Activities Sports & Athletics Yardage Guidelines for Par-3s, Par-4s and Par-5s in Golf Share PINTEREST Email Print This sign tells us the 18th hole is 465 yards and has a par of 4. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Golf Basics History Gear Golf Courses Famous Golfers Golf Tournaments Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More by Brent Kelley Brent Kelley is an award-winning sports journalist and golf expert with over 30 years in print and online journalism. Updated November 04, 2019 Most golfers know the typical par lengths of golf holes instinctively. We've played enough holes that we can usually be told a hole's length and, based on that length, know whether the hole is a par-3, par-4 or par-5 hole (or, rarely, a par-6). But are there are rules within the golf world for exactly what lengths a par-3, par-4, par-5 hole can be? Or must be? There are not hard rules about that. The par rating of a golf hole is up to the hole designers and golf course personnel. But there are guidelines. The USGA has periodically issued guidelines for the par ratings of holes based on their lengths; for example, if a hole is 180 yards, it is rated as a par-3. Those guidelines have changed over the years, and the way they are used has changed, too. Current Yardage Guidelines for Par Ratings Keep in mind what, exactly, par represents: A hole's par is the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to need to complete the hole. And all pars (3, 4, 5 or 6) include two putts. So a 180-yard hole is called a par-3 because an expert golfer is expected to hit the green in one stroke, then take two putts to get the ball into the hole, making for three strokes total. With that in mind, these are the current yardage guidelines for par ratings per the USGA: Men Women Par 3 Up to 250 yards Up to 210 yards Par 4 251 to 470 yards 211 to 400 yards Par 5 471 to 690 yards 401 to 575 yards Par 6 691 yards+ 576 yards+ Current Guidelines Represent 'Effective Playing Length' It's important to note that the USGA guidelines cited, the current recommended par yardages, are not, in fact, based on actual, measured yards, but on a hole's "effective playing length." Effective playing length is one of the factors taken into account when a course is given its USGA course rating and USGA slope rating. The easiest way to understand "effective playing length" is to picture two golf holes of exactly the same measured length. Let's say 450 yards. But one of those holes plays uphill from the tee to the green, while the other plays downhill. Which is the easier hole? Everything else about the holes being equal, the downhill hole will be easier than the uphill, because it will play shorter. Even though both holes measure 450 yards, the downhill hole's "effective playing length" is shorter than that of the uphill hole (everything else being equal), because of the effect the way the holes' slope (uphill vs. downhill) has on a how far a golf shot rolls. How the Par and Yardage Guidelines Have Changed Prior to the introduction of effective playing length into course ratings, the yardage guidelines for hole pars were based on actual, measured yards. It's interesting to see how they've changed over the years. We have three examples below; in each case, the yardages listed are for men: 1911 (Note: The USGA adopted the use of "par" in 1911, which makes these its first-ever guidelines on par yardages.) Par 3: Up to 225 yardsPar 4: 225 to 425 yardsPar 5: 426 to 600 yardsPar 6: 601 yards or more 1917 Par 3: Up to 250 yardsPar 4: 251 to 445 yardsPar 5: 446 to 600 yardsPar 6: 601 yards or more 1956 Par 3: Up to 250 yardsPar 4: 251 to 470 yardsPar 5: 471 yards or more Continue Reading Know Your Golf Course Features: The Par-4 Hole Learn the Par 5 Hole in Golf These Are the Yardages and Pars for the Holes at Augusta National Know Your Basic Golf Terms: Definition of a Par 3 Hole An Explanation of the Golf Term "Par" The Golf Course That Jack Built: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio Here's Why a Par-3 Course is Great for Beginning Golfers Know Your Golf Scoring Terms: Birdies, Bogeys and Pars, Oh My Knowing Your Basic Golf Terms: What is a Birdie? How Quail Hollow Club Became a Major Championship Golf Course Why Shinnecock Hills is One of America's Historic Golf Courses You Can Play Bethpage Black Golf Course ... If You Dare Learn the Key Golf Terms You'll Need on the Course Tee Up the Rich History of Riviera Country Club Walking the Fairways of Oak Hill Country Club What Is a Double Eagle in Golf?