Golf Scoring Rules

golf scoring rules

In golf, there are both different scoring methods and names for all types of scores. Read on to learn about these methods of scorekeeping, as well as the scoring lingo you will hear on the course.


Golf Scoring Terms

In golf, there are a variety of scoring terms that represent the different number of strokes it takes for a golfer to sink their ball. Each of these terms is important to the overall scoring and will be used regularly on television. The main scoring terms used in golf are as follows:

Par

Par is the expected number of strokes the golf course expects a golfer to use to complete the hole. When a golfer scores a par, he is even for that hole. A golf hole will typically be a Par 3, Par 4, or Par 5.

Birdie

Birdie is when a golfer uses one fewer stroke than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in three strokes, they have made a birdie.

Eagle

An eagle is when a golfer uses two fewer strokes than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 5 in three strokes, they have made an eagle.

Albatross / Double Eagle

An albatross is when a golfer uses three fewer strokes than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 5 in two strokes, they have made an albatross, an incredibly rare feat in golf. Another word for an albatross is a double eagle.

Bogey

A bogey is when a golfer uses one more stroke than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in five strokes, they have made a bogey.

Double Bogey

A bogey is when a golfer uses two more strokes than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in six strokes, they have made a double bogey.

Triple Bogey

A bogey is when a golfer uses three more strokes than par to complete a hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in seven strokes, they have made a triple bogey.

Quadruple Bogey

A quadruple bogey is when a golfer goes four strokes over par. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in eight strokes, then they have made a quadruple bogey.

Double Par

A double par is when a player uses exactly double the strokes of par on a certain hole. For example, if a player completes a par 5 in 10 strokes or a par 4 in 8 strokes, this may be referred to as a double par. In many junior and amateur golf tournaments, a double par may be used as the maximum score a player can receive on a given hole.

Hole in One / Ace

A hole in one occurs when a golfer hits a tee shot in the hole, thus only needing one stroke to complete the hole. The term ace is another way of saying hole in one. This is mostly done on par 3s and extremely rarely on par 4s.

Other Scores

In very rare situations, a golfer may use five or more strokes overs par to complete a hole. This can be referred to as a quintuple bogey and so on, or simply may be referred to as the score they got on the hole. For example, if a golfer completes a par 4 in 10 strokes, their score may simply be referred to as a “10.”

Golf Scoring Methods

While most professional tournaments use one type of scoring method, there are actually many different ways a competition can be played. The different formats for a golf competition include:

  • Stroke Play
  • Match Play
  • Alternate Shot / Foursomes
  • Scramble
  • Best Ball
  • Best Ball Match Play
  • Shamble

Stroke Play

Stroke play is a method of keeping score by counting the number of strokes a golfer uses to complete a round of golf. Stroke play is the most common way of keeping score and indicates the golfer's score relative to par.

Match Play

Match play consists of two golfers playing each other based on the number of holes won. For example, if golfer #1 shoots a lower score than golfer #2 on a hole, then golfer #1 is up one. Golfer #2 is down one. If both players tie on a hole, then the score remains the same. The golfer who wins the most holes wins the match.

Alternate Shot / Foursomes

Alternate shot features a team of two or more golfers sharing one ball throughout the entire round, alternating who hits the ball on every shot. The players must also alternate who takes the tee shot on each hole. At the end of each hole, the players will tally their strokes for their team score.

Scramble

A scramble is a format where a group of golfers play the best shot from a teammate in order to shoot for the lowest score collectively. Unlike stroke or match play, a golfer does not play his own golf ball for the entirety of the round. The golfers can choose any of their shots to be played, but they must only play from the same spot each shot.

Best Ball

Best ball is a format where a group of golfers each play their own ball for the entirety of a golf round and record the lowest score out of the group for each hole.

Best Ball Match Play

Best ball match play is a two versus two format where each team takes its player's lowest score to go against an opposing team. The team with the player who shoots the lowest score goes up one on that hole.

Shamble

A shamble is a modified version of a scramble but instead only uses the best drive of the group, after which each player is required to play their own ball through the completion of the hole. The team will then take the lowest score from a single player on that hole to count as the team’s score for the hole.