Last night I was chatting with a couple of fellow golfers. One plays on the Canadian Tour and the other is a weekend warrior that plays off a 20 handicap. We got on the topic of what par means and our conversation was quite in depth. The Canadian Touring Pro was talking about a Nationwide Tour event in New Zealand and a hole that was about 490 yards. On most courses holes that are shorter then 250 yards play as a par 3, holes ranging from 250 to 480 yards are par 4′s and anything over 480 yards is a par 5.
He was telling us how one year they played this particular hole as a par 5 and the average score on the hole for the week was 4.02. So the next year the tournament committee decided to play the hole as a par 4. That year the scoring average went up to 4.8. He said there was no difference in the way the hole played but why the big change in scoring?
He asked as many of his fellow Pro’s as he could to figure out why. He concluded that most players got tense when they played the hole as a par 4 because they didn’t want to hit a bad shot and make a bogey 5. The year before when it played as a par 5 he said all the players just got up on the tee and swung freely and as a result scored much better on the hole.
For years now I believe that par on any golf course is irrelevant and that last paragraph proves it. During this conversation I also mentioned how I am a much better putter when I have a putt to save par rather then a putt for a birdie. This is because I do not want to lose a stroke but deep down it makes no sense because a stoke is a stroke regardless of what you are putting for. The goal should be to make that putt or that shot no matter what stroke it is.
I suggest all players do their best to forget about what the par is on a hole and they will quickly start playing better golf. This will allow you to simply play the game and stop you from worrying about your score relative to par. The object of this game is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of strokes possible and that’s what your focus should be on every hole regardless of what par is.
Just last week I was playing with a golfer who wasn’t very long and could not reach most par 4 greens on his second shot. On one par 4 they faced a second shot of over 200 yards with plenty of trouble around the green. They made the decision to go for the green even though a great shot was required to reach the putting surface. The shot ended in a bunker some 30 yards short of the green which is a very tough shot. After the hole I asked them why they went for the green on their second shot. “I wanted to try and get to the green so I could have a birdie putt” was the reply I got.
Big mistake! Instead of playing the hole based on their own personal par they let par influence them and their shot. If you have troubles with this new way of thinking then you can create a personal par on each hole you play. If it’s your home course it should be quiet easy to figure out a personal par. For new courses try your best to look at the yardage on the card and how difficult the hole is. So instead of a par of 72, your personal par might be 79, 84 or 96. Your personal par should be relatively close to your handicap.
Please post a comment if you have any questions on developing a personal par.