This is the meat and potatoes of the golf course. This is the main course. The par 3s are salads; some with a nice Caesar and some with nasty radicchio greens only meant for goats and demons. The par 5s are the desserts. You endure the par 3s and capitalize on the par 5s and suffer mightily over the par 4s which will likely make up more than half of your round of 18 holes. The typical layout is four each of the novelty holes and ten examples of the real test of wills in this silly game.
The theory behind a par 4 is that you will hit your tee shot, leaving you a second shot into the green. You should be able to hit your second shot onto the green and take no less than two putts to hole out. Theories are nice. Reality is often cruel. Very cruel indeed.
Par 4s can be as short as 300 yards, which seemed a lot longer distance before the days of juiced up golf balls and drivers with heads the size of Rodney Dangerfield's prostate gland. And they can be as long as damn near 500 yards these days on newer courses which have tried to do something to combat the ever-expanding technological revolution in clubs and balls. If you see a par 4 under 400 yards on a newer course these days, it's likely that it's a trick which you should examine from several angles prior to teeing it up and turning to your playing partners with your biggest bigger Bertha in your sweaty little eager hands saying, "I'm driving this mother!" (For non-golfers, a boast such as this would alert you to two things. First of all, the golfer uttering such a remark is an absolute asshole. And, second, it implies that he feels as if he can get the ball on the green in one shot, making birdie an almost certainty and eagle a strong possibility.)
The feeling you have standing on the tee of a typical par 4 depends a whole lot on your prior experiences at the hole, the visual field in front of you, and what the scorecard says about length and handicap. The highest handicap hole (that means "the hardest" for non-golfers) on any golf course is likely to be a long par 4. It's likely that you can see the green (your ultimate target) from the tee. If you cannot, it's likely a dogleg hole which requires a "placement" tee shot. This means there is a bend of some sort in the landscape which requires you to pick out a spot where you should land your tee shot for maximum efficiency on your second shot.
There are often sand traps in the fairways to catch errant shots, as well as deep rough and out of bounds. Should you hit your ball out of bounds, you'll be required to tee up again, lying two, hitting three. Should you hit your ball into the deep rough, it's unlikely that you'll be able to control the next shot well enough to hit the green. Either you will not have the muscle required to hit the ball the length required, or you'll not be able to impart enough spin on the ball to stop it should you be fortunate enough to hit the green. If you're in a fairway bunker, it will depend on the lie and the lip. No, not the lip you're going to get from your wife for spending 4 hours doing your thing while she changes diapers and cooks dinner; the lip on the bunker facing you. If you have 175 yards to the green (for instance) and the lip on the bunker is two feet and you are only a foot or two away from it, what sort of club do you have in your bag to get the ball up that quickly and still make it travel 175 yards? Well? That's what I thought. You don't own that goddamned club and you can't buy it, no matter how much money your daddy left you in that trust fund which allows you to play golf on a Thursday afternoon when everyone else in the world is working their ass off to try and pay the fucking rent. (Sorry. Golf is fun. Life is good. Socialism is bad.)
Probably the most famous par 4 in the world is what's referred to as the "Road Hole" at St. Andrews. It's the next to last hole you play on that course, and it's determined the winner of some famous tournaments on more than one occasion. Some folks say it's the hardest par 4 in the world. David Duval, once the number one ranked player in the world and who is currently not even picking up his clubs and giving it a shot (much like your friend, dannye -- not the first part; the second) once spent five minutes, four shots and almost half a million dollars in a British Open in the bunker which awaits just the tiniest of errors on the second shot at Number Seventeen at St. Andrews. It's a 455-yard hole which requires a tee shot over a stoic building on the right. If you hit the building, you're out of bounds. If you're actually in the building watching, it's funny. But, after you have managed to find some part of the crusty brownish fairway, likely being pelted by nailgun rain bullets and in a fog from both the Bay of Fundy as well as the pints you lifted the previous evening, you must try and hit some sort of shot which does not lead you into this little hellish bunker into which the green itself slopes. They even have a little camera inside the walls of this bunker which records your torment. It's sort of like the photos they sell you at the Tower of Terror in DisneyWorld. See the silly look on your face? Should you hit your shot just a wee tad too far in order to avoid this embarrassment, there is a road behind the green which leads you (once again) to out of bounds. A good score for a hacker to write down on this particular hole is "Gave Up."
If you are silly enough to play this game, some of your best and worst memories will likely be on a par 4 somewhere. It's even possible that you could do the impossible and score a double eagle (three under par on one hole) by making a hole in one on a short par 4. However, it's more likely that you'll sleep well at night just getting a ball in the fairway, onto the green, and two putting.