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Scoring and handicapping : ​​​​​​​Par

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Par
A hole is classified by its par, meaning the number of strokes a skilled golfer should require to complete play of the hole. The minimum par of any hole is 3 because par always includes a stroke for the tee shot and two putts. Pars of 4 and 5 strokes are ubiquitous on golf courses; more rarely, a few courses feature par-6 and even par-7 holes. Strokes other than the tee shot and putts are expected to be made from the fairway; for example, a skilled golfer expects to reach the green on a par-4 hole in two strokes—one from the tee (the "drive") and another, second, stroke to the green (the "approach")—and then roll the ball into the hole in two putts for par. Putting the ball on the green with two strokes remaining for putts is called making "green in regulation" or GIR. Missing a GIR does not necessarily mean a golfer will not make par, but it does make doing so more difficult as it reduces the number of putts available; conversely, making a GIR does not guarantee a par, as the player might require three or more putts to "hole out". Professional golfers typically make between 60% and 70% of greens in regulation.

The primary factor for classifying the par of a relatively straight, hazard-free hole is the distance from the tee to the green, and they can vary between tournament play and casual play. A typical casual play par-3 hole is less than 250 yards (230 m) in length, with a par-4 hole ranging between 251–450 yards (230–411 m), and a par-5 hole being longer than 450 yards (410 m). The rare par-6s can stretch well over 650 yards (590 m). These distances are based on the typical scratch golfer's drive distance of between 240 and 280 yards (220 and 260 m); a green further than the average player's drive will require additional shots from the fairway. However, other considerations must be taken into account; the key question is "how many strokes would a scratch golfer take to make the green by playing along the fairway?". The grade of the land from the tee to the hole might increase or decrease the carry and rolling distance of shots as measured linearly along the ground. Sharp turns or hazards may require golfers to "lay up" on the fairway in order to change direction or hit over the hazard with their next shot. These design considerations will affect how even a scratch golfer would play the hole, irrespective of total distance from tee to green, and must be included in a determination of par. However, a par score never includes "expected" penalty strokes, as a scratch player is never "expected" to hit a ball into a water hazard or other unplayable situation. So the placement of hazards only affect par when considering how a scratch golfer would avoid them.

Eighteen-hole courses typically total to an overall par score of 72 for a complete round; this is based on an average par of 4 for every hole, and so is often arrived at by designing a course with an equal number of par-5 and par-3 holes, the rest being par-4. Many combinations exist that total to par-72, and other course pars exist from 68 up to 76, and are not less worthy than courses of par-72. Additionally, in some countries including the United States, courses are classified according to their play difficulty, which may be used to calculate a golfer's playing handicap for a given course.

The two primary difficulty ratings in the U.S. are the Course Rating, which is effectively the expected score for a zero-handicap "scratch golfer" playing the course (and may differ from the course par), and the Slope Rating, which is a measure of how much worse a "bogey golfer" (with an 18 handicap) would be expected to play than a "scratch golfer". These two numbers are available for any USGA-sanctioned course, and are used in a weighted system to calculate handicaps.

The overall par score in a tournament is the summation of all the par scores in each round. A typical four-round professional tournament played on a par-72 course has a tournament par of 288.

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