In a Word

Forbes has an article entitled How to Cheat at Golf — Without the Guilt which called into question today the definition for a word that I’ve used on occasion. That word? Par.

The Forbes article says:


Give it up. Of those golfers who register with the USGA for an official handicap (just one out of five players), a mere 0.7% can be considered “scratch” golfers, meaning they actually have a sporting chance of shooting par over 18 holes. You are not one of these superhumans. Instead try this psychological trick: Consider every hole on the course a par-5. Shoot a 5 on every hole and you’ll get a 90, which is great, all things considered.

So often we use par to mean, well, mean or median. Average. It’s from the Latin for equal, after all. But if you look at the golf leaderboard, you’ll see that half of the field is not above par, nor are the leaders so far above the rest of the field to set par at the mean statistical definition.

No, in golfing terms, par is set arbitrarily by the golf course designers or professionals, and it’s a standard that most golfers can’t meet.

Please update your preferred metaphors and clichés appropriately.