Origin of The Golf Term Par

par is a widely used financial term referring to the nominal, or face value of a security. It comes from the Latin “Par,” which means “equal to.”

In golfing terms, par is the score that a scratch golfer should achieve on a hole under ideal conditions. Par for a round is the sum of the pars of the holes, while par for a tournament is the sum of the pars for each round.

For a good many years, “par” was interchangeable with “bogey”—the score that a good player should get on a particular hole. It also was known at one point as the “ground score.” A reference to “Par For Prestwick,” coined in 1870 by golf writer A.H. Doleman, referred to the score of 49 that two professionals (David Strath and James Anderson) reckoned would be a perfect score over Prestwick’s twelve holes. Prestwick was the site of the Open Championship from 1861 to 1870. That, however, was more a clever turn of phrase than an official designation.

The development of “par” in the modern American sense dates to 1911, when the United States Golf Association defined distances on a hole to determine the ideal score: up to 255 yards for a par 3; 225 to 425 for a par 4, and 426 to 600 for a par 5. Courses and players in rest of the world, however, continued to play against bogey. Americans began referring to par as the score for an excellent player, while Bogey was one over par—a score expected from a more average player.


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