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Mac Plumart

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what's the point of par?
« on: October 31, 2009, 09:39:04 PM »
Alright, I've seen Vinnie Kmetz talk about the concept of par on a golf course as being useless.  I've thought about it for a few days and I think he might be right.  Why do we assign a par 3 to a hole?  A par 4? or a Par 5?  And for that matter why do we say that the course plays to a par 71 or 72?  What's the point?

In a tournament, they show the scores in two ways...Tiger shoots a 278 (or -10) and David Toms shoots 279 (or -9).  Isn't this redundant redundant?

When I am playing a hole and the tee box is 175 yards from the hole, it is obvious that my goal should be the make at least a 3.  But if I am 600 yards away, perhaps I am thinking to get the ball in the hole in 5.  

I could go on and on about other sports scoring systems, but they track the scores of the players/teams not the score relative to a recommended satisfactory score.

Shouldn't we jus add up what we shoot and turn that score in?

Please correct me if I am wrong or missing something.
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

V. Kmetz

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2009, 10:48:07 PM »
Well Mac, if one of your goals was to invite some "brilliant" holdings on the topic from me, you have done it.  In the end it is just a viewpoint of mine, but I suspect golf could be more enriching for all who play it if Par was marginalized, starting with its disappearance from the scorecard.

I could literally spend a career making an argument for the elimination of par thinking.  I think it has done as much damage the enjoyment of the game psychologically (and psychology is a massive aspect of all game-playing, especially this one) as any ball, club, shaft, architecture or commercialization is purported to have done.

I have made public and private posts regarding "level fours" being the enduring standard for good play, and looking at each hole as a "Puzzle for Four" no matter whether the yardage begins with 1,2,3,4,5,6 up to 699. ...but if the discussion yields an opportunity, I'll speak much more about that, including the much more "purist" adjuncts on match play.

But for now, I just want to hear others' thoughts and will be reading with interest.

Cheers

VK
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

Alex Miller

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2009, 10:59:37 PM »
At least for me par makes the game easier.

I don't like writing down my score, but when my friend and I play we don't have to. We often play stroke play matches and we're young so we've still got our memories. It's so much easier to keep track of our score to par rather than write down our score after each hole, then add it up to the previous total.

Granted, almost the entirety of our matches our single digit scores to par (i.e. we rarely shoot above 80). I don't think I play a hole trying to make par, but I know some do. If anything par separates the mentally weak from the strong, and that is what golf is all about.  :)

Kyle Harris

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2009, 11:53:46 PM »
If Par really is the score an expert golfer is expected to make on a hole, almost every hole would carry a par of 3.

Think about it, does anybody ever feel bad putting a 3 on the card?

Dale Jackson

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2009, 01:07:08 AM »
Could not agree more, par is the most useless, overused and damaging concept in golf.  If there was no par, we would all gravitate to match play.  Enjoyment would increase, pace of play would improve and realism would return. 

Par has no meaning to the the touring pros, they are way better than even par on almost every course, par has no meaning to almost every club and public golfer, it is simply unattainable.

A more meaningful concept was the old bogie rating.  It might be 3 on a short hole or 4 on a 225 yard hole.  It might be 4  on a 300 yard hole but 5 on a 410 yard hole.

Everyone has a personal par, it might be 75 on one course 77 on another, or 85 on one and 90 on another, everyone is different.

Vive le difference!
I've seen an architecture, something new, that has been in my mind for years and I am glad to see a man with A.V. Macan's ability to bring it out. - Gene Sarazen

Matt_Cohn

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2009, 01:17:14 AM »
It's useful in tournaments as the only way to compare players who have played different numbers of holes.

It makes keeping track of score easier. I'd rather know that somebody is +4 than that they've reached the 13th fairway in 55 shots.

Neither of these reasons applies in match play. I can't think of a use for par in match play.

V. Kmetz

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2009, 01:28:14 AM »
Well said Dale.

To me, the "Par" of the hole can be anything the group or competition using the course wants to make it...the Kiwanis Club outing the USGA or the senior women's group that plays the last Wednesday of the month.

I wouldn't mind even if your projected positive result of a return to match play thinking didn't take off like wild fire, because I think there's something very positive that happens to medal considerations as well - psychology/entertainment/game-wise.  I think to not have so powerful an entrenched concept as Par - golfers would not be nearly so hard on themselves and anxiety would be lessened.  To have a Par imposed on a hole is in its own way a judgement rendered on the golfer before he even swings off the tee.

Cheers

VK

"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

rchesnut

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2009, 01:34:23 AM »
I'll go the other way in this debate.  I think par, as a measuring stick,  is one of the great mental tools in golf for designers and tournament officials -- it sets a standard for all who play a hole, and challenges them to meet it or beat it....and that becomes a very mental exercise on a great course where the standard isn't exactly right.  The course I play every week, Pasatiempo, is littered with holes that should rightly be considered 1/2 par holes...par 3 1/2s, par 4 1/2s and par 5 and 1/2s....sometimes the "true" par changes with the wind or softness of the fairways.  But by throwing a number on the card, it changes the way that a hole (and the result) is perceived by golfers, and in many ways I think adds to the enjoyment of a hole (and often frustration).

The first hole at Pasatiempo is thought of as a good, tough hole because it's over 450 and a par 4.  As a par 5, it would scoffed at for being too easy.  Silly?  Of course.  But a 4 gives a player a great sense of accomplishment because they have parred a tough hole.  Same with hole 3...a nasty long uphill par 3 that often plays like a par 4.  On that hole, a 3 is just a 3 unless there's a "par," a high bar against which all can measure their accomplishment.  

Think of the US Open.  It would be nothing without the concept of "par."  Par on those holes creates the illusion that the holes, and the course, are hard, by setting up an extraordinarily high standard.  That may be dumb, but I think it's part of the allure of the game that keeps you frustrated, and always trying to get better.  I recognize that it's nothing more than a mind game, but for that very reason, I like it.  

V. Kmetz

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2009, 01:31:04 AM »
Rob,

I follow your reasoning but the result at the end (which you cited twice): a frustration (that for you, adds spice as part of the mind game) is the least pleasing, sour aspect of golf for me.  There are are already so many factors that prevent 95% of us from playing in level fours, I ask for not another.  No mind games, please. 

Relating specifically to golf course architecture, I think par diminishes the wild dramatic challenge and usually-unasked skills of the great holes and the great courses.  I mean you've got an eighty-foot putt on the Biarritz green at Yale, are you really worried about making a three putt bogey of 4 or a 1 putt birdie, as opposed to the joy and challenge of having that putt at all.

I guess i'm asking, What is the essence of playing golf for you?  I think that chasing an imposed standard of good play for individual holes, when the entire 18 hole round already possesses a natural one - level fours throughout - diminishes the "why" behind I tee it up at all.

Also, when you mentioned half par holes and the first hole at Pastiempo and what the psychology would be if it were a "5" and how tough it is as a "4."  I'm not saying to adjust the par, but eliminate it.  It can be a tough or easy "4" or a easy "5" as you like it or a tough 5 and I'm sure for any slashers it's a thankful 5 and for pros it can be a Drive 8-iron dissapointing "4" and a fairly unexciting 3.   It already has different practical aspects for all who play it regularly, why segregate those groups so specifically.

Lastly, does your reasoning about the concept hold up if we arbitrarily call it a Par 2?  Are you going to be disappointed and mentally un-challenged if you score a 3 on the hole, upon that change.  Does that destroy the intrinsic worth of scoring a 3 at that point, becuase it is one over par for the hole.   How about a 450 yard Par 6? Is you're three made more special because it's a double-eagle at 3 under par.  After all true perfection in golf is a score of 18.

Humorously to me, when I think about such a score (18) I think about miniature golf and I notice no one pays much attention to the par on those courses, yet it is the ultimate card and pencil style of game.

Cheers

VK
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

Jim Nugent

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2009, 02:17:47 AM »
If Par really is the score an expert golfer is expected to make on a hole, almost every hole would carry a par of 3.


So experts expect to shoot 54 each time they step on the 1st tee? 

Matt Cohn is right.  Par makes it easier for tournament golfers to know where they stand against each other.  Level fours, or threes as Kyle suggested, don't work nearly as well.

I also agree with Rob.  We all know par is pretty hallowed grounds.  Few golfers shoot par, for 72 holes, 18 holes, even 9 holes.  Par is a goal we can strive for, sometimes achieve and even conquer.  A bit like the 10 second hundred yard dash. 

If you don't like the pschological pressure, no one forces you to pay attention to par. 

Sean_A

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2009, 04:14:57 AM »
I agree that the concept of par is very useful in terms of keeping score - its original function.  The problem with so called "par pressure" (which btw is completely placed on the golfer by himself and nobody else) is it can lead to (and I believe it has) dumbed down architecture in relation to "fairness".  If we must have this system of scoring, I would much prefer par for experts (remember - thats what its for) and bogey for the handicap player.  Of course this would mean the idea of par would become much tougher.  I think many courses would lose 1-3 shots off their par rating if we went to a system like this - which might not be a bad thing.  It could stop the increase of course yardage.  I would envisage a difference of maybe 6-10 shots between par and bogey. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Josh Stevens

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2009, 04:33:03 AM »
I think perhaps we confuse the "reason" for par with the "implications" of par.

The "reason" for par was to be nothing other than a scoring system - its most important mechanism being for tournaments while play is underway.  You need some measure to know where you stand during the round with regard to other players who are at different stages of the course  -  you want to know if you are up or down and so make decisions on whether to take risk.  Once everyone is finished then par becomes redundant.

But the "implications" further.  We get our minds tricked by having to try and match or beat this arbitrary number (but that is joust our feeble minds) and i suppose in an archictectural sense we play to it - most importantly by trying to design holes for whoile numbers of shots, meaning that we find gaps in yardages.  Not often on a normal course do you see a hole less than 120m, or between 220m and 280m or between 430m and 470m as these are seen to fall in between the pars.

Kyle Harris

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2009, 05:14:31 AM »
If Par really is the score an expert golfer is expected to make on a hole, almost every hole would carry a par of 3.


So experts expect to shoot 54 each time they step on the 1st tee? 


No, 3 is the score an expert is expected to make.

Scott Warren

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2009, 05:34:13 AM »
The first hole at Pasatiempo is thought of as a good, tough hole because it's over 450 and a par 4.  As a par 5, it would scoffed at for being too easy.  Silly?  Of course.  But a 4 gives a player a great sense of accomplishment because they have parred a tough hole.  Same with hole 3...a nasty long uphill par 3 that often plays like a par 4.  On that hole, a 3 is just a 3 unless there's a "par," a high bar against which all can measure their accomplishment.

I understand your point, but if you abolish par - even if you don't assign a par rating to individual holes while still giving the course a par - the holes can be more fluid.

Take 4 and 5 at Trevose - they measure 910 yards when combined and depending on the wind are either three stern shots or a drive and a short iron. I hit dr+8i into the 4th and dr+3h+PW into the 4th, yet the former is a par five and the latter is a "two-shotter". If you remove the par from each hole, the conditions of the day and your own ability combine to determine what a good score is.

Take 1 and 2 at Woking the same way - if you play both holes in 7 shots, you've done well, but that may well be a 3 and a 4 rather than the 4 and 3 "par" says you should have.

In many ways, "weak holes" are often only so because of the par assigned to them.

Bradley Anderson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2009, 06:21:28 AM »
Par, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Uh-huh
Par, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y'all

Par, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

Par, it ain't nothing
But a heartbreaker
Par, friend only to the birdie maker
Ooooh, Par
It's an enemy to all mankind
The point of Par blows my mind
Par has caused unrest
Within the Open rotation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to bogey
Aaaaah, Par-huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
Par, huh
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me


Ken Moum

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2009, 08:18:29 AM »
Rob,

I follow your reasoning but the result at the end (which you cited twice): a frustration (that for you, adds spice as part of the mind game) is the least pleasing, sour aspect of golf for me.  There are are already so many factors that prevent 95% of us from playing in level fours, I ask for not another.  No mind games, please. 

Ah, but isn't golf the essence of a mind game from beginning to end?  For me, that's the beauty of an organizing body's devilish use of par.  those who aren't mentally strong enough to realize that a 4 is a 4, regardless of what the card says, are doomed to suffer.

For casual golf, make up your own par. For instance, my home course has a couple of "par fours" that I have virtually no hope of reaching in two, so I have mostly stopped worrying about making five on them.

Rob,Relating specifically to golf course architecture, I think par diminishes the wild dramatic challenge and usually-unasked skills of the great holes and the great courses.  I mean you've got an eighty-foot putt on the Biarritz green at Yale, are you really worried about making a three putt bogey of 4 or a 1 putt birdie, as opposed to the joy and challenge of having that putt at all.

I guess i'm asking, What is the essence of playing golf for you?  I think that chasing an imposed standard of good play for individual holes, when the entire 18 hole round already possesses a natural one - level fours throughout - diminishes the "why" behind I tee it up at all.

As I said above, that's something EVERY Player should do.  My mother, who's now in her 80s, used to keep her score relative to level fives. And it madeher a happier golfer..

Rob,Also, when you mentioned half par holes and the first hole at Pastiempo and what the psychology would be if it were a "5" and how tough it is as a "4."  I'm not saying to adjust the par, but eliminate it.  It can be a tough or easy "4" or a easy "5" as you like it or a tough 5 and I'm sure for any slashers it's a thankful 5 and for pros it can be a Drive 8-iron dissapointing "4" and a fairly unexciting 3.   It already has different practical aspects for all who play it regularly, why segregate those groups so specifically.

For me, the only half par holes are long par threes, and long par fours. Anymore, I almost never see a par four or five short enough for me to think of is as a 3.5 or 4.5. Does it diminsh my fun? not much. Does it bother me that for teh best players at my club there's a nearly driveable par four and a diver-short-iron par five? Not much at all.

Rob,Lastly, does your reasoning about the concept hold up if we arbitrarily call it a Par 2?  Are you going to be disappointed and mentally un-challenged if you score a 3 on the hole, upon that change.  Does that destroy the intrinsic worth of scoring a 3 at that point, becuase it is one over par for the hole.   How about a 450 yard Par 6? Is you're three made more special because it's a double-eagle at 3 under par.

The thing is, everyone know that a 450-yard hole is an easy four for top-level players, and reaming it a par 6 won't get them to bite. But I find it fascinating that shortening a par five will make Tour pros think it's been turned into a "harder" hole simply because it's now a par four.

Think about that the USGA shortens a hole, and the Pros whine because now it's too hard.

I LOVE the way their minds can be twisted.

K
Over time, the guy in the ideal position derives an advantage, and delivering him further  advantage is not worth making the rest of the players suffer at the expense of fun, variety, and ultimately cost -- Jeff Warne, 12-08-2010

Carl Rogers

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2009, 11:13:45 AM »
I am a little surprised by the length of this thread.  A score in relation "Par" was proven to be an inadequate method to determine a "Handicap", but was the beginning needed to create "Stroke Rating" and "Slope".  Right??

Without a connection to Stroke Rating or Slope, how does anyone have a transferrable handicap to another course?

How do you have handicapped match play events without turning in a score card recording a score?  Even in handicapped match play events, you need to continue to play until you finish the round in order to post a score.

Kalen Braley

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2009, 11:23:36 AM »
I admit I'm torn on this issue...

I think both sides have very very valid points of view.


Adam Clayman

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2009, 11:24:33 AM »
Par is meaningless as a value when golfing for sport. Tournaments, bets, and handicaps are all a function of the Game Mind where par does have meaning.

That said, apparently it's a fairly complex question because the mindset that has held on to a range for the value has also been the justification for the disfigurement of many a classic course. The softening of greens has to be the worst result of this mindset because if these guys were really good, they wouldn't whine about "unfairness".
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Mike McGuire

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2009, 12:23:40 PM »

without par there could not be birdies, eagles or bogies

TEPaul

Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2009, 12:43:28 PM »
Apparently most all of you missed what Matt Cohn said in post #5. That thought is definitely of significance if one stops to think about following stroke play tournaments for competitors or anyone else.  ;)

My thought has always been that it would be interesting for everyday play to have score cards that listed just the holes and their yardages (with no individual hole pars) but the card could have a gross score par. If that were the case it would seem more golfers would just play the holes the best and most sensible way they could with no real thought to hole par, only an overall gross score (against the single whole round par at the end of the card).

michael damico

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Re: what's the point of par?
« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2009, 01:28:52 PM »
just ask for Col.l Bogey!

initially there were bogey scores written on cards and most competitions played matches. then television came along and the need to 'democratize' the game and allow for the largest possibility of winners of these large purses they were offering; par became king.

but to answer the question, i would have to say there is absolutely no need for par in match play. depends on your preference.
"without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible"
                                                                -fz

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