NCG's Golf Glossary: What is a par?

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What is a par in golf? Don't know your dormies from your doglegs? Or your stymies from your shanks? NCG's Glossary of Golf Terms is here to help.

IT’S a humbling experience.

We’ve all had that feeling. Golf is the real beautiful game, but how can you truly enjoy it if you don’t know what everyone’s talking about?

 

There’s a list of terms, sayings and phrases that are so incomprehensible, solving a Rubik’s Cube seems like child’s play in comparison.

 

But now, thanks to National Club Golfer, you can be the oracle in the clubhouse.

 

We’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

 

This week it’s the standard by which we judge our game.

 

Word of the week: Par

 

 

This is the gold standard when it comes to golf. Is there a word more important than par?

 

Birdies and eagles are all well and good but, from the bottom of the game up, the foundation of any decent round of golf starts with getting a few pars on the board.

 

Par is the target score. It’s what most handicap golfers aspire to on every hole of their round and, sadly, often proves so elusive.

 

It’s a word that has also invaded the mainstream. How often do we say something is par for the course?

 

But what does it actually mean and why do we say it?

Dictionary definition: Par is the number of strokes a first-class player should normally require for a particular hole or course.


Origins: The word dates back to the 16th Century and, according to the Oxford Dictionary, derives from Latin and means “equal”, or “equality”.

 

When it is not being used in a golfing context, par is often used to mean that something is standard, or average.

 

What this actually means: Bankers on the stock exchange apparently used the term to refer to commodities that may be above or below an expected figure.

 

It wasn’t heard out on the course until the late 19th Century, when the word had already been in use for hundreds of years.

 

In 1870, golf writer A H Doleman asked professionals David Strath and James Anderson what score would win the Open at Prestwick.

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The pair replied that stellar play would mean 49 strokes for the course’s 12 holes, which Doleman labelled as “par”.

 

But its transition into everyday golfing use was not a done deal even at the turn of the century.

 

Bogey was the far more popular, and accepted, stroke system to refer to the ideal, or target, score.

 

In 1911, though, the USGA categorised the word as “perfect play without flukes and under ordinary weather conditions, always allowing two strokes on each putting green”.

 

Only then, and not religiously until Clifford Roberts installed the over and under system of scorekeeping at the Masters, did the term take off.

 

Use it in a sentence: “He’s got a tricky seven footer coming up for par.”

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