In golf, a par is a predetermined number of strokes that a golfer should require to complete a hole, a round (the sum of the total pars of the played holes, also called the course rating), or a tournament (the sum of the total pars of each round). Pars are the central component of stroke play, the most common kind of play in professional golf tournaments.
The length of each hole from the tee placement to the pin determines par values for each hole primarily, though not exclusively. Traditionally, holes are assigned par values between three and five strokes. For a casual player from the middle tees, an average par-three hole will range between 100 to 250 yards from the tee to the pin. Average par-four holes range between 251 and 450 yards, although tournament players will often encounter par-four holes as long as 500 yards as it is not uncommon for short par-five holes for normal play turned into par-four holes in championship play. Average par-five holes are between 451 and 600 yards, but in the 21st century holes of over 600 yards are becoming more common in championship play. Other considered factors include terrain and objects that may require a golfer to take fewer or more shots to overcome (such as trees, water, hills, or buildings). Some golf courses offer par-twos and par-sixes as well.
Typical championship golf courses have par values of 72, comprised of four par-threes, ten par-fours, and four par-fives. While 72 is typical, championship course par can be as high as 73 to as low as 69. Most 18-hole courses not designed for championships still have a par close to 72, though some will be lower. Courses with pars above 73 are extremely rare.
Tournament scores are calculated by totaling the golfer's score relative to par in each round (there are usually four rounds in professional tournaments). If each of the four rounds of a tournament has a par of 72, the tournament par would be 288 and the golfer's score would be recorded relative to the tournament par. For example, a golfer could record a 70 in the first round, a 72 in the second round, a 73 in the third round, and a 69 in the fourth round. This would give the golfer a tournament score of 284, or four-under-par.
As golf became more standardized in the United States, par scores were tightened and recreational golfers found themselves scoring over par, with bogey changing meaning to one over par. Bogeys are relatively common, even in professional play - so much so that it is considered somewhat noteworthy if a player manages to complete a 'bogey-free' round - and they are standard for most casual and club players. A player with a handicap of eighteen would be playing to his or her handicap if they scored a bogey on every hole.
More than one shot over par is known as a Double-Bogey (+2), Triple-Bogey (+3), and so on. However, it is more common to hear higher scores referred to by the number of strokes rather than by name. For example, a player, having taken 12 shots to negotiate a par-three, would be far more likely to refer to it simply as a 12, or being nine over par, than a nonuple bogey. Double-bogey or worse scores are relatively uncommon for top performers in professional play.
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