Everyone who's played golf and kept score correctly knows shooting par is not easy; in fact, it seems near impossible to most golfers – even after years of earnestly trying.
This isn't to say there aren't good scoring days, even for hackers and high handicappers, where the game seems a bit easier and par even looks possible. Yet, for the most part, shooting par is an exceptional feat.
Expectations and Perceptions with Golf
Ultimately, when golfers reach a certain stability and proficiency with their physical swing, golf becomes mostly a mental game. This means it's not about talent as much as it's about right thinking; so what is right thinking then? Well, a good start is to consider your expectations and perceptions by critically examining their origin, validity, and helpfulness.
One of the aspects of golf I love the most is its analogous meaning to life; if we pay attention and aren't afraid to admit faults, then we can learn a lot about life from learning the mental game of golf. From the pressures of a men's league to a professional PGA Tour Major, golf is a game that's won in the mind.
What does this have to do with par being an exceptional score? First off, shooting par on 18 holes is an exceptional feat for any golfer to do at anytime. While most of us can shoot par on a handful of holes or even nearly par 9 holes, keeping it together for 18 holes with a par score is another level of golf.
This is the point, golfers that play around par all the time are exceptional golfers because the rest of us are doing well to play bogey golf. In reality, for 99% of golfers, shooting 18 over is par golf. Let's look at some stats to prove this:
We learn from Golf Today how many golfers are in the world:
“A 2003 study by Sports Marketing Surveys gave a figure of 61.1 million, with the following geographical mix:
America: 37.1 million
Asia: 13.6 million
Europe: 6.9 million
Australasia: 1.7 million
South America: 1 million
Africa: .5 million”
We learn more from a 2010 Golf Blogger article:
“According to the National Golf Foundation, the average golf score remains where it has been for decades: 100. This, in spite of all the innovations in club design and instruction. The USGA says that the average golf handicap for men is 16.1, and is 29.2 for women.
The National Golf Foundation breaks down scores this way:
Under 80 5%
With only 5% of golfers shooting below 80, we can safely estimate about 1% shoot around par (little above, little below, etc.). This means shooting par is a very exceptional feat that only one out of a hundred golfers can achieve on a regular basis.
The question then becomes: why do most golfers have expectations of shooting par every time? In reality, they won't even come close.
Basically, most golfers have the wrong expectations when it comes to scoring, which is caused by their false perceptions about their ability.
Why Shooting Bogey Golf is Par
In order for an average golfer to get to the exceptional level, they must first appreciate the level they're at now. Golf is a very difficult game because par golf is the objective and measuring stick of our abilities; this is tough on our mental games, as 99% of us have never even shot par on 18 holes.
In reality, shooting 90 is par golf for most of us (Par 72 course for exceptional golfers). Golfers must play well to shoot bogey golf, especially, on tougher courses. Yet, how many golfers are content and feel good about their bogey golf? The answer is hardly any, because their expectations are too high.
Of course, the bogey golfer wants to play better and reach the next level of ability, yet this is better done when we realize how exceptional one has to be to shoot par golf.
“These Guys Are Good”
The PGA Tour motto is truer than most people think. The guys playing professional golf are the cream of the crop, especially on the PGA and European Tours. Yet, this is true for the many mini-tours and upper-level college golf as well.
Considering only the top 125 players on the PGA Tour money-list are exempt for the next year, we can estimate there are, likely, only at the most around 1,000 pro golfers playing on the PGA Tour during the year. Combined with all the other pro tours: European Tour, Challenge Tour, Web.com, Sunshine Tour, Mackenzie Tour, Latin America PGA Tour, Australasia PGA Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour, Champions Tour, Pepsi Tour, Golden State Tour, Swing Thought Tour, EuroPro Tour, LPGA Tour, etc., and the college and amateur players that shoot around par – we can safely estimate there are less than 50k golfers that play around par.
Now, if there are 61.1 million golfers, 61k would be 1%; so this estimate isn't too far off.
The 10k or so (rough estimation) exceptional golfers that get to play professional golf are better than the average golfer can even imagine. Essentially, these golfers are consistently playing what seems to be miraculous golf.
Tuning the Golf Mind to Score Well
While golf is easier for some than others, the determining factor for scoring is having a strong mental game. This should be exciting to the average bogey golfer because it means if we can tune our golf minds to the right perception, we can threaten to play par golf.
One of the ways I've been doing this is to consider bogey golf to be par; every stroke under +18 means I'm playing that many under. If I shot par golf I would be -18, etc.
This isn't a defeatist attitude, rather a realistic mindset that allows me to play contentedly. My objective on each hole is to do the best I can, yet bogey is the standard I hold myself to. If a birdie (par) comes or an eagle (birdie), then I'm playing exceptional golf for that moment and can really enjoy the experience.
So many golfers aren't having fun out there on the links, because they're comparing themselves to exceptional golfers that defy logic and shoot par golf consistently. Even these exceptional golfers will likely admit that on any given day they're amazed when they can shoot par or better – hey this is exceptional golf for anyone, even pros.
Truth is, a player has to hit many good shots (even some great shots) and putt well to shoot bogey golf; it's amazing how many good shots and putts it takes to shoot bogey golf! Players should appreciate how well they're playing and be content with their score.
If par golf ever comes my way on a consistent basis, I'll know I've been given favor by the Lord, because it's going to take a miraculous hand to help me get there. And you can be sure if the Lord ever does bless me this way I'll be living the dream of playing professional golf somewhere. Until then, I'll enjoy and appreciate the bogey golf I somehow can manage to shoot now.
Originally published at Better Golfing Days June 22, 2018