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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 303
VIEW THE ROD MORRI is an award-winning writer and podcast presenter. He hosts The iseekgolf.com Podcast weekly. CLICK here to listen. OUR OBSESSION WITH PAR S hort on letters but big on impact, par might be the most intriguing word in golf’s lexicon. As golfers, we are obsessed with par. It is the benchmark by which we measure ourselves and our games. But for a concept which can have no physical effect on the play, par can have an extraordinary bearing on how we approach the game. Par, of course, is just an arbitrary figure. Golf is a game where the fewest strokes win, regardless of par, yet ‘regulation figures’ play havoc with the mind of the golfer. Perhaps we can blame the late Frank Chirkinian, legendary CBS producer and the man who invented the notion of ‘over’ and ‘under’ par for TV. Before Chirkinian took charge of the Masters broadcast, scores for the field were given simply as total strokes taken. This, of course, was quite confusing when one player had completed his round and another was only through 12 holes. Chirkinian realised that a player’s score in relation to par, regardless of where they were on the course, was a much simpler way to communicate their position in the field and thus was born what is now the universally recognised scoring system in professional golf. But it’s not just pros who are obsessed with par. We recreational players are also fixated. Fellow columnist Mike Clayton recently posted a photo on Twitter of the long par-3 16th hole at Royal Melbourne’s West course. As many pointed out, it is a brutally difficult one shotter at 202 metres, particularly for the less proficient player. Some would even say too hard. But if the hole was changed to a par-4, the perception would be the exact opposite i.e the hole would be considered too easy. As a par-3, most feel making par is an achievement. As a par-4, most would be disappointed not to make a birdie the majority of the time. Common sense tells us this notion is ridiculous. It’s exactly the same hole, after all. But every golfer reading this (me included) instinctively understands the thought process. Par has also had absurd impacts on golf course design. Somewhere along the way it was determined that a ‘championship’ layout should be a ‘par-72’ featuring 10 par-4 holes and four each of the par-3 and par-5 variety. Par-70 or 71 is deemed barely acceptable but anything less is considered by most golfers not to be a legitimate course. (The professional game has played a role here. It is almost unheard of for a tournament to be played on any major tour on a course less than par-70.) In reality there are many highly regarded courses which play to a par in the 60s, particularly in the UK where many came into being long before par was even a thing. Swinley Forest (pictured) and New Zealand Golf Clubs in England are two of the better known but there are many more around the world. All of this has an impact on how we play the game and, by extension, how we score. Par often sees us attempt shots we are not really capable of simply because we feel the pressure of conforming to how a hole ‘should’ be played. So next time you head out for a game try this little experiment. Instead of accepting the scorecard handed to you in the pro shop, create your own. If there is a par-4 you don’t feel you can reach in two shots simply adjust it to a par-5 on your own card. If there is a par-3 that is out of reach play it as a par-4 and any long par-5s automatically become par-6. Yo u might be surprised how many ‘birdies’ you make and when you add up all the shots, the total might be better than expected. Remember, fewest strokes is the goal regardless of whether the number is 10-over or 5-under. When you set the par yourself, the game is much easier and more fun. That is never a bad thing.
GA Express 302
GA Express 304