo affects your swing speed, it doesn’t control all aspects of your swing. From the angle of the swing to your golfing stance, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Taking a simulator test or getting a golf coach can help you improve aspects of your swing that you might not even see as problematic.
Be More Strategic
Don’t try to brute force your way into a perfect round. You have to be more strategic with your practice. And for that, you must be aware of your situation, including its limitation.
Why do you want to lower your handicap? How often can you play? Who do you play with? These questions can help you determine a plan of action.
Compete With Low Handicappers
Of all the questions you can ask yourself, the most significant one is about those you play with. If you want to lower your score, you have to compete with people who play under par.
Being the slowest in a fast group is better because the contrary can encourage complacency.
Play More Often
And finally, the most important thing you can do for your game is to play more often. By getting a high volume of swings under your belt, you can improve the accuracy of your shots.
More importantly, by keeping the previous steps in mind, you can shorten the time it takes you to start playing under par.
Golf Par: Key Takeaways
A par in golf is a standard for the expected score a zero-handicapper must have by the end of a course. There is a par for each hole in the course as well, which is the average number of shots an expert might take to complete it.
Most golfers try to play under par because the lower their score, the more likely they are to win.