One of the problems with golf is that everyone knows what par is.

Therefore, it is pretty hard to feel good about yourself when your score on any given hole can be twice that amount. This is a particularly difficult thing to deal with in golf as compared to other sports. In team sports like basketball or football or baseball you are likely to be playing against others of your same skill level. Although you know full well you are not Diana Turasi or Derek Jeter you at least have a chance to play just as well relative to your own friends and competitors. Even Tennis, a one on one sport, won’t find you suddenly pitted against Serena Williams or Pete Sampras. Other individual sports, like swimming, gymnastics, or track and field have such high levels of judgment that one doesn’t even have the knowledge to know how to compare oneself. Remember how the amazing Dara Torres, a 41 year old mother, captured the silver medal in the 50 meter dash at the Bejing Olympics in 2008? What was her time? You can certainly splash away and feel like Dara Torres in the water all you’d like. Furthermore, you would not choose to hang out one Saturday with your friends on a balance beam you would be likely to go out and play a round of golf.

Golf has par.

We all know what par is. The number is sitting right there on the score card, just under your 7 or 8, staring you in the face.

Sure, there’s the handicap system that allows people of different skill levels to compete and helps you to compare yourself against your own potential. Golf is so penal that an entirely separate scoring system had to be developed to “control” scores. It is called equitable stroke control and is based on the notion that one’s potential should be evaluated by the best they are capable of both within any given round and overall. The fact that there even has to be a handicap system is an indication of how brutally difficult golf can be.

I am an advocate of setting your own goals and your own par. This means that rather than going by what the score card says or arbitrarily defining yourself as a bogey golfer or something, make a new par for yourself.

When Tiger was very young but wanted to play from the junior tees his coach invented a “Tiger Par” so that he could effectively compete with other players that were bigger and older.

Let’s say you normally shoot anywhere between 90 and 102 on any given 18-hole round. A nice par for you would be somewhere in the middle because, just like the pros, there will be days when you will be able to do better and be on the low end of that range and, inevitably, days when you do worse.

A good par for you could be 99.

This could be a good number for you because:

  1. If you bogeyed and then doubled every other hole you would end up with a 99. It’s easily divisible by 18 holes and easy to conceptualize. Just think “I’m allowed 9 bogeys and 9 doubles.”
  2. You can forget about the scorecard and consider yourself “even” as long as your bogeys and double bogeys are about even. (Imagine how nice it is to think “I am 4-under!” after bogeying every hole on the first nine)
  3. It’s on the high end of your typical range making you more likely to shoot below it. You could end the day 7 under just by shooting a 92.
  4. Mistakes are less disastrous. There is room to absorb those errant shots without needing the miraculous recovery shots that the pros are capable of.
  5. Par holes feel like birdie holes (or double holes feel like bogey holes)

Besides making it easier to play such a cruel game; there are a number of reasons why you would want to make your own par.

If you’re injured. Sore back? Not feeling well? Perfect opportunity to set a reasonable par based on your limitations. That’s better than being disappointed when your game isn’t up to snuff or not playing at all.

If you’re at a huge disadvantage to others. The men are lucky enough to have 3 sets of tees: champion, regular, and senior/junior. Ladies’, however, have just one tee box. This is ridiculous. Women who are 25 should not play from the same tee box as women who are 75. However, this is the case and these women often take 2 swings for every one of the younger ladies. Add one extra on all par 4s and par 5s if you are forced to play from the same tees as people that are ridiculously long hitters.

If you are returning to the game after a layoff. For some reason people think they can always play like they did when they were fancy free one summer and had all the time in the world. It doesn’t work that way so give yourself a break and don’t expect too much. Make a par that is 5 or 10 strokes higher than your usual.

The first couple weeks in the spring. I never take score during the first handful of rounds back from the winter break. If I do, I expect a score around 10 or 12 strokes higher than where I was during the heyday of the previous season.

New and Old MOMS:

Make a pregnancy Par

Some women are lucky enough to have the health and energy to play during pregnancy. Even then the body goes through tremendous changes; hormones make the joints more loose, the hips widen, center of gravity changes, stomach muscles are stretched, and so forth. This means your play is likely to change as your body does with pregnancy.  The good news is that you might consistently shoot under it – I have heard many women say they actually play better when they are pregnant. Count your lucky stars to even be out there.

Make a post-pregnancy Par

Your body returns to normal, or at least attempts to, after you have a child. You could find yourself returning to the game with a different body than you left it. Even if you’re lucky enough to not have permanently wider hips or differently shaped boobs you will still be out of condition and out of practice. Plan accordingly and set a realistic par for yourself. Around 8 to 10 strokes higher than your normal score is fair. You have no idea how your game is going to react with the changes to yourself. Better to expect less than more after baby arrives.

With-kids Par

I often opted to bring my child with me to the course to play. Better we both be outside enjoying the fresh outdoors (theoretically) then being cooped up in the house. Other moms went to the park; I went to the golf course. However, this meant I was subjecting myself to constant interruptions and some unpredictability. Account for what it means to bring your child and plan as such. Count 5 or 6 extra strokes when you bring a child with you. (Trust me, I know). Think of how good you will feel when you actually do better!

This counts even if your child is not with you – you could find yourself constantly checking your phone or even calling the babysitter to make sure everything is okay, or even having to rush off the course to go pick them up. In any case you probably won’t be as relaxed as you could be so account for this.

After Mommy Time-Off

Rule #1 – Don’t quit playing after you have children, if at all possible. However, if you do have to stop because it’s just not in the cards while your kids are little, then, when you return, fully account for the fact that you have halted your game for the sake of your family. Rather than penalizing yourself for being a mom celebrate yourself and be happy you’re even out there. Make a mommy par! An additional 13 strokes after taking 6 months or more off is a completely reasonable estimate. You don’t want to make yourself feel bad for making such an important life change. 3 years or more could be as much as 18 additional strokes.

If you have a true par every time you go to the course you are more likely to reach that number and you are more likely to feel better and not be discouraged. Even the pros shoot in the 80s when the weather conditions are very poor. Par does not change for them but everyone’s score is inflated. Why? Because there is no way they can perform as well as normal in such horrible conditions.

Normal, everyday players have our own set of conditions. It’s called life and since it is not our job to play golf that sometimes gets in the way. ACCOUNT FOR THIS and you will feel so much better about your game.

The best part is that YOU get to be the one to make it up♣

Read more:

Hit the ground running after a lay off

Don’t let fear choose your shots


Photo: biitli / 123RF Stock Photo