You can be feeling up to par or a little under par. Something which is expected can be “par for the course” (he’s always late for a meeting).
Something like a restaurant or a movie might be above par or conversely, below par in your view.
But as a species we are not really obsessed with the word par unless we are on a golf course. This is where this simple, three letter word becomes insidious.
Most people who play golf must admit when they look at a golf hole on any course, they see the number for par jumping off the scorecard or the tee box signage which screams this hole should only take you three, four or five shots. It’s a millisecond before the brain registers the number and your subconscious then takes over. There is a subtle reminder for you that in order to be a real golfer you should get a par on this hole because that is what par is and we can’t argue with par.
So, what exactly is this word which causes us to lose our temper and some sleep if we fail to mark down said number on our scorecard?
Par can apparently stand for Professional Average Result on a certain hole but, let us remind you that 45% of all golfers’ average more than 100 strokes per round. (source: National Golf Federation)
When we see what professional players do to a par five these days many will raise their fist and wave their cane, yelling how it used to be three great shots to reach the hole. These damn kids and superior equipment are making a mockery of the game and of the almighty par. We are also annoyed as to how easy they make demolishing par.
So are there options to make par less of an evil concept?
Ken Van Vechten, a noted scribbler of golf musings based in California is one of those folks who thinks stretching out a course to satisfy some concept of what a “proper” score is on a hole is folly.
He states golf is relative to the current era so making sure Koepka or Tiger or Spieth hit their five iron the same distance as Ben Hogan hit his five iron back in the day is nonsense. To do this a hole would have to be modified so the player of today would hit the shot some 30 or 40 yards further back using a two iron instead.
Van Vechten adds, if you do lengthen the hole forcing these players to hit a hybrid, then yes, you have forced them to take more club but a 2019 hybrid compared to a 50’s era five iron is no real challenge when factoring in technology. As a wise man once said, ‘that dog don’t hunt.’
Courses can be protected against the onslaught of long ball hitters trampling par into the ground but is adding length the only answer? How about we just flat out get rid of the notion of a certain number on a specific hole?
Over on the other side of the salty water golfers are happily playing match play most days and at the end of their day it’s not a birdie, par, bogey comparison but instead, what number am I writing down for that hole? Angus got an eight and Seamus posted a seven so Seamus wins the hole. That wasn’t so hard now was it? No mention of the two over or three over par score and it’s still golf.
This game is hard enough for the average player without forcing us to drink the Kool-Aid when it comes to your score on any hole. Golf industry folk want to grow the game but wedging (pun intended) us into a certain score on a hole is not helping in my opinion.
Stroke play is the demon here in North America because it’s a staple of our golf diet. But here’s a radical thought for those hooked on par-create your own par for each hole you play and happily scratch out the number on your scorecard without even thinking.
For many of us, less thinking on a golf course is right on par.