Golf Scoring Explained

Whether you are a new golfer, or know a golfer, some of the terminology used can be confusing. We have compiled a list of common scoring questions and phrases to help you understand what all of it means.

Basic Scoring Terminology

What does par mean in golf?

Par is the expected number of strokes that it should take a skilled golfer to finish a hole.  “Par” is commonly used to describe the sum of all holes as well.  So, if you add up “par” on each hole, you may get 72 for all 18 holes (every course is different, but 72 is common).  If you “shoot par” for that 18 hole round, you’ve shot a 72.  A golfer may say, “I shot 5 over”, that would mean they had a 77.

What is a birdie in golf?

A birdie is 1 stroke under par.  For example, if you are playing a par 4 hole, a birdie would be a score of 3 on that hole.  If you are playing a par 5 hole, birdie would be a score of 4 on that hole. 

What is an eagle in golf?

An eagle is 2 strokes under par.  For example, if you are playing a par 5 hole, an eagle would be a score of 3 on that hole.  Eagles are somewhat rare, and good amateur golfers may only get one once every few months or even once a season. 

What is an albatross in golf?

An albatross is 3 strokes under par and you need to be playing a par 5 hole for it to be considered an albatross.  Otherwise, it would be a hole-in-one.  You need to shoot a 2 on a par 5, pretty rare, even for professional golfers.  You basically have to put the ball in off of a 200+ yard shot. 

What is a bogey in golf?

A bogey is 1 stroke over par.  For example, if you are playing a par 4 hole, a bogey would be a score of 5 on that hole.  For an amateur golfer, a bogey is not bad, especially if you are new to golf. 

What is a double-bogey in golf?

A double-bogey is 2 strokes over par.  For example, if you are playing a par 4 hole, a double bogey would be a score of 6 on that hole.

If you are a beginner, you might be interested in checking out our “best golf balls for beginners” post. As a beginner, you are going to want to go with something inexpensive, but it is also important to be consistent. Every golf ball performs differently. So I think it is important to pick one and stick with it for a while.

You may also be interested in an extensive list of golf terminology and common courtesies.

Want to know how to read a golf scorecard, or how you can keep track of more than just your score!

Playing Formats

There are several playing formats that golfers routinely play. The most common would simply be “stroke play”, which basically means you’re just playing golf. Your score is your score and the players you are playing with have their score. At the end of the round, the person with the lowest score “wins”. But there are several formats to make the game more fun and more of a team activity. My favorite is a scramble.


What is a scramble in golf?

A scramble is where golfers play in teams, each team competing against one another. The most common team size is 4 players. Within your team, each player will tee off. The team captain will choose which of the 4 balls to use. At that point, each player will hit the 2nd shot from that “best ball” location. This process will continue until the ball goes in the hole. Simply repeat for all 18 holes.

Sometimes scramble organizers can come up with odd rules to increase the level of difficulty. For example, they may remove the “best ball” format for tee shots by requiring the team to alternate whose ball they will use from the tee. This can be a bit of an equalizer because some teams will try to bring 1 player that can hit the ball exceptionally far off the tee.

Scrambles are a lot of fun and usually involve raising money for charities or local causes. Since they are normally played with “best ball” format, beginner golfers, or even those who have never golfed, can enjoy the event.


What is a shamble format in golf?

A shamble is typically played with two players per team. Each player will tee off and the team chooses the best ball. From the best ball spot, both players will individually play their own ball for the remainder of the hole. For scoring purposes, you count 1 for the tee shot, then add both of the remaining shots together. For example, if player 1 hits the ball 3 more times and player 2 hits the ball 4 more times, the total score would be 8.

Shambles are often played by couples. But unlike a scramble, each player should be reasonably skilled in order to enjoy the event. If you are brand new to golf, I would not recommend playing in a shamble. If however, you have been player for a season and you are reasonably confident you can play a hole out after taking best ball from the tee, go for it! They can certainly be fun events.

Chapman Format

What is Chapman format in golf?

The Chapman format is a system where 2-person teams compete against one another. Each player hits off the tee. For the 2nd shot, each player will hit their teammates ball. The best ball is selected after the 2nd shot and the partners alternate shots until the hole is finished. Chapman format can be played as either matchplay or strokeplay.

Chapman format can be a fun event that relies on the skill of each golfer for nearly every shot. If you are able to pair a long-driver with someone who is really good at approach shots, you’ve got a real good chance of winning.

Match Play

What is Match Play in golf?

Match play is where opponents compete against one another on a per hole basis. A player with a lower score on a single hole wins that hole. Each hole is treated independently. If you win a hole, you get 1 point, regardless of the number of strokes won by. It is common to tie on a hole, there is no carryover. The individual, or team, with the most holes won after 18 wins.

Check out this article for more details on match play rules and tips to win.

Match play is often used to determine club champions at your local country club for example. It can be a fun format and reduce some of the frustration when having a bad hole. Unlike strokeplay, you can lose a hole by any number of strokes and it is simply one point for your opponent.


What is strokeplay in golf?

Strokeplay is the typical format in which the game is played. Each player will play their own ball and count every stroke for the entire round. Then scores are compared, the player with the lowest score wins. You can have two players competing against one another, or 50. Or any number really.

USGA defines strokeplay as “a form of play where a player (or players) competes against all others in the competition by comparing a total score for one or more rounds

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