How Long Is a Par-3 Hole? (And More Par-3 Facts)

view from the tee of a par 3 hole

Par-3 holes are the shortest holes on a golf course — holes that expert golfers are expected to need three strokes to play. But when we say they are the shortest holes on the course, what do we mean? Are there guidelines for how long a par-3 hole should be?

Yes, there are guidelines. These are the yardage guidelines for par-3 holes:

  • For men, holes up to 260 yards qualify as par-3 holes;
  • For women, holes up to 220 yards qualify as par-3 holes.
There is no minimum yardage for par-3 holes, but on regulation golf courses (par-70 to par-73), most par-3s will range between 100 and and 220 yards for men.

The yardages listed above are actual, measured lengths, and these guidelines are included in the World Handicap System introduced by the governing bodies of golf (the R&A and USGA) in the year 2020. Today, when a golf course is being rated by those governing bodies so it can be included in the World Handicap System, the course ratings team will set the par of each hole.

What factors besides actual, measured yardage go into assigning par ratings today? Things like whether a hole plays uphill or downhill; how many bunkers or penalty areas are on a hole; how tight or wide open the hole is. Such factors, along with measured yardage, are considered to determine what is called "effective playing length." A par-3 hole that plays uphill, for example, will play longer than one that is downhill from the tee, even if the measured yardage of two such holes is identical. Recognizing that gives the ratings team some leeway, which is why you might run across a hole that exceeds the guidelines above yet is still labeled a par-3. (The officials at pro golf tournaments do their own course set-ups, so a pro event might have par-3 holes that exceed the yardage guidelines above.)

The hole yardage guidelines are tweaked every so often to keep up with golfers' growing distances produced by better equipment. Before the 2020 revision, for example, the yardage of par-3 holes had these guidelines:

  • Up to 250 yards for men and up to 210 yards for women
"Up to 250 yards" had been the men's yardage guideline for par-3 holes since 1917; prior to that, it had been "up to 225 yards" since 1911, when the USGA first introduced yardage guidelines for par ratings. No guidelines existed for women's pars prior to the 1960s.

What counts as a green in regulation on a par-3 hole? If you hit the green in one stroke, you get a GIR.

What is an eagle on a par-3 hole? A score of 1 (one) on a par-3 hole is a double eagle. But that's a hole-in-one, so nobody actually calls a score of 1 on a par-3 a double eagle.

What is an albatross (double eagle) on a par-3 hole? An albatross, also called a double eagle, is a score of 3-under par on an individual hole. And since 3-under on a par-3 hole would be 0 (zero), albatrosses are impossible on par-3 holes.

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Photo credit: "Treetops Golf Resort - Rick Smith Tradition Course, Gaylord, Michigan" by danperry.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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