There are a few important things to remember when scoring in golf, and in this guide, we’re going to help highlight what a good golf score is, as well as a bad one, and the important terminology you’ll need to know and understand to score yourself and monitor your progress effectively.
But first, let’s take a look at the terminology that’s important to know when scoring, so you can actually understand what we’re talking about!
Golf Scoring Terminology
A hole in one is, as you may have guessed, where you manage to hit the ball into the hole from the tee in one shot. These are usually only scored on par 3 holes which are shorter holes on most 18 hole golf courses.
Scoring a -3 under par for a particular hole. It’s very rare but can happen on par 4 and 5 holes from time to time.
Scoring a -2 under par for a particular hole. Eagles most commonly happen on par 5 holes, but some powerful drivers off the tee can achieve this on par 4s.
Scoring a -1 under the par for a particular hole. A birdie is a very big deal for most golfers, particularly average players, but even professionals celebrate a birdie as a significant way to get ahead of the competition. These are the most common under-par shots and can happen on pretty much every hole.
Par’s are when you score the same as the official par score for the hole.
Scoring one shot over the par score for a particular hole
Double Bogey (Buzzard)
Scoring a +2 over par on a hole
Triple Bogey (grouse)
Scoring a +3 over par on a hole. If you’re playing Stableford rules then this is the maximum score you can take before moving on and ringing the hole.
Quintuple Bogey (Turkey)
Scoring a +4 over par on a hole
There are a few higher bogeys, and they can go up to +8, but hopefully, you won’t need to worry about these, and even if you do, it simply goes sextuple, septuple, etc, which is pretty obvious.
How The Handicap System Works
Golf is a tough sport, but luckily the handicap system helps level the playing field and make it so that new players or high handicap players can still play the game with golfers of various skills and still have fun.
For example, if you’re a 20 handicap player, and you’re playing on a par 72 course, a score of 92 will actually mean that you scored a par overall, as your handicap offsets the extra shots you’ve taken in line with your inexperience or skill level.
If you’re a handicap 20 golfer, and you hit 20 over the par for the round, you played to your handicap which actually means you had a very solid round.
The system for Stableford rounds works by giving you more points for making par or a birdie if you’re a higher handicap than players with a lower handicap and helps level the playing field.
The handicap system is great because it helps players to understand where they fit into the overall spectrum of skills in golf.
For example, a 6 handicap player scoring an 85 on a par 72 would consider that a poor round, but for a 20 handicapper scoring an 85 would mean they are -7 under par for the round and would be a great day at the course!
Players below 10 handicap are usually very decent golfers, while players who get to no handicap, also known as ‘scratch’ golfers, play to the course par and are among the best golfers around.
What Is Considered A Good Score?
There are many different opinions on this, and it’s difficult to choose a single approach, as golfers will have different goals based on their handicap, experience, and other factors such as the course being played on and conditions. It’s always important to remember your handicap when determining if your score is ‘good’ or not.
Over 18 Holes
To put things into perspective, the average score on the PGA Tour, the highest level of golf play in the world, is 71.46 for an 18 hole course.
Most courses on the tour are par 72, so this means that the average player averages only -1 under par for each round.
A good score could be considered to be anywhere below this, from -2 to -4 or -5. Anything below this is an outstanding round and among some of the best golf to be played in a round.
For amateurs, things are very different. Tallying up your score to get your gross total is the first step to scoring. Then you use your handicap, subtracting it from your gross score to get your net score, which actually enables you to see how you performed in relation to the par for the course.
If you get a -2 to -4, your handicap and score would be considered good. Anything above this is considered OK and becomes increasingly worse, while anything below this likely means your handicap may need to be updated as that’s a very good round for an amateur.
Over 9 Holes
These rules can be applied to 9 hole courses, but there is less margin for error, so anything around a -1 or -2 under par is considered good, while anything below this is considered exceptionally good.
What Is Considered A Bad Score?
A bad score is any score that works out at +1 to +3 over par, taking into account your handicap and the other factors mentioned above.
It is possible to recover from a +1 to +3 at tournament level so it’s not necessarily the worst score ever, and golfers who score over +4 would consider themselves to be having a really bad day.
What Is An Average Score?
The average score should be par, as this is marked as the ideal score for each round. However, it’s not very common for golfers to land exactly on par which means it isn’t the true average.
Stats released by the National Golf Foundation report that the average golfer scores 100 strokes in 18 holes. However, this may not work out accurately according to handicaps and so this is deceptive.
Generally, based on net scoring, an average score should be anywhere between par and +3. Anything higher than this is considered a bad score, and anything below is a good score.
Scoring is an integral part of golf, and it’s how you can tell a good round from a bad one, and it’s how competitive golfers work out who is the winner at big tournaments.
Scoring however is also the best way for tracking your progress as a golfer, monitoring your development, and slowly seeing your scores drop along with your handicap.
However, not everyone understands golf scoring, particularly beginners, and it’s unsurprising that this is the case, as there is a lot of restrictive code, strange terminology, and unfamiliar systems which make scoring seem daunting.