How Does Scoring Work In Golf?

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David Hucks
David Hucks
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at

Golf is a solo sport where you play against other solo players. The person with the lowest score by the end of the session wins. 

Most golfing venues will have 18 holes. This means you need to hit your ball into a hole at least 18 times. Each hole will have different challenges for you to contend with.

Using websites such as Better Golf Online, you can learn about effective shots and how to lower your score. However, before you practice techniques, you need to understand the terminology.

Pars, Eagles, Birdies, Bogeys

Each of these terms refers to different scores. To break them down, we need to start with “Par”.


The “par” is the expected shots a player will make if they are skilled. 

On an 18-hole golf course, there will be 18 pars, one for each hole. If one hole has a par-4, this means a skilled player will take 4 shots before their ball ends in the hole.

Most pars are between 3 and 5. 

This information will be written either on your scorecard, by the tee (where you start the hole), or both.

All the other terms we are about to discuss refer back to “par”. This allows players to understand how well they are doing in relation to the expected shots of the course. 


“Birdie” means “1 under par”. 

If you complete a hole on a birdie, you will have reached an above-average score for that round.

As said before, these terms are designed to make it easier to understand how well you are doing. For example, if hole 1 has a par of 5, and you completed it in 4, while hole 2 has a par of 3 and you completed it in 2, you have two birdies. 

Your game is going very well, despite one score being double the other.

Eagle And Double Eagle

”Eagle” means “2 under par”, while a “Double Eagle” means “3 under par”. Sometimes a Double Eagle is called an Albatross.

The bird analogies come from 19th-century American slang. During that time, birds were considered the peak of excellence and elegance. The bigger the bird, the more wonderful the moment.


From positive terms to negative. “Bogey” means “1 over par”. If the par is 3 and you complete the hole in 4, that’s a bogey.

Just like Eagle, Bogey can be doubled or even tripled. A “Double Bogey” means “2 over par”, while a “Triple Bogey” means “3 over par”.

For new players, it’s common to receive bogeys. Reaching a bogey may even be an accomplishment during the early stages of your experience.


When playing in competitions or even amongst friends, many players will include a handicap. Handicaps are a value assigned to a player and can be used for any golf course.

The idea is to equalize the players. This means beginners and experts can play alongside each other in a tournament, and not expect the experts to win automatically.

To create a handicap you need to play on three 18-hole courses. The scorecard needs to be signed by two people to confirm that you played those games.

The official formula to calculate your handicap is:

Handicap Index X (Slope rating/113) + (Course Rating-Par)

Let’s break that down. Your Handicap Index is the total number of strokes or hits taken from the 3 18-hole courses. Put this number into your formula.

Now look at the new course you hope to play on. That course will have its own slope rating, normally noted on the scorecard. Put this number into your formula.

The course rating should also be noted on the scorecard, and each hole will have its own par. Add up the pars and you’ll find the course’s par.

This formula will help you find your handicap for every course you play.

How It Works

The final handicap figure tells you how many shots you are expected to hit. Instead of playing for the lowest score total, you’re now playing for the lowest under the respective handicaps.

For example, you and a friend are playing golf on an 18-hole course. The course’s total par is 72. Your friend has a handicap of 6, so they are expected to finish the course with 78 strokes or hits.

You have a handicap of 12, so are expected to finish the course with 84 strokes.

When the course finishes, you have 80 strokes, which is 4 under your handicap, while your friend has 79 strokes. Although your friend had fewer strokes then you, they went over their handicap by 1. This means you win.


Handicaps make games against players of different levels exciting, but in the end, it’s all about par in golf.



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