Golf scoring system

Golf Scoring System

Introduction to the golf scoring system

The golf scoring system is very straight forward when compared to other sports. In this introduction to golf scoring basics, we will mainly focus on the standard, most commonly played golf format: stroke play. In stroke play, every stroke or shot you take counts. No redos, no grace. The standard format of golf, as played in tournaments, can be very unforgiving as any mistakes or bad shots you make affect your score. This is because your score is recorded over 9 or 18 holes, with each individual hole adding or taking away from your total score.


Par is the number of shots assigned to a hole that the golfer is expected to take before they get their golf ball into the hole. This can either be 3,4 or 5 depending on the yardage of the hole. Typically, holes with a total yardage of 180 and under have a par of 3. In this instance, it is expected that your first shot from the tee box should get your golf ball close enough to the flag where you can putt twice to finish the hole for a total score of 3.

You may think of par as the following:

  • Par: ‘completed’ or ‘passed’ as you are meeting the requirement assinged by the course.
  • Over par: ‘failed’ or ‘need to do better’ (a negative outcome as you took more shots than expected).
  • Under par: ‘excellent’ or ‘A+’ as you did better than required, exceeding the expectation.


Every golf course has an assigned par score. This score is the total of the par numbers assigned to each hole. This number is usually slightly above 70 for 18 holes. When you start your round of golf you start at ‘even’ or 0. Each time you score, it is recorded on your score card with the total number of shots for that hole. If the first hole is a par 4 and you score 5, it is recorded as 5 for that particular hole and your overall score becomes +1 as you are now 1 over par. The lowest total score at the end of the round is the winner as this person took the least amount of overall shots to complete the course.

Scoring under par


Getting a ‘birdie’ means scoring 1 under par. Unfortunatley, as a beginner is it unlikely you get many of these initially.


Scoring an ‘eagle’ is when you score 2 under par for a particular hole. Eagles are most common in tournament play when a player scores 3 on a par 5. You definitely won’t be seeing these as a beginner. Some of us have been playing golf for years and have never seen a truthful eagle on our scorecards.


An even more illusive bird, the albatross is when you score three strokes under par for a particular hole. Don’t even worry about these.

Hole in one/Ace

A hole in one is exactly what is suggests, hitting your golf ball into the hole from the tee box. A extreme feat of skill or one of sheer luck.

Scoring over par


A bogey is when you score one stroke over par for an individual hole. You can expect many of these when starting out.

Double Bogey

Scoring two strokes over par. Depending on how new you are to golf, you may even see more of these on your scorecard than anything else.

Triple Bogey

Three strokes over par for a particular hole. We try and avoid these as much as possible.

Improve your golf

Ecaddie’s how to guide is a great resource for beginners looking to enjoy the game of golf with their friends and start developing their skills. You can learn more basic concepts and skills by exploring golf 101 here.

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Steve, your digital Ecaddie sharing pro golf tips, how to guides, top golf news and equipment maintenance. I'm here to help you perform better on the golf course!

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