Why do we call a good score a birdie? A bad score a bogey?
Golf scoring names aren’t always easy to decipher, especially if you’re a new golfer. But today, we’ll simplify the most common scoring systems so you finally know what score correlates to which term on the golf course.
Golf Scoring Names for Beginners
If you’re new to golf it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and language about the game. Not to mention the massive rule book – all of which can be overwhelming for the average golfer.
Today, we’ll focus solely on scoring to help you understand some of the most common terms in golf. Plus, provide some history and facts to these scores too.
- Scores in golf relate to par.
- The odds of making an ace are 12,500 to 1.
- A lot of common scoring terms are more than 100 years old.
- Par is the amount of shots it should take a scratch golfer to hole out.
Keep reading to learn more about the history of these terms to improve your golf history knowledge.
Most Common Scoring Terms in Golf
Even if you’re an avid golfer, chances are you don’t know the history of some of the most commonly used terms in the game of game. All scores relate to the number of strokes on each individual golf hole in relation to par.
So let’s start with that term …
The first term that is arguably the most popular in the golf world is par; this is what a scratch golfer “should” score on a hole. The term didn’t exist until 1910 and represents a term in sports handicapping meaning level or even.
Golf courses have 18 holes with a mix of par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s. Most golf courses (full-length ones) are a par 72 (with usually four par 3s, four par 5s, and 10 par 4s). While an executive golf course is a shorter course that has mostly par 3s and some par 4s.
If you’re playing a 400-yard par 4 and make a four on the hole, you made a gross par. While a net par is based on your handicap.
For example, if you’re an 18 handicap golfer you get a stroke on every hole. So if you score a five on a par 4, you get a “net par.”
If you shoot around par for the day, you’re known as a scratch golfer (one of the biggest goals of most golfers). Par golf puts you in the top 10% of all players as the average golf handicap for men is 14.5 and 27.5 for women.
Another common scoring name in golf is a birdie. A birdie on a hole means you scored one under par on the hole. So if you’re playing a par 5 and you make a four, then you get a birdie.
But where did the term birdie come from in golf anyway? Why are so many terms related to birds vs. other animals? It’s a good question and luckily the USGA has the answer for us.
According to the USGA, the term birdie came in 1899. “H.B. Martin’s, “Fifty Years of American Golf” contains an account of a foursomes match played at the Atlantic City (N.J.) CC. One of the players, Ab Smith relates: ‘my ball… came to rest within six inches of the cup.
I said ‘That was a bird of a shot… I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in one under par he receives double compensation.”
In the 19th century the term “bird” was known as anything that was excellent or wonderful. Soon, other terms were coined around bird names as well.
It’s hard to believe that birdies in golf have been around more than a century!
The opposite of a birdie in golf is the term bogey; this refers to when a golfer scores only one stroke over par. For example, if you make a four on a par 3, this is a bogey. A lot of players refer to themselves as “bogey golfers” because they tend to make a lot more bogeys than pars.
Like the term birdie, a bogey has a unique backstory as well. According to the same USGA article from above, the word started in the early 1890s after a song called “The Bogey Man” was released. The character in the song was someone who hid in the shadows.
As the USGA said, “Golfers in Scotland and England equated the quest for the elusive Bogey Man with the quest for the elusive perfect score. By the mid to late 1890s, the term ‘bogey score’ referred to the ideal score a good player could be expected to make on a hole under perfect conditions.”
For more than a century golfers have always been trying to avoid the “bogeyman” on the golf course.
An eagle is a scoring name that doesn’t happen enough for most golfers (or ever in some cases). An eagle is when you score two under on a hole (two fewer strokes than par). For example, if it takes you three strokes to hole out on a par 5, you get an eagle.
Par 5s are the holes where you’re most likely to score an eagle but they can happen on short par 4s too. If it’s a driveable hole you can hit on the green and make a putt or even get a chip in too.
While eagles on par 5s can happen from getting on the green in two shots and making a putt. Or, getting near the green in two shots and chipping in for a total of three strokes.
An eagle on a par 3 is known as a hole in one (more on that coming up).
A double bogey is when you score two over on a hole. These are round killers as you need to make two birdies or an eagle to make up for it.
A triple bogey is when the number of strokes is three more than par. For example, if you make an eight on a par 5 golf hole, this is a triple bogey. If it happens on a par 5 hole it’s also known as a snowman as well.
Hole in One
A hole in one is arguably the most coveted shot in golf. But you’re going to have to play a lot of golf to give yourself a chance in most cases.
Why? Because the chances of making an ace are 12,500 to 1!
Albatross (double eagle)
An albatross, also known as a double eagle, is another very rare shot in golf. This will only happen on a par 5 when you hit your second shot in the hole. You’ll typically need to hole out from 200 yards to make this shot which is a near impossible feat.
In fact, your chances of making an albatross are significantly less than making a hole in one. Some estimates put it at 6,000,000 to 1 odds! Xander Schauffele recently had this happen in the early part of the 2023 PGA Tour season.
Needless to say, you’re going to need to hit a perfect second shot on a par 5 to make this happen. If you do defy the odds, make sure to document it and save the golf ball forever!
Keeping with the “bird terms” we can’t forget to mention a condor as well. This is when you’re four strokes under par which can only happen on a par 5 hole (there are some par 6s in the world as well).
A condor means you’re four under on a hole!
This amazing feat has only happened a few times in golf over the years. One example is in 1962 when Larry Bruce made an ace on the dogleg right par 5 5th hole at Hope Country Club. Did I mention that the hole was 480 yards long?
Another golfer in 2020 named Kevin Pon achieved this feat at the 18th hole at Lake Chabot Golf Course. Imagine walking off the round with a two on a par 6!
It’s probably safe to say he will keep that scorecard and ball for the rest of his life. Such a score is unlikely to happen again but what a memory.
FAQs About Scoring on Golf Holes
Do you have more questions about scoring and other golf terms? If so, keep reading to learn the most frequently asked questions and answers below.
What are the 7 golf scoring terms?
The seven most common scoring terms in golf are albatross, eagle, birdie, par, bogey, double bogey, and hole in one. Other terms include a triple bogey (which can also mean a “snowman” on a par 5, condor, and others).
What are the scores in golf called?
Scores in golf relate to how far under or over par you are on the hole based on the number of strokes.
- Condor: 4 under
- Albatross: 3 under
- Eagle: 2 under (two strokes under)
- Birdie: 1 under (one stroke under)
- Par: level/even on the hole
- Bogey: 1 over
- Double bogey: 2 over
- Triple bogey: 3 over
Recreational golfers tend to have birdies, pars, and bogeys (with an occasional double bogey on any given hole).
What are the different scoring systems in golf?
The most common scoring systems relate to how far under/over par you are on the hole. But scoring systems change based on the type of event you’re playing.
- Stableford: This is a point system where you want the most points at the end of the round (which doesn’t always correlate to the lowest score). Learn more about the Stableford Scoring System here.
- Match Play: Scoring and strategy are much different in a match play event. Click here to learn more now.
Why are golf scores named after birds?
According to the USGA the term “birdie” was coined in 1899. It was a slang term at the time that meant excellent or wonderful. Since the term birdie was coined, golfers adopted other names like eagle and condor to describe even better golf shots.
Final Thoughts on Golf Scoring Names
Now you have tons of information to help you navigate scoring on the course. Not to mention some good conversation starters with fellow players during the round. Just remember, each score is related to the number of strokes it takes to complete the hole relative to par.
The fewer strokes on each hole, the better!
Because chances are they don’t know a lot of them. Heck, I’ve been playing for 20+ years and didn’t even know where the term birdie originated from.
Don’t forget to check out these other articles that will help you as beginner golfer: