Golf score keeping is part of the fun of the game. Although many people play golf for the exercise, fresh air and the opportunity to socialize, the competitive element of the sport can make regular play rewarding. Even if you aren't focused on winning, seeing your golf score improve over time can give you a sense of satisfaction, boost your confidence and inspire you to keep playing.
Many new golfers ask, "How does golf scoring work?" and that's understandable as golf rules and scoring can be complicated. That's why we put together this guide on golf card game scoring. In it, we review golf scoring terms and explain how to keep score in golf step by step.
What Is Par in Golf?
Before you can dive into exactly how to keep score in golf, you need a thorough understanding of how par works in golf. On every course, a hole is assigned a specific number of shots. This is known as the par. It is determined by the number of shots a proficient golfer is expected to make to complete the hole. Here is a quick breakdown of the three most common pars:
- Par 3: Requires three shots, usually a drive and then two putts. Normally, par 3s are short holes.
- Par 4: Requires four shots, usually two to get to the green and then two putts.
- Par 5: Requires five shots: usually three to get to the green and then two putts. Generally, par 5s are the longest holes.
The ultimate goal of a golfer is to come at or below par. However, beginners will take time to develop the necessary skills to achieve this. As a result, golf uses a handicap system that adjusts players' scores based on their ability. Check out our article on golf handicaps to determine yours.
How to Keep Score in Golf
Mastering how to score golf correctly isn't complicated once you understand the basic steps. Let's walk through the proper scoring method:
- After each hole, record the number of shots that it took for you to get the ball in the hole.
- At the end of the round, add together the scores for all 18 holes. This is your gross golf score.
- To calculate your net score, you subtract your course handicap from your gross score.
Different Golf Scoring Formats
There are three main formats for golf scoring: stroke play, match play and the Stableford System. Before playing a round with your friends, you need to decide which one you'll choose. Read on to learn about each scoring method.
This scoring method is used to determine the winner in stroke play. Once everyone calculates their scores, the person with the lowest one wins. If everyone is at roughly the same skill level, you may choose to just use your gross scores. Net scoring can make things more equitable when there is a mix of experience levels in your group.
With match play, you count the number of strokes that it takes to complete a hole. Then, you compare the score for that hole with your opponent to determine the winner. If you made the hole in 3 strokes and your opponent took 5, you would win that hole. At the end of the round, the person who won the most holes becomes the overall winner. Some people prefer match play because it requires less arithmetic and can bring more excitement to each hole. However, this type of golf scoring is best when opponents are at the same skill level.
With the Stableford Scoring System, you convert your number of strokes into points. The standard scoring table is:
- Two strokes above par: 0 points
- One stroke above par: 1 point
- Par: 2 points
- One stroke under par: 3 points
- Two strokes under par: 4 points
- Three strokes under par: 5 points
- Four strokes under par: 6 points
The Stableford System can accommodate handicaps. To do so, each golfer gets additional strokes equal to their total handicap. Here are some examples:
A golfer with a handicap of 4 would get one extra stroke on each of the four most difficult holes.
A golfer with a handicap of 22 would get one extra stroke on every hole plus one more additional stroke on the four hardest holes (calculated by 22-18=4).
The purpose of the Stableford System is to allow golfers to remain in the competition even if they have one or two bad holes. It can work with players of varying experience levels, but it can add extra time to gameplay to look up the point values until you have them memorized.
Key Golf Scoring Terms
Golf scoring has some specific terminology that you need to know to easily communicate with other players. Some key terms include:
- Albatross: Finishing three strokes under par
- Birdie: Finishing one stroke under par
- Bogey: Finishing one stroke over par
- Condor: Finishing four strokes under par
- Double bogey: Fishing two strokes over par
- Double eagle: Finishing three strokes under par, alternate name for Albatross
- Eagle: Finishing two strokes under par