If you’re new to golf, trying to read a golf scorecard with symbols is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics sometimes with squares above par holes, circles, triangles, and more.
But there’s a reason for the golf scoring symbols you see on a completed scorecard. It helps you quickly differentiate birdies, pars, bogeys and more.
And if you know how to read the scoring symbols, you can easily tell where you stand during any given round without pulling out the calculator!
Keep reading to learn more about these symbols and other scorecard best practices in golf.
Golf Scoring Symbols Explained
A golf scorecard is more than just a place to tally up your final score. Some golfers keep net scores, others track which golf clubs they use on certain holes, and others use it for the number of strokes on the greens.
But the symbols might not be as common for every golfer. Here are the most common symbols you will see notated on a golf scorecard.
No Symbol = Par Score
Sometimes no symbols around your score on a hole is a good thing. When you don’t have any geometric shape surrounding your score, that means you made a par. So if you get a four on a par 4, you won’t have anything around your score.
It’s very rare but sometimes you can get a “clean card” which means 18 pars in a golf round. This is very rare even for elite golfers as bogeys and birdies tend to offset. If you do get a clean card, make sure to frame it as it likely won’t happen again.
Even if you don’t remember much from geometry class, you want to remember that circles in golf are good. A circle around your score means you made a birdie on the hole! The more birdies you can get, the better.
If you have a score with two circles around the final score, then it’s even better! A double circle means you made an eagle which isn’t very common for the average golfer. But that’s not the only score it could mean.
A double circle can also mean a hole in one too. If you get the once in a lifetime ace on a par 3, that also results in two circles around your “1.” Like a clean card, make sure you save the ball and frame that scorecard.
I’ve played golf for a long time and never had the chance to write three circles around a score. Three circles means the very rare double eagle which is also referred to as an albatross.
The only time this happens is an ace on a par 4 or a two on a par 5. Either way, it’s going to take a miracle shot to make it happen and even more rare than a hole in one.
A square isn’t the end of the world and very common for the everyday golfer as it constitutes a bogey on the hole. For example, if your final score on the hole is five on a par 4, your score would receive a square.
If you’re a “bogey golfer” then you would typically have close to 18 squares during the round. But you could also have a few pars (no symbols) and a few double bogeys as well.
Speaking of double bogeys, the symbol for that score is two squares. A double bogey is two over on a hole.
For example, if you make a seven on a par 5, this is a double. Try to avoid these if at all possible as it’s not easy to bounce back from a double bogey.
A triangle can mean two different terms depending on the app and is a gray area in the history of golf.
First, a triangle on a golf scorecard means a triple bogey (or worse).
While you want to avoid squares if possible, they’re pretty common for the everyday golfer. But a symbol you really want to avoid is a triangle.
Conversely, some people use a triangle symbol to represent an ace as well. I’ve never understood this because an ace is really an eagle on a par 3, which is two circles.
Dots on a Golf Scorecard Explained
If you play in a tournament that has a gross and net division it’s not uncommon to see dots as well. A dot on the hole means you get a stroke for the net division.
For example, let’s say you’re a 12 handicap golfer.
On the hardest 12 holes (each hole has a rank from 1-18, hard to the easiest on the scorecard) you would get a dot. This is reflected in the net score for the hole.
So if you have a dot on the hole and make a five on a par 4, the dot means you get a stroke on the hole. Your gross score of five is now a net four.
If you have a handicap higher than 18 you will have two dots on certain holes. This will remove two strokes off your net score.
For example, if you’re a 22 handicap golfer you will get one dot on the 14 easiest holes and two dots on the hardest four holes. So if you make a 6 on a two dot hole, your net score will be a four.
Golf Scorecard Scoring on Apps
If you’re the type of golfer who prefers to keep score on a golf app, there might be some differences to the traditional symbols. For example, Golf Pad GPS changes a few symbols.
While a par remains no symbol, a solid circle means an eagle (or better) as opposed to two circles. While a solid square means a double bogey (or worse). There are no triangles either on most golf apps.
3 Scorecard Tips
Now that you have a better understanding of a scorecard, let’s get into a few best practices.
1. Use a Scorecard Holder
The biggest thing with a scorecard is to make sure you don’t lose it! When you’re riding in a golf cart, make sure to keep the scorecard secure on the steering wheel (and the pencil too).
If you’re using a pushcart, make sure to keep the scorecard clipped in or inside one of the secure pouches. If you’re walking and carrying your golf bag, buy a scorecard holder or keep it inside a yardage guide if you have one.
2. Use an App
If you want to track your statistics and/or don’t want to depend on someone else keeping your score, use an app. There are tons of apps for all types of phones to easily track your scores and more. This is also a good idea to use when it’s raining and the scorecard might get wet too. Here’s our list of favorite golf apps.
3. Don’t Add Up the Scores
Finally, please make sure to not be the golfer that adds up a score after 9 or 17 holes. Whenever someone does this and announces it to the group, it only adds extra pressure and expectation for the rest of the round.
Knowing your score leads to golfers thinking too much and often letting their mind drift. I’ve seen so many players have a great 9 or 17 holes only to collapse down the stretch. Wait until the final putt drops to add up the score.
Other Golf Scorecard Features
While each scorecard is unique based on the course, there are some other features on all cards like the hole number.
Each golf course will display the multiple sets of tee boxes and length for each hole. Most golf courses have at least three sets of tees while others have 5-6 tee boxes. This ensures that there is a tee box for every type of golfer.
The hardest tee boxes are the longest ones and are notated at the top of the scorecard (these are known as the tips). While the shortest set of tees are lowest on the scorecard.
Additionally, sometimes courses have a “combo” set of tees where golfers play certain holes of one tee box and others from a different tee. A good example of this is a male golfer playing the blue/white combo. They would typically play the white tees on longer holes and blue tees on shorter holes.
Always play the appropriate tee box for your handicap index!
Slope Rating and Course Rating
On the left side of the scorecard next to the tee box color is the slope rating of the course. This is often something like 74.1/139.
These numbers refer to the average score for a scratch golfer and the slope is based on a sliding scale for bogey golfers.
You can learn more about slope rating here.
Par of Hole
Every golf scorecard will also have the par on the hole (typically a 3, 4, or 5). While some golf courses have a par 6, this is extremely uncommon.
Additionally, some holes will have a 4/5 as the par depending on the player and/or tee box. For example, if a man is playing the hole it’s a par 4 but if a woman is playing the same tee box, it’s a par 5.
Most full-length golf courses are par 72 while there are some that are 70, 71, and rarely, a par 73. While shorter, executive style golf courses are much less.
The last line before the boxes is the handicap index for the hole. All holes are ranked between 1-18, with one being the hardest and 18 being the easiest golf hole.
The handicap of each hole is also important as it factors in with gambling games where you need to give strokes to fellow players. For example, if you are giving a player 10 strokes, they would get a stroke on the 10 hardest holes (not just any 10 holes).
Their handicap score would be -1 of their gross score (these are known as net scores).
Signature and Attest
Most golf course scorecards will also have a place for the scorekeeper and player to sign the card. If you’re playing in a formal golf tournament, each card must have two signatures or the scorecard is invalid and that player is disqualified.
Do not forget to sign your scorecard after the round or your score doesn’t count!
Lastly, it’s common for scorecards to also have local rules for the course as well. These are rules specific to the golf course and might include things like:
- Local water hazard rules
- Any ball outside the roads is out of bounds
- All golf balls in flower beds get free (and mandatory) relief
FAQs About Golf Scorecard Symbols
Do you have more questions about circles and squares on a golf scorecard? If so, keep reading to learn more and improve your golf game knowledge.
What is a triangle on a golf scorecard?
A triangle can mean two different things in golf.
Some players use a triangle to represent a triple bogey or worse on a hole. While others use it to represent an ace.
What are the dots on a golf scorecard?
Dots on a scorecard are related to your golf handicap. It’s common to see dots in golf tournaments with net scoring.
How do you read a golf scorecard?
A golf scorecard has all kinds of things including spots for your names, scores, par of each hole, slope/rating, and more. Once you add your score, you have the option to use symbols to
What are the 7 golf scoring terms?
The seven most common scoring terms include eagle, birdie, par, bogey, double bogey, triple bogey and a hole in one. Other terms include albatross, condor, snowman (quadruple bogey) and countless others. Learn all the golf scoring names here.
What happens if you sign the wrong scorecard?
Bad news if you sign the wrong scorecard!
If you sign the scorecard with a higher score, you have to accept the mistake but luckily, you don’t get disqualified. However, if you sign a scorecard that is lower than your score, you are disqualified from the event.
This is why it’s crucial to track your score during the round and double-check the hole by hole score before signing it.
What is the C word in golf?
I’d suggest keeping these three words from your vocabulary to not put a jinx on any of your playing partners.
What is a kitty in golf?
Kitty refers to the total money won at the end of the round. To learn more about common terms and phrases in golf click here.
Final Thoughts on Golf Scorecards
Hopefully you have a better understanding of the symbols of a golf scorecard.
While these symbols are helpful to add up your score easier, don’t feel like you need to do them. If you use a golf app or use the scorecard in your golf cart GPS, they tend to make the symbols for you.