How Scoring in Golf Works - Golf Score Terms

How does Scoring in Golf Work? - Golf FAQs

In this post we will list the different golf terms and what everything in the world of golf scoring means.


Most golfers know most every golf term but there are a couple that does surprise even a seasoned golfer of 20 years.

Most golfers do not know what a Condor is, or that getting an albatross is rarer than getting struck by lightning!

The main golf scoring terms and questions related to how to keep score in golf are listed below.

First is the Golf score cheat sheet that has the quick answers to all of the different main scoring terms in golf.

Golf Scoring Terms Cheat Sheet

Golf scoring terms can be confusing, but knowing the basics will help you score like a pro.

⛳ - Stroke - Any forward club swing that's intended to hit the golf ball.

⛳ - Par - The number of strokes an expert player is expected to make for a given hole or a group of holes (usually 9 or 18).

Birdie - One stroke under par on an individual hole.

Eagle- Two strokes under par on an individual hole.


Albatross / Double Eagle - Three strokes under par on an individual hole.

Condor - Four strokes under par on an individual hole.

Ace / Hole-in-One - Getting the ball in the hole (cup) in only one stroke.

Bogey - One stroke over par on an individual hole.

Double Bogey - Two strokes over par on an individual hole.

Triple Bogey - Three strokes over par on an individual hole.

Quadruple Bogey - Four strokes over par on an individual hole.

Also, we will be covering the proper way to keep score in golf, and no it doesn't include 5 mulligans per 9 holes it turns out!

What is the history of keeping score in golf?

The history of scorekeeping in golf is believed to date back to the 16th century. The first recorded instance of scoring in golf was in a match between two Scottish noblemen in 1567.

In this match, each hole was worth one point and the winner was the player with the most points at the end of 18 holes.

Scorekeeping has evolved over time, but the basic idea remains the same: keep track of how many strokes it takes to complete each hole and add up those strokes.

I guess this is another reason they say the Scottish invented golf, as my good Scottish friend Steve always reminds me of!

What are the basics of Scorekeeping in Golf?

There's a lot of golf scoring terminology that can be a bit confusing for first-time golfers.

Once you have a basic understanding of golf scoring terminology, it's time to get out there and score like a pro! For the beginner, it's important to familiarize yourself with golf scoring terminology to make the gameplay smoother.

In golf, scoring is typically kept track of using the strokes-per-hole method.

This means that the total number of strokes a golfer takes on each hole is recorded, and the golfer with the lowest score at the end of 18 holes is declared the winner.

There are variations of this scoring method (such as match play), but strokes-per-hole is by far the most common way to keep score in golf.

What Are the Different Types of Scoring Systems in Golf?

The three most common scoring systems used in golf are stroke play, match play, and stableford.

I know just what I thought, WTF is Stableford scoring?!

In stroke play, the score for each hole is totaled up and the player with the lowest score at the end of 18 holes wins.

Match play is similar to stroke play, but instead of total strokes per hole, only the number of strokes needed to complete a hole relative to your opponent matters. The first player to reach the agreed-upon number of holes (usually 18) or with the most holes won at the end of play is the winner.

Stableford scoring awards points for each hole based on the score achieved, with higher scores earning more points. The player with the most points at the end of play wins.

Stableford is a scoring system used in golf, rather than counting the total number of strokes taken, as in stroke play, it is based on the number of points taken at each of the holes.

Ive personally never heard of this scoring system, must be something Scottish invented that didn't quite catch on.

How scoring in golf works

Golf Scoring Terms Explained

Stroke - In golf, a "Stroke" is any forward club swing, including when putting, that a golfer is trying to hit the ball. 

You can essentially use "Stroke" as a synonym for a shot/putt, but keep in mind that it also includes "whiffs" if you miss the ball when trying to hit it.

* We all have had a whiff in our early days of golf, but no way did we ever count this, golf is hard enough!

Par - Getting a PAR is the number of strokes that an expert or "Scratch Golfer" is expected to need to complete a hole.

Par always includes two putts for each hole. On a par-4 hole, a scratch golfer is supposed to reach the green in two strokes, then complete the hole with two putts.

Distance, or more specifically "effective distance" (the distance a hole plays after accounting for whether it's uphill/downhill, its elevation, etc.), is the main determining factor in a hole's par rating.

Here are the USGA's distance guidelines for men:

  • Par-3 – Up to 250 yards
  • Par-4 – 251 to 470 yards
  • Par-5 – 401 to 690 yards

For women, the USGA’s distance guidelines are:

  • Par-3 – Up to 210 yards
  • Par-4 – 211 to 400 yards
  • Par-5 – 401 to 575 yards

The golf scoring term "Par" is also used to reference the combined par of a group of golf holes.

Full-length 18-hole golf courses include par-3, par-4, and par-5 holes. "Course Par" for the 18 holes will usually be between 69-73, with par-72 being most common for an 18-hole golf course.

Par can also be used for multiple rounds of golf. In the PGA tour, tournaments are usually played over four days, with 18 holes being played each day.

Under Par - The term "under par" describe a player's score when they've taken fewer strokes than par up to a given point of the golf course. -

This is a term most golfers like myself have NEVER uttered, unless in jest. You know like "I think the odds of me being under par after 18 is like 10000-1."

An example of being under par would be If a player took 3 strokes to complete a par-3, 3 strokes to complete a par-4, and 4 strokes to complete a par-5 hole, their score could be described as "two under par" or "-2".

Again something most of us will not usually achieve very often, but we keep trying!

Frequently Asked Questions - Golf Scoring

Here are some common questions related to scoring in golf.

What is a golf handicap?

A golf handicap is a number assigned to a golfer that indicates the number of strokes above or below par that the golfer is expected to play.

How is the golf handicap for a player determined?

A golf handicap is a number assigned to a golfer that indicates the number of strokes above or below par that the golfer is expected to score. The higher the handicap, the worse the golfer is expected to score.

Its a pretty confusing process for most average golfers and involves a lot of math. The slope rating, course handicap, and adjusted gross scores are all used to calculate handicap.

How do you Calculate your Golf Handicap?

The first step is to play at least five 18-hole rounds of golf at different courses and with different teeing grounds. You then calculate your average score for those five rounds.

Next, you take the course rating of each course that you played and subtract it from your score on that course (your "adjusted gross score"). For example, if you shot an 85 on a course with a rating of 72.4, your adjusted gross score would be 12.6 (85 -72.4=12.6).

Then, you take the slope rating of each course and multiply it by your adjusted gross score. For example, if the slope rating of the course is 113 and your adjusted gross score is 12.6, your "slope-adjusted score" would be 1,413 (113x12.6=1,413).

Finally, you add up all of your slope-adjusted scores and divide by the number of rounds that you played. This number is your handicap.

In Golf Scoring, How do you calculate the average score per hold for a round of golf?

To calculate an average score for a round of golf, first add up the total number of strokes taken for the entire round. Then, divide that number by the total number of holes played in the round. This will give you the average number of strokes per hole.

What is a hole-in-one in Golf?

A hole-in-one is a score of one stroke on a hole, typically achieved on a par three. Every once in awhile you might get a short par 4 (260-290ish yards) and get a hole in one on that, but that would also be called an Albatross!

What is a Good Golf Score ?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the skill level of the golfer. A good score for a beginner might be in the range of 80-90, while a good score for a more experienced golfer might be in the range of 70-80.

Is it better to use an electronic or manual golf scoring system?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on personal preference.

Some golfers prefer the convenience of an electronic scoring system, while others prefer the traditional feel of a manual scorecard. Ultimately, it is up to the golfer to decide which type of scoring system works best for them.


Thank you for reading the Golfing Eagles scoring FAQs. Hopefully we have explained the meaning of golf scoring terms and the basics of golf scoring.

Next time you are watching golf and looking at the pga leaderboard, you will know exactly how the golfers achieved those golf scores! Im always watching the golf leaderboard and following pga golf scores. I know who is playing bogey golf or playing above par golf. Yet I must say Ive never heard of Stableford scoring before. 

We have also included a cheat sheet of golf scoring terms so that you can score like a pro! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and we'll get back to you. Until next time, happy golfing!

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