Forget About Par – Play for Your “Personal Par”

Kim Anders
Director of Instruction
John Jacobs Golf Schools and Academies Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach Resort
Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, AZ

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I was playing with one of my members the other day and on the 3rd hole he didn’t hit his tee shot very well, leaving about 215 yards over water to the green. He pulls out his 3 wood, makes a couple of practice swings, while mumbling to himself and shaking his head, and then addresses the ball. Now keep in mind, this is a guy who if he tees up a 3 wood and hits it on the button, he might hit it 215 in the air. Hitting it off the fairway -  No Way.

I said, “Hey Ed, what are you doing?” He tells me it’s the only club he has any chance of clearing the water with. “Hey Ed, what are the odds of you carving that 3 wood off that thin lie, ball below your feet, and getting it across the lake?” Ed steps away from the ball, looks at the lake then back at his ball, and says, “Not happening!” “Hey Ed, why don’t you take a wedge and smooth it up there to the left of the lake, then smooth another wedge onto the green, two putt, and take your bogey and that new Pro V-1 on to the next hole?”

Now here’s the best part. Ed, who has played golf at least 10 years, looks at me dead serious and says, “Can I do that? Is it OK, I mean is it legal to do that?” Eddy, Eddy, Eddy. I’m starting to understand why he buys balls in multiple dozens.

I then explained the idea of playing golf to your “Personal Par”. You may need to quit trying to hit your drives 250 yards, or carry a 3 wood 215 over water. For example, if your handicap is in the mid to high teens, you are a bogey golfer. Look at each hole from the standpoint of where you can reasonably play each shot so bogie is easy and most likely the worst score you will make.
For example, the 16th hole at Estrella del Mar is a 205 yard par 3 from the back tees playing straight to the ocean and into the prevailing wind. Three woods and drivers are common choices here.  Personally, I approach this hole as though it is one of those reachable par 4’s you see on Tour from time to time. If I manage to make 3 I feel like I made a “Personal Birdie” on the hole and when I take a 4 it doesn’t tear my heart out simply because this is a very difficult hole.
Before you play your next round of golf take 15 minutes to analyze what you can realistically and easily make on each hole, and how you will play each hole to achieve that score. Example: “A 3 wood off the tee, then a 7 iron well right of the big tree, and an 80 yard pitching wedge to the green making sure to leave the ball short of the hole. This should leave a fairly straight uphill putt which should make a 5 the worst score you would make.”  And, you have eliminated a double bogey or worse!!

Once you figure your Personal Par and your game plan to shoot it, stick to it when you get on the course. You just might find this game is a lot easier when you have a plan to follow. And, it won’t be long till many of those Personal Pars turn into Personal Birdies!!

Kim Anders is Director of Golf at Estrella del Mar Golf & Beach Resort in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. You can reach Kim via email at or call 1.888.587.0609, Ext. 3010. Find out more about the golf resort by visiting