Par for the Course – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe something with an average performance or aligned with your expectations? You can use “par for the course” to describe its performance. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “par for the course” means that you secured an outcome in line with your expectations. It wasn’t an outstanding or disappointing result, but rather uneventful. To say that something is par for the course means that it was neither special nor mediocre.

Being par for the course at work could mean you’re completing your job as per your employment contract. However, it may also mean that you are doing nothing out of your way to add value to the company. As a result of your inadequate actions, you’ll miss out on other opportunities in your career.

Being par for the course in a relationship means nothing spectacular going on, and you’re both probably looking for someone else. If you produce a result with a task that is par for the course, it's what people expected from you, but nothing exceptional.

Example Usage

“That movie was about par for the course. It went about as I expected. I was okay, but nothing special.”

“This behavior is par for the course. I thought I could rely on you guys to be different and behave yourselves, but I guess that’s too much to ask.”

“This performance is par for the course, and I expected much more from you guys. I guess I just have to deal with mediocrity, not perfection.”

“That meal was about par for the course. Nothing special, but at least it filled the gap.”

“You're going to end up with a performance that’s only par for the course if you study like that. Put more effort into it if you want an exceptional result.”

“That’s about par for the course, my friend. You end up at about the average range for the psych profile, and that’s not really what we’re looking for here.”

“That’s not par for the course around here. At our country club, we expect a certain level of respect and behavior towards others.”


The expression “par for the course” evolves from golfing language. Language experts believe the phrase surfaced in language around the early 1900s.

A par score in golf means that you finish the course with a certain amount of strokes, being the “par” or average score expected for a good player.

The earliest use of the phrase in print comes from the Princeton Alumni Weekly in May 1932, where it reads as follows.

“Whatever is to be done in Washington would better be done quickly. If the industry and business knew the par for the course, people would be disposed to go ahead.”

Phrases Similar to Par for the Course

  • About what I expected.
  • Run of the mill.

Phrases Opposite to Par for the Course

  • That didn’t go as planned.
  • That was above and beyond expectations.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Par for the course.

Ways People May Say Par for the Course Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with playing golf. The "par," in this case, relates to an average performance or something that met your expectations but didn't excel the way you wanted it to. The course is the average of the rest of the people or objects in its category.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Par for the Course

You can use "par for the course" when discussing someone or something's average performance. For recreational golfers, getting a par score might be something to celebrate, but for the purposes of this expression, it's just a mediocre performance.

The saying suits professional and social use. Use it at the office to describe an average day where nothing eventful occurred on your shift. Use it at home to describe an average movie in line with your expectations.

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