What Is a Par-4 Hole in Golf?

Aerial view of the par-4 15th hole at Gleneagles
This par-4 hole, viewed from above, is on the Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland. David Cannon/Getty Images

A par 4, or par-4 hole, is a hole that an expert golfer is expected to need four strokes to complete. You can think of par-4 holes as the standard golf hole: A par of 4 is by far the most common par rating for holes on full-sized golf courses.

A hole's par rating always includes two putts, so a par-4 hole is one on which the expert golfer is expected to hit the fairway with her tee shot, hit the green with her second stroke, and then take two putts to get the ball into the hole. Most of us aren't expert golfers, but the par rating of a hole that is listed on the scorecard and, typically, on signage around the teeing ground, serves as a goal, as well as giving us a general impression of the hole's difficulty.

How Long—or Short—Par-4s Can Be

There are no official rules in the world of golf about how long or short golf holes should or must be. Golf courses are free to design their holes any way they wish, and to assign to them any par rating they wish. But in its Handicapping Manual, the United States Golf Association does offer these guidelines for appropriate yardages for par-4 holes:

  • For men, a par-4 hole is 251 to 470 yards long.
  • For women, a par-4 hole is 211 to 400 yards long.

(Important: Those yardages are not actual, measured yards, but, rather, a hole's "effective playing length." Think of it this way: Say a hole has been measured off at 508 yards. But that hole is all downhill from the tee to the green, so it plays shorter than its measured yardage. That hole's effective playing length might only be 450 yards.)

Number of Par-4 Holes on a Golf Course

Photo of a golf scorecard
This scorecard shows a front nine that has five par-4 holes, a common course configuration. DAJ/Getty Images

On a regulation-sized golf course, there might be as few as six par-4 holes or as many as 14. There can be any number of par-3s, par-4s and par-5s on a course, and in any configuration. But most commonly, the breakdown is four par-3 holes and four par-5 holes, with the other 10 holes being par-4s.

What Scores on a Par-4 Are Called

Scores on an individual golf hole can be expressed in relation to par (one-over, one-under, +1, minus-1) or by using one of golf's scoring terms (birdies, bogeys, etc.). Those terms applied to a par-4 hole break down like this:

  • A score of 2 on a par-4 is an eagle.
  • A score of 3 on a par-4 is a birdie.
  • A score of 4 on a par-4 is a par.
  • A score of 5 on a par-4 is a bogey.
  • A score of 6 on a par-4 is a double bogey.
  • A score of 7 on a par4 is a triple bogey (then quadruple, quintuple, etc., for higher scores).

Holing out one's drive on a par-4 (a score of 1) is a hole-in-one, or ace. Aces on par 4s do happen, but they are very rare. In the history of the PGA Tour there has been only one par-4 hole-in-one.