Golf is a lot of fun even if you’re just playing it casually or simply hitting shots on the driving range.
Still, the game truly comes alive when you start keeping the score. A lot of things in golf revolve around scoring,
It helps you understand at what level you’re as a player, calculate your handicap and recognize the areas of your game with room for improvement.
Knowing the meaning of par and par rating of every course you play is essential for your game, even if you’re just an amateur.
Most golfers will check their scorecards before every round, especially if they’re new to the course.
In most cases, they’ll find out that the par of the course is 72.
Even if you don’t play golf, you’ve probably heard your golfing friends mention the magic number of 72 rather often.
So, are all golf courses par 72?
Are All Golf Courses Par 72?
Par 72 is the standard in golf and a typical 18-hole course, both private and public, commonly has this par rating.
However, no golfing organization, including USGA, features a required par rating for a golf course to be “legal” or “proper.”
There’s no hard rule of golf course design prescribing that the par has to be 72.
So, while the majority of 18-hole courses are par 72, not all of them do. Still, it’s usually between 68 and 74.
Lately, USGA and R&A, bodies governing golf in the US and across the world, have been working on introducing par 72 as a standard for golf courses.
Therefore, the large majority of new courses are built to be par 72.
This is important, as the handicap calculating chart and other major golf resources are based on this golf course rating.
Therefore, the same course rating levels the playing field for all golfers.
Why are Most Golf Courses Par 72?
In general, there’s no particular reason why par 72 is usually the standard for the course par rating.
It has most to do with tradition, as most courses in the early days of golf were par 72.
The new courses that were built afterward stuck with this number allowing more convenient score calculations and easier comparison between golfers playing on different courses.
Still, there is some logic to par 72 being the standard. With par 72, the average par of every hole is exactly 4 (72/18=4).
This commonly provides the most balance on the golf course. For every par 3 hole on the course, there must be a par 5, and vice-versa.
In the ideal situation, the number of par 3 and par 5 holes is the same in each nine-hole leg of the course.
This provides different variations in play, for example playing only 9 holes.
What is the Typical Layout of a Par 72 Golf Course?
The typical layout of the average 18-hole par 72 golf course consists of mostly par 4 holes and a few par 3 and par 5 holes.
As mentioned above, the number of par 3 and par 5 holes is usually the same. The standard combination in the modern golf course design is 4/10/4.
This means there are 4 par 3 holes, 10 par 4s, and 4 par 5s, adding to the total par rating of 72.
Recently, there have been more courses with par 70 or 71 which feature fewer par 5 holes.
Also, some courses lower the total par score by replacing a few par 4 holes with par 3s.
Par 73 golf courses are less common, as they require abandoning the 4/40/4 layout and either creating a par 5 hole instead of par 4 or reducing the number of par 3 holes to 3.
Par 3 and Executive Courses
People with less time on their hands often opt for quick plays on par 3 or executive courses.
The time needed to complete the game on these courses is sped up by decreasing the number and par of the holes.
Executive courses feature 18 holes, just like standard courses,
However, the par layout is different, and these courses are heavily geared toward par 3 holes, with only a few par 5 or par 4 holes.
This means that executive courses feature shorter yardage and lower par, usually in the low to mid-60s.
As for par 3 courses, as their name says, all holes are par 3.
The number of holes differs from course to course but is commonly either 18 or 9.
So, a par 3 course with 18 holes will be par 54 and a course with 9 par 3 holes will have a total par rating of 27.
What Determines the Par Value?
The par of the entire course is determined by simply adding up the par values of each hole.
Par for each hole is based on the hole length or the distance between the tee box and the green.
The number for each par is commonly between 3 and 5 and includes 2 putts plus the number of strokes needed to reach the green which is based on the average distance on the hit by a proficient golfer.
USGA provides general guidelines with proposed hole par for certain lengths:
Par 3 – Up to 260 yards
Par 4 – 240 to 490 yards
Par 5 – 450 to 710 yards
Par 6 – 670 yards and up
Besides hole lengths, setting the par for a particular hole often involves factoring in the difficulty.
This means that course designers also have to account for factors such as terrain, altitude, wind, slope, or various obstacles.
As golfers are typically responsible for their own scorecards, knowing the par of the course they play the round on is important, as it will determine their score.
Although there are some exceptions, the par rating is most likely going to be 72.
Par 72 is by far the most common par rating for golf courses and can easily be considered a standard.
It allows for the symmetrical 4/10/4 course arrangement which lets golfers test their skills on the balanced layout of holes.
Nevertheless, the par 72 rating is still not codified in the golf rulebooks, so you may still, in very rare cases, get a chance to play on a course with a different par.