What Does Par For The Course Mean?

You may have heard the phrase ‘par for the course’ in general parlance yet wondered what exactly it meant. As a golfer, there should be an understanding of the phrase’s reference to the golf course and the interpretation of par.

However, when it is used away from the golf course it can be a little confusing. In this guide, we will look at what the phrase means, the various situations where you can use the phrase, and where it came from.

What Does Par For The Course Mean

The Definition Of Par For The Course

If you were to look up ‘par for the course’, the definition should be pretty much the same in various dictionaries, when you see it in print, and online.

The phrase is typically uttered with some disappointment as it generally means that you are not pleased with something but that you expected it to happen. Whatever it is, it may not be good but it is considered normal and what one should expect. 

Situations Where The Phrase Can Be Used

Golfers should want to drop the phrase ‘par for the course’ into general conversation whenever they can. It could be someone falling ill on the first day of a family vacation as it would be an example of something going wrong and that being the most inopportune time for it to happen.

This is where you could also mutter ‘sod’s law’ as it is a phrase that has a similar meaning to express disappointment at something bad happening to ruin an otherwise ideal situation. 

Another meaning of the phrase is when it describes something bad happening when it is expected. This can be used when you get a poor grade and failed to put the requisite amount of effort in. If you got a D you can say that was ‘par for the course’ and this may be even more appropriate if poor grades are more often awarded than not. 

If you moved to a warmer climate overseas you could say that “As the weather is warmer, I get more mosquito bites but that is par for the course”. You could also use the phrase ‘run of the mill’ for this scenario too. 

Where The Phrase Originated From

The phrase has only truly been used since around the Fifties so it is considered relatively new. ‘Par for the course’ may have first been used in the Princeton Alumni Weekly back in May 1932 to describe how industry and business operate in Washington.

Of course, in golf, par is known as the number of strokes that a relatively good player should be expected to use up on a specific course. The par number should change between different courses judging by their difficulty as some will be harder than others and you can expect to expend more shots. 

The term ‘par’ can also be used for specific holes with the same understanding. This is because some holes are going to be harder than others so a higher par number means it is seen as a more difficult hole. 

Let’s say you were at a par-six hole at your favorite golf course. The six means that you should take six shots to get the golf ball into the hole (see also: What Is The Most Playoff Holes In Golf? )to reach par. If you take more than six shots then you probably have not taken many good shots.

Par was first used in the English language around 1601 when it was used in discussing economics. The word would actually be shortened from ‘par of exchange’ which meant how a value of currency was recognized from one country to the next.

What Does Par For The Course Mean (1)

In the next century, par was used to describe the face value of a security or share when it was distinct from the market value. ‘At par’ was used to describe the price at face value whereas ‘above par’ was known as the price above that face value so you can expect that to be a premium, and ‘below par’ was typically a discount.

Before par was adopted by the game of golf, it had become more widely used in general society. This was particularly true to describe someone who was unwell or operating below their usual standards as they would be described as ‘below par’. It took until 1887 for par to be used in golf when it was used in a book called Art of Golf.

Final Thoughts

The game of golf uses the word par quite often and it can seem like a rule to play with. Certainly, if you are playing on your own then playing to par can seem like a great challenge on a specific golf course.

However, if you are playing with others then you may want to base your game on the course’s definition of par. It may be more fun just to play against others simply to see who can complete the course in the fewer amount of shots, maybe in the fastest time too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Considered To Be Par On An 18-Hole Golf Course?

A golf course can use a mix of holes to create various challenges and levels of difficulty. Some holes may be completed in just three shots, which would be considered easy, while other holes may be expected to take around double that number of shots.

However, on an 18-hole course, one used for championships, you can expect a par score of 72 with each hole averaging around four shots. If you were to have a nice, round score of 100 then that would mean you achieved 28 over par.

Is Par For The Course Considered To Be A Negative Phrase? 

In general, as par for the course is typically used to describe bad events or situations, it can be called a negative phrase. However, as the phrase is also used when a situation is expected, it does not have to be used in a negative sense. If a situation has occurred that you fully expect to happen then this does not mean that it is a negative occurrence. 

Garratt Shmidt
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