What Does Par 3 Mean In Golf?

Have you ever wondered what it means when golfers talk about a par 3?

Do you feel like you’re missing out on something, or that you don’t belong in the conversation?

Don’t worry – in this article, I’ll explain exactly what a ‘par 3’ is.

What Does Par 3 Mean In Golf
Photo Geoffrey Baker – Par 3, 3rd at Bovey Castle

Definition Of ‘Par’ In Golf

Par in golf refers to the number of strokes that are expected to be taken in order to complete one hole on a course by an expert golfer. A par-3 hole means that three shots should be enough for players to get their ball into the hole.

If someone were playing at a par 3 golf course, they would expect all 18 holes on the course to have a par value of three. This does not mean that every golfer will make it into the hole in only three strokes — some may take four or more depending on their skill level and experience. You have one stroke to reach the green then you are allowed 2 putts to get the ball in the hole.

However, this gives players an idea of how challenging each particular hole might be as well as lets them know how they performed if they finish with less than or more than three strokes.

How ‘Par’ Is Determined In Golf

Every hole on a golf course has an associated par value – usually either 3, 4 or 5 (very rarely you will find par-6, 7 or 8 holes).

This is mainly based on the length of the golf hole although other factors like the number of hazards, prevailing wind, doglegs or a severe slope might adjust the par slightly.

A par-3 is usually up to around 250-yards, a par-4 hole is between 250 and 500 yards and a par 5 will be anything over 500 yards.

Here are the suggested pars for different lengths from the R&A website:

ParMen (distance in yards)Women (distance in yards)
3up to 260up to 220
4240 to 490200 to 420
5450 to 710370 to 600
Suggested par based on length

So a 250-yard hole that plays steeply uphill into a prevailing wind would probably be rated as a par-4 while a 500-yard hole that played steeply downhill and with a prevailing tailwind might be rated as a par-4 too!

Most regulation golf courses have a mixture of holes usually more par-4s with a few par 3s and par 5s to make up a total of 18 holes. The total par for the course would be the sum of the pars for the holes.

A par-3 course by contrast will have all holes with a par of 3; it is the shortest and most straightforward type of golf course, making it great for beginners or people with mobility issues as it probably won’t involve walking more than 2000 yards! 

On the other hand, courses like championship courses often feature long par-4 and challenging par-5s.

Watson chips in on par 3 17th at Pebble

Tips For Playing A Par 3 Hole

Playing a par 3 hole can be tricky! It’s important to have the right approach if you are going to avoid dropping shots. Here are some tips on how you can make it easier:

  • Have a strategy. If you know you have little chance of reaching the green from the tee then think carefully about where to lay up to give yourself the best chance of reaching the green in two.
  • Start by selecting the right club. The goal is usually to hit your ball onto the green from the tee, so pick a club that will allow you to do this with ease.
  • Make sure you account for wind and elevation changes when picking your club. These can drastically change the distance your golf ball will travel, so be careful!
  • Aim for accuracy. Play conservatively for the fat of the green especially if the flag is tucked near a bunker or water.

If you have a handicap stroke on the hole and it is a difficult hole then don’t beat yourself up if you don’t score a par. Getting the lowest total for 18 holes is your goal. Don’t try too hard to chase pars on holes where the percentages aren’t in your favor.

Famous Par-3 Holes

There are many famous par-3 holes in the world of golf. Here are a few that spring to mind:

  • Augusta National, 12th
  • Pebble Beach, 17th (Watson’s chip-in)
  • Royal Troon, 8th (Postage Stamp)
  • Royal County Down (Championship), 4th
  • Kingsbarns, 15th
  • Pacific Dunes, 11th
  • Greywolf GC, 6th
  • TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), 17th
  • Kiawah Island (Ocean), 17th
  • Saunton (East), 5th (I got my first and so far only hole in 1!)
3 Hammers Par 3 Golf Course

What Is A Par 3 Golf Course?

What exactly is a par 3 golf course? It’s a short course made of par-3 holes. It might be 9 or 18. Arguably the most famous par-3 golf course is the one at the Augusta National Golf Club. Each year the competitors in the Masters play a friendly 9-hole competition on the Wednesday before the opening round.

The par score for an 18-hole par 3 track will of course be 54. Individual holes will usually be no more than 100-120 yards long.

A par-3 course is a great way to sharpen up your short game as you will be using wedges to greens that are generally much smaller than the ones you might find on a full-size 18-hole golf course. I used to regularly visit the 3 Hammers Complex near where I used to live. This was a pretty little course originally designed by Sir Henry Cotton. Unfortunately, modern health and safety rules have ruined the look slightly with unsightly netting on many tees. In fact it appears they have now ‘lost’ 3 holes.

What Is An Executive Golf Course?

An executive course is one that is primarily par-3s but has maybe one or two longer holes (par 4 or 5s). It is often 9-holes and is a great way for players to get their golfing fix in two hours or often less.

Advantages To A Par 3 Golf Course

Golfers now have several options when it comes to playing golf. They could visit a driving range or somewhere like Topgolf. They could find a local indoor simulator or they could play 9 or 18 holes at their local golf club.

A Par 3 course has some advantages – particularly when compared to playing a full 18 holes.

  • It is a lot quicker – probably an hour or so to play a round of golf on a par-3 compared with up to 4 hours at a proper course.
  • Easier for beginners – holes are usually around 100 yards in length.
  • Easier for the very young or old – a great introduction for juniors who can’t hit the ball very far and easier on the legs of elderly golfers too!
  • Cost – it is generally going to be cheaper to play a par-3.
  • Cheaper to build and maintain.
  • No carts since most people only need 3 or 4 clubs in their golf bag at most given the length of the holes.
Par 3 2nd At Bowood Park
Photo Geoffrey Baker – Par 3 2nd At Bowood Park

Disadvantages Of Par 3 Golf Courses

Though a par 3 golf course may have its advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

  • Less of a challenge for better golfers due to there being no long holes.
  • No chance of working on your long game or course strategy.
  • Course conditioning may not be as good.

What Clubs Should I Take To A Par-3 Golf Course

It depends on how far you can hit the ball and how long the longest holes are. If the longest hole is 150 yards and you need a 7-iron for that distance then you’ll need to take that club. That doesn’t mean you’ll also need to take your 8, 9, PW, GW, SW and LW too!

Take alternate clubs so 9, GW and LW for example. That gives you plenty of options for full shots and several options for chip and runs or more lofted pitches. It’s a great chance to get creative with your shot-making.

What Does Par 3 Mean In Golf: Conclusion

A par-3 hole is one where you are expected to hit the green off the tee and then take two putts to hole out. They can be some of the hardest holes on the course in spite of their lack of length. 

Find out what a green in regulation is.

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