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How to Decipher Golf Course Pars and Tee Colors

Golf courses include hints about how you should play them, providing pars for each hole and tee colors in certain areas. The tee colors tell you where you should start your play, based on your skill level. Par is the number of strokes a reasonably competent player should take to play a particular hole.

Knowing your pars in a golf game

Every hole you play on a typical golf course will be a par-3, par-4, or par-5. For example, on a par-5 hole, a regulation par might consist of a drive, two more full swings, and two putts. (Two putts is the standard on every green.)

With rare exceptions, par-3s are from 100 to 250 yards in length; par-4s are between 251 and 475 yards long, barring severe topography; and par-5s are anything longer than that.

This table lists the yardages that determine par on a hole, for men and women. These guidelines don’t always refer to precise yardages, but to what the United States Golf Association calls a hole’s “effective playing length.” A 460-yard hole that went straight uphill, for example, could be a par-5 for men.

Regulation Yardages
Women Men
Par-3 210 yards or less 250 yards or less
Par-4 211 to 400 yards 251 to 470 yards
Par-5 401 to 575 yards 471 to 690 yards
Par-6 More than 575 yards More than 690 yards

Source: United States Golf Association

Finding your teeing area by color

You often find several different teeing areas on each hole so that you can play the hole from different lengths. The vast majority of holes have more than one teeing area — usually four. Some courses have as many as six different tees on one hole. The tee areas are marked with color-coded tees that indicate ability:

[Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images]
Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images
  • Gold: Invariably the back tees; for blessed strikers only.

  • Blue: Usually slightly ahead of the gold and make the holes shorter, but still plenty hard. Club competitions are played from these tees.

  • White: For everyday, casual play, making them the right choice for beginning golfers. Stray from the white tees at your peril.

  • Red: Traditionally used by women, although many women play by using the same tees as men.

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