Competing Against Others – and Yourself

In this article, we want to talk for a moment about competition. Golf is a competitive game, and many golfers love having the opportunity to compete both against others and against themselves. Whether you are trying to win a tournament at your local club or just break your own personal scoring record, this game is enjoyable when the competitive juices are flowing.

When you are competing against other golfers, par is again irrelevant. The point here is the same as the point we make when talking about professional golf. In the end, the competition will be judged on who has the lowest total score. It doesn’t matter what par was used, as that has no impact on the final standings. If you like to play in tournaments, you are competing against the other golfers in the field, and not the course. Should you manage to make your way around the course in fewer strokes than anyone else, you will be declared the winner.

But what about when you are playing alone? This is the one time where you may want to use par as a measuring stick. For example, you might keep track of the fact that your best-ever score for an 18-hole round is four-over-par. To break your own personal record, you’ll need to best that mark. Par is useful when viewed on a whole-round basis as a way to evaluate your performance against previous rounds you have played. However, it is important to understand the difference between using par for a whole round as a way to measure your score, and using par on a single hole to determine strategy.

For example, if your best round is four-over-par, you will probably make it a goal to shoot a score of three-over-par at some point. That does not mean that you have to go for the green with your tee shot on every par three, or go for the green with your second shot on every par four. On a hole-by-hole basis, you are still trying to make smart decisions while ignoring the established par. Play each hole for what it is, based on the design of the hole and the prevailing conditions. Then, when all 18 holes have been completed, add up your scores and see how you have done. If you can avoid getting sucked into the pattern of thinking about hole-by-hole par guidelines, there is a good chance your total score will look better at the end of the day.

To be honest, it is going to be hard to break yourself from the habits that you have established over years of playing this game. If you are a lifelong golfer, you are used to trying to meet the expectations established by par. The concept of par is so ingrained in this game, it is hard to imagine playing golf without speaking of it. With that said, it really can have a negative impact on your performance. Think carefully about this topic and do your best to separate your decision making from any pressure that you feel to keep up with the stated par on the scorecard. Good luck and have fun out there!