Why Par Doesn't Matter And How It Could Be Ruining Your Game

Removing the pressure of playing to par will help you become a better golfer

A picture of a tee marker on a golf course
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

The pressure golfers put themselves under to make a par is unreal. Pressure to make the lowest score possible can have an adverse affect on how you actually perform and can easily result in blow-up holes.

The world handicap system should see golfers playing a true, to their handicap kind of a game. So let’s utilise those shots in a sensible way and streamline our scoring. Take a long par-3 for example, or any par-3 you're stroking on. While it's nice, in this situation you do not have to hit the green with your tee shot. If you get a shot on the hole check out the area around the green you fancy chipping from and pick a favourite club.

Hitting a tee shot with your trusty hybrid knowing that it won’t get there is totally acceptable. Plus, the idea of striking a cracking shot with a club you have confidence in is far more appealing than eyeing up all the trouble a longer club could put you in.

It’s such a smart way of playing, constantly keeping yourself aware of where you want to hit your next shot from. By using your handicap to your advantage, you’ll find the pressure is taken down a notch or two.

This usually opens the gates to reveal your true potential as a player. You’ll begin to see what you are capable of and the scores should start to just knit together.

Start planning early

Planning your way round the course can be done inside the clubhouse, especially if the weather is somewhat inclement. Take a bird’s-eye view of each hole either using a course planner or taking screenshots with your phone from the club website. Now edit these maps with the route you plan on taking, utilising the shots at your disposal.

If you are playing off an 18 handicap then you don’t need to be on the green until you’ve hit one less than the actual par: two on a par-3, three on a par-4 and four on a par-5.

A golfer lining up a shot on a golf course

Sticking to a plan that plays to your strengths will ease pressure and improve results

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

So stop forcing shots, stop applying pressure on yourself to get on the green in regulation as if you are a scratch golfer. The amount of tension you’ll release is immense.

Give it a go and start enjoying the game more. Smiling is good for you and trust me those smiles will come thick and fast if you start consistently playing within yourself.

This is the first step towards that handicap drop. Slow and steady wins the race. The next step is to cultivate a short game that would rival the tour pros (this is a realistic goal by the way). Then you’ll really bring that handicap down.

Enjoy hatching a slightly different game plan and bask in the results.

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based at the stunning Hamptworth Golf Club on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.