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How to Understand Golf Scores

by Keith Dooley
    Scoring in golf involves counting the number of times the ball is struck while in play.

    Scoring in golf involves counting the number of times the ball is struck while in play.

    Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Learning to play golf involves not only learning the basic skill needed to strike and propel a golf ball down the fairway of a golf course, but also requires some understanding of scoring. Scoring essentially involves counting the number of times the ball is struck while in play. Players use the score to not only measure themselves against the rating of the hole, known as par, but also against other players. Learning the basics of golf scoring is relatively simple and can be accomplished by most individuals.

    Items you will need

    • United States Golf Association rule book
    • score card

    Step 1

    Score a round of golf by counting the number of times the golf ball is struck in order to reach and place the ball in the cup on the green. Each contact with the ball by the player with the ball is referred to as a stroke. When tallying the score for a hole, for instance, the number of total strokes taken to sink the ball in the cup should be added to achieve the score for the hole.

    Step 2

    Refer to the par rating for the hole to help in determining how many strokes, on average, it should take the player to reach the green and sink the ball in the cup. The par rating is also used in scoring as a reference point to determine strokes over and under par.

    Step 3

    Use the term bogey to refer to a score of one over par. For example, if playing a hole which is rated a par five, then a bogey would be a six, or one over par.

    Step 4

    Refer to a score of one under par as a birdie. When playing a par four hole on which a score of 3 was achieved, then this would be termed a birdie.

    Step 5

    Use the term eagle when a score of two under par is shot on a hole. If the hole is rated a par five, then an eagle would be a score of 3.


    • Refer to the USGA (United States Golf Association) rule book for more information on scoring as well as terminology. There are also many other references in print and on line which offer tips and insight into the game of golf.


    • Make sure to understand how the game of golf is scored before play. In some situations, which mostly involve competitive play, failing to accurately mark a score card could result in penalty.


    About the Author

    Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images