There have been 25 players that have shot sub-60 scores on leading golf tours around the world. Out of that bunch, 20 have come in the last 15 seasons and four in the past calendar year alone (Bryson DeChambeau and Joaquin Niemann at LIV, John Catlin on the Asian Tour and Casey Jarvis on the Sunshine Tour). That doesn’t include three scores in the 50s from the past three months on the Korn Ferry Tour (which is technically classified as a second-tier circuit), highlighted by a 57 from Cristobal Del Solar at the Astara Golf Championship.

So you may be wondering … what gives?

There is a new approach in the professional ranks, a more aggressive, attack-based mentality, which has correlated to a diminished sense of loss aversion. There’s no need to relitigate that advancements in equipment—seen in driving distance gains, more forgiving irons and counterbalanced, high MOI putters—have created the ability to go lower, and on a consistent basis. Same goes with the emphasis on clubfitting, fitness and diet, and psychological training. But a not insignificant part of the equation is the idea of par itself, which was set on many courses during eras that do not resemble the current game.

Augusta National routinely lengthens its venerable layout, most notably in recent years in the addition of 40 yards to the famous par-5 13th, while major venues often build new tee boxes for their respective championships to accommodate the evolving game. In that same breath, there’s only so much officials can do to defend the course, and in the past, tournaments and governing bodies have been accused of artificially tricking up set-ups in order to preserve par. It begs the question if we should change our understanding of the par concept, given it’s essentially a social construct to begin with.

And while that’s a fair question, it’s also one that’s far from new.

Charles Price was an indelible voice in golf literature. He was the founding editor of Golf Magazine and wrote for a fledgling Golf World, and in the 1980s Price came to Golf Digest to pen a monthly column. In this magazine piece from November, 1991, Price asks the question if par is, in fact, necessary.

“Par is dying. Even officials of the U.S. Golf Association, which is bound by tradition to defend it, wish it would somehow go away, as though it were a hangover, so out of sorts is it a standard—if it ever was one,” Price wrote. “At this point in history par is just print on a scorecard, ridiculed since the day it was written into the Rules of Golf, which was only 80 years ago.”

What follows is part history lesson, part rant, and while the writing is somewhat scattered it speaks to a different time in journalism when authors were allowed to explore the space. It’s also a nice reminder that the problems of now were problems back then; in one paragraph, Price bemoans increasing driving gains.

“Even that tiny percent of the golf population who play to par find it unrealistic,” Price notes. “Par 5s have become all but obsolete on every pro tour there is, even the women’s. There are more John Dalys than we think. The 10th hole at my course is 602 yards long. A few years ago an amateur I never heard of reached it with a drive and an iron.”

Price’s piece, and the rest of his work, is worth the read, which can be found in the Golf Digest archive.

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