Golf Scoring Terms For Beginners

Golf is a sport that is often celebrated for its simplicity and elegance, but for beginners, the scoring system can be a bit perplexing. Understanding golf scoring terms is crucial for tracking your progress and competing effectively on the golf course. In this guide, we’ll break down some essential golf scoring terms to help beginners grasp the fundamentals of scoring in golf.

1. Par

Definition: Par is the standard number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to make to complete a hole or an entire round of golf.

Explanation: Each hole on a golf course has a designated par value, typically ranging from 3 to 5 strokes. Par serves as a benchmark for golfers, indicating the number of strokes it should take to complete the hole. Golfers aim to match or beat par to achieve a successful score.

2. Birdie

Definition: A birdie occurs when a golfer completes a hole in one stroke less than the designated par value.

Explanation: For example, if a hole is designated as a par 4, and you complete it in 3 strokes, you’ve made a birdie. Birdies are celebrated as a sign of skill and are an essential part of improving one’s golf game.

3. Bogey

Definition: A bogey is when a golfer completes a hole in one stroke more than the designated par value.

Explanation: If you take 5 strokes to complete a par-4 hole, you’ve made a bogey. Bogeys are common for beginners, and the goal is to reduce the number of bogeys over time as you gain experience and skill.

4. Double Bogey

Definition: A double bogey occurs when a golfer completes a hole in two strokes more than the designated par value.

Explanation: If you finish a par-3 hole in 5 strokes, you’ve recorded a double bogey. Double bogeys can be frustrating but are also a part of the learning process in golf.

5. Eagle

Definition: An eagle is a remarkable achievement where a golfer completes a hole in two strokes less than the designated par value.

Explanation: If you manage to finish a par-5 hole in just 3 strokes, you’ve accomplished an eagle. Eagles are rare and a testament to exceptional skill.

6. Albatross (Double Eagle)

Definition: An albatross, also known as a double eagle, is an incredibly rare feat in golf, where a golfer completes a hole in three strokes less than the designated par value.

Explanation: To score an albatross, you would need to complete a par-5 hole in just 2 strokes or a par-4 hole in only 1 stroke. This achievement is extremely rare and often considered a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment for most golfers.

7. Handicap

Definition: A handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s ability. It allows players of differing skill levels to compete on an even playing field.

Explanation: Handicaps are calculated based on a golfer’s past performance, with lower handicaps indicating better players. In match play, the player with the higher handicap usually receives strokes as a handicap allowance to level the competition.

8. Stableford Scoring

Definition: Stableford scoring is an alternative to traditional stroke play, where golfers earn points based on their performance on each hole.

Explanation: In Stableford scoring, golfers accumulate points for achieving specific scores on each hole relative to par. For example, a golfer might earn 2 points for a birdie, 1 point for a par, and lose a point for a bogey. The goal is to accumulate the most points throughout the round.

9. “Up and Down”

Definition: “Up and down” is a golf term referring to the situation where a golfer successfully completes a hole in two strokes when they are just off the green.

Explanation: When you’re near the green but not on it, and you manage to chip the ball onto the green and then putt it in the hole in only two strokes, you’ve achieved an “up and down.” This skill is vital for saving strokes and improving your overall score.

10. Fourball and Foursomes

Definition: Fourball and foursomes are two common formats for team play in golf.


  • Fourball: In this format, each player on a team plays their own ball throughout the round. The team’s score for each hole is the lower score of the two players. It’s often used in friendly matches or team competitions.
  • Foursomes: In foursomes, two players on a team alternate hitting a single ball. One player tees off on the odd-numbered holes, while the other tees off on the even-numbered holes. It requires teamwork and strategy as players must coordinate their shots.

11. Out and In

Definition: “Out” and “In” refer to the two halves of an 18-hole golf course.

Explanation: The front nine holes (holes 1-9) are referred to as the “Out,” and the back nine holes (holes 10-18) are referred to as the “In.” Golfers often evaluate their performance on each half to identify areas for improvement.

12. Club Selection

Definition: Club selection involves choosing the right golf club based on factors like distance, terrain, and obstacles.

Explanation: Golfers must decide which club to use for each shot, as different clubs have varying loft angles and distances. Club selection is crucial for achieving the desired shot trajectory and reaching the target accurately.

13. The Scorecard

Definition: The scorecard is a printed or electronic record used to keep track of a golfer’s scores for each hole during a round.

Explanation: Golfers use scorecards to record their scores for each hole, including the number of strokes taken and any penalties. At the end of the round, the scorecard provides a comprehensive overview of a golfer’s performance.

14. Match Play vs. Stroke Play

Definition: Match play and stroke play are two primary formats for scoring in golf.


  • Match Play: In match play, golfers compete hole by hole, with the goal of winning each hole or achieving a tie. The player or team that wins the most holes wins the match.
  • Stroke Play: Stroke play involves counting the total number of strokes taken throughout the entire round. The player with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins.

15. Mulligan

Definition: A “mulligan” is a do-over or a second chance at a shot without counting the initial stroke.

Explanation: While not allowed in formal competitions, mulligans are sometimes used in casual rounds to alleviate the pressure of a poor shot. However, it’s essential to establish the rules regarding mulligans before starting a round with fellow golfers.

Golf Scoring Terms – Basics

BirdieOne stroke under parScoring a 3 on a par 4
ParThe expected number of strokes for a holeScoring a 4 on a par 4
BogeyOne stroke over parScoring a 5 on a par 4
EagleTwo strokes under parScoring a 2 on a par 4
Double BogeyTwo strokes over parScoring a 6 on a par 4

Scramble Play

ScrambleA team format where players choose the best shotUsing the best drive on each hole
MulliganA do-over or second chance on a shotTaking another shot after a bad one
HandicapAn adjustment to a player’s score based on skill levelReduces scoring disparities
Texas ScrambleA type of scramble where all players tee off and the best drive is chosenCommon in charity tournaments
Net ScoreA player’s score adjusted for their handicapUsed to determine winners in some formats

Golf Courses

FairwayThe short grass leading to the greenA well-maintained area for shots
RoughThe longer grass bordering the fairwayA more challenging area to play from
GreenThe smooth, manicured area around the holeWhere putting takes place
BunkerA sand trap strategically placed on the courseA hazard to avoid
Water HazardAny body of water that comes into playLakes, ponds, or streams

Types of Clubs

DriverThe longest club used for tee shotsDesigned for maximum distance
IronsClubs with varying lofts for approach shotsUsed for precision and control
PutterA club designed for putting on the greenUsed for short, precise strokes
HybridA club with characteristics of both irons and woodsEasier to hit from various lies
WedgeClubs with high lofts for short, high shotsUsed for getting out of trouble

Tournament Formats

Stroke PlayA format where each player counts all their strokesUsed in most professional events
Match PlayA format where players compete hole by holePoints awarded for winning holes
StablefordA point-based system rewarding consistent playPoints for net scores on each hole
Four-BallA team format where the best score of two players is countedCommon in team events
Skins GameA game where each hole has a prize or “skin”Winner of each hole earns a skin



Understanding these additional golf scoring terms and concepts will further enhance your knowledge and enjoyment of the game. As you continue to practice and gain experience, you’ll become more familiar with these nuances and strategies, ultimately improving your golfing skills.


Golf Scoring Terms For Beginners


  • Anglo Carson

    Anglo Carson, a Certified Golf Instructor, embarked on a remarkable journey, driven by his unwavering love for golf. He founded The Golf Mine with a singular mission - to create a golfing haven where passion knows no boundaries. His lifelong love affair with golf, combined with his expertise as a Certified Golf Instructor, turned into a vision to share his extensive knowledge, inspire, and promote the game he holds dear.

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