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In golf, par is a predetermined number of strokes that a scratch (or 0 handicap) golfer should require to complete a hole, a round (the sum of the pars of the played holes), or a tournament (the sum of the 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. Almost invariably, holes are assigned par values between three and five strokes. For a casual player from the middle tees, a par-three hole will range between and from the tee to the pin. Par-four holes range between and , although tournament players will often encounter par-four holes as long as or more as it is not uncommon for short par-five holes for normal play to be turned into par-four holes in championship play. Par-five holes are typically between and , but in the 21st century holes of over are becoming more common in championship play. Other relevant factors in setting the par for the hole include the terrain and obstacles (such as trees, water, hills, or buildings) that may require a golfer to take more (or fewer) shots. Some golf courses offer par-sixes and, rarely, par-sevens, as well. Par-sevens are not recognized by the USGA.

Typical championship golf courses have par values of 72, comprising 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 par above 73 are rare.

Course and tournament scores

A golfer's score is compared with the par score. If a course has a par of 72 and a golfer takes 75 strokes to complete the course, the golfer's reported score is +3, or "three over par". This means that the golfer has taken three shots more than par to complete the course. If a golfer takes 70 strokes, their reported score is -2, or "two under par".

Tournament scores are reported 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".

Hole scores

Scores on each hole are reported in the same way that course scores are given. Nicknames are given to scores on holes relative to par.

Bogey

One over par (+1). "Going round in Bogey" originally meant an overall par score, starting at the Great Yarmouth Golf Club in 1890, and based on a popular music hall song "Here Comes the Bogey Man." Nationally players competed against "Colonel Bogey" and this in turn gave the title to a 1914 marching tune.

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.

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-bogeys and worse scores are uncommon for top performers in professional play.

Par

Even (E). The golfer has taken as many strokes as the hole's par number. In theory, pars are achieved by two putts, with the remaining shots being used to reach the green. For example, on a par-five hole, a player would be expected to take three shots to reach the green and two shots to putt the ball into the hole. Par derives its name from Latin, in which "par" means equal.

Birdie

One under par (-1). This expression was coined in 1899, at Atlantic City Country Clubmarker in Northfield, New Jerseymarker. It seems that one day in 1899, three golfers - George Crump (who later built Pine Valley, about 45 miles away), William Poultney Smith (founding member of Pine Valley), and his brother Ab Smith – were playing together when Crump hit his second shot only inches from the cup on a par-four hole after his first shot had struck a bird in flight. Simultaneously, the Smith brothers exclaimed that Crump's shot was "a bird." Crump's short putt left him one under par for the hole, and from that day the three of them referred to such a score as a "birdie." In short order, the entire membership of the club began using the term and, since as a resort the Atlantic City Country Club had a lot of out-of-town visitors, the expression spread and caught the fancy of all American golfers. The perfect round (score of 54 on a par 72 course) is most commonly described as scoring a birdie on all 18 holes, although no player has ever recorded a perfect round in a professional tournament.

Eagle

Two under par (-2). Eagles usually occur when golfers hit the ball far enough to reach the green with fewer strokes than expected. This most commonly happens on par fives, though it occasionally occurs on short par-fours. A hole-in-one on a par-three hole also results in an eagle. The name is simply analogous to a birdie(see above). The name was given to be a larger bird for a better score.

Albatross

Three under par (-3); also called a double eagle. Extremely rare, and occurs most commonly on par-fives with a strong drive and a holed approach shot. Holes-in-one on par-four holes (generally short ones) are also albatrosses. The most famous albatross was made by Gene Sarazen in 1935, and it propelled him into a tie for first at The Masters Tournamentmarker. He won the playoff the next day. The sportswriters of the day termed it "the shot heard round the world." Between 1970 and 2003, 84 such shots (an average of fewer than three per year) were recorded on the PGA Tour. Paul Lawrie achieved an albatross in the final round of the 2009 Open Championship.

Condor

Four under par (-4). This is the lowest individual hole score ever made, (par sixes do exist, but are exceptionally rare and an ace has never been recorded on one). This would be a hole-in-one on a par five or a 2 on a par six. It has only been recorded four times in history, only once on a straight drive (for a record 517 yards) and never during a professional tournament.

Ostrich

Five under par (-5). A hole-in-one on a par six. This score has never been recorded and is widely considered impossible, considering that par sixes are extremely long (and very rare).

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