We’ve gone too far with this par paranoia.
“What’s par on this course?”
“What’s par on this hole?”
“How many pars did you make?”
When the winner of the Open Championship is announced, the number given is his accumulated strokes over four rounds, not those strokes in relation to par. The champion golfer of 2016, with a score of 264, was Henrik Stenson.
Par for a hole or a course is an irrelevant number determined when conditions of a golf course are benign and based on a skill level most golfers don’t possess.
You know what par is good for? The same thing as war. Absolutely nothing.
“Don’t worry about par. The practice of printing par figures is literally a mental hazard.” Bobby Jones said that a long time ago. He’s been right ever since.
For many club members that host prestigious outside events, having their course stand up to the competition is a concern. For them, the par number becomes exceedingly important and a sensitive topic as the distance young players fly the golf ball keeps increasing.
This worry about defending par comes right from the United States Golf Association and its focus on keeping the winning score in the U.S. Open near par, the only one of professional golf’s four majors that has that emphasis.
Recently, a well-regarded golf club hosted a regional amateur event. When play was done, the most difficult hole on the course turned out to be the par-4, 482-yard 16th with a stroke average of 4.668. The easiest was the par-5, 512-yard 10th hole that had a stroke average of 4.665. That’s a difference of .003.
Here’s the kicker, the 16th plays as a par 5 for the membership. It was changed to a par 4 for the tournament because some of the club’s members were concerned the young bombers would shred the course and scoring records, as if somehow that’s a black eye.
The winner of the event shot minus 7 for the four rounds and played the 16th in 2-over par, which would have been 2-under if the hole had been a par 5. His winning score would translate to minus 9, not exactly an earth-shaking performance no matter what the 16th was.
Following the logic of changing the par on 16, then looking at the numbers, the 10th should have been made a par 4 as well.
But there’s one problem with that thinking, it’s called par. If 10 was converted into a 4, then par for the course would be par 69, and come Hell’s Half Acre there is no way that was going to happen. When’s the last time a notable course had a par of 69, I mean other than the Donald Ross-designed Wannamoisett Country Club in East Providence, Rhode Island, which hosts the highly regarded Northeast Amateur?
Dropping the par of holes to combat low scores is one way to give the appearance that a layout has teeth, but there is another route – an insidious strategy – bump up yardage on the course, and par, particularly with the addition of back tees.
Right. Spend money on a construction project and increase the maintenance budget so the course can be longer and the par higher all for ego gratification or to eradicate par insecurity.
Face it, a par 70, never mind a 69, just doesn’t stack up to a par 71 or a par 72, now does it?
As I wrote this in August, 7 miles up the road at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, Jim Furyk became the first player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 58 in a tour event. (I was a volunteer divot filler three times during tournament week, so I am taking a modicum of credit for Furyk’s place in history.) It’s still an amazing accomplishment that consisted of 10 birdies and an eagle even if the course has a par of 70.
Meanwhile, overnight leader Daniel Berger had a difficult time making par, reeling off four consecutive bogies, a birdie, a bogey and a birdie on the back nine before making a par on 17, falling out of contention along the way.
Once the brouhaha over Furyk’s 58 subsides, I wonder if the tour honchos will have a confab on how to toughen up River Highlands?
What they should do is heed Jones’ advice and not worry about par.