Skip to content
Home » Understanding Golf Scoring Methods

Understanding Golf Scoring Methods

a person swinging a golf club on a golf course

You might be a seasoned golfer, or someone recently caught the golfing bug. Regardless of your experience level, understanding golf scoring methods is crucial to improving your game. From basic stroke play to more complex systems like Stableford and Modified Stableford, golf scoring methods are varied and intriguing. By the end of this article, you will have a solid grasp of these scoring methods and how to apply them in your game.

Indeed, the beauty of golf lies in its strategic depth. Every swing you take, every calculation you make, and every decision you execute on the course is a testament to this depth. That is why understanding golf scoring methods is your gateway to elevating your game to the next level.

Let’s start by decoding the most basic and commonly used golf scoring method – stroke play.

Stroke Play Scoring in Golf

Stroke play, also called medal play, is the most straightforward of all golf scoring methods. You can think of stroke play as the foundation of your golf scoring knowledge. In stroke play, the goal is simple – complete the entire round (usually 18 holes) with as few strokes as possible.

When you swing your club intending to hit the ball, it’s counted as a stroke. The sum of strokes you take throughout the round represents your score. For instance, if you took 72 strokes to complete an 18-hole round, your stroke play score would be 72.

Keep in mind that penalties count towards your total score in stroke play. Common penalties include out-of-bounds, lost balls, or hitting into a water hazard. Each of these penalties usually adds a two-stroke penalty to your score. Therefore, understanding how to avoid penalties is as important as improving your swing in stroke play.

Match Play Scoring in Golf

Once you’ve mastered the basics of stroke play, it’s time to explore the fascinating world of match play. In match play, you’re not competing against the course or yourself; you’re directly competing against another player. Your goal in match play is to win more holes than your opponent.

Each hole in match play is a separate contest. You win a hole by completing it in fewer strokes than your opponent. The player who wins the most holes during the round wins the match. For example, if you won six holes, your opponent won four, and the rest were tied, you would win the match.

Unlike stroke play, penalties in match play do not add strokes to your score. Instead, they result in the loss of the hole. This makes strategic decision-making and risk management crucial in match play.

Stableford Scoring in Golf

Stableford scoring in golf adds a twist to the traditional stroke play system. Instead of trying to achieve the lowest number of strokes in Stableford, you aim to accumulate the highest number of points. For each hole, points are awarded based on the number of strokes taken relative to the par of the hole.

Scoring in Stableford is as follows: one over par earns you one point, par earns you two points, one under par (a birdie) earns you three points, two under par (an eagle) earns you four points, and so on. The player with the highest total points at the end of the round is the winner.

Stableford scoring promotes aggressive play. It encourages you to take risks, as the reward for success (more points) often outweighs the punishment for failure (fewer points).

The Modified Stableford Scoring System

The Modified Stableford scoring system takes the original Stableford format and tweaks it to further reward excellent play and penalize poor play. In the Modified Stableford, points are still awarded based on the number of strokes taken relative to the hole’s par. However, the point values are adjusted to create larger disparities between good and bad scores.

For instance, in the Modified Stableford, a birdie might be worth four points, an eagle six points, but a bogey might cost you two points, and anything worse could cost three points. This creates a more dramatic scoring dynamic and encourages players to strive for birdies and eagles while avoiding bogeys and worse.

Golf Scoring Jargons: Birdies, Eagles, and Albatrosses

In your journey to understand golf scoring methods, you’re bound to come across terms like birdies, eagles, and albatrosses. These terms represent scores on individual holes relative to the hole’s par.

A birdie is a score of one under par, an eagle is two under par, and an albatross (also known as a double eagle) is three under par. On the other hand, a bogey is one over par, a double bogey is two over par, and so on. Mastering these terms is essential to understanding and applying golf scoring methods.

Advanced Golf Scoring Methods

As you grow in your golf journey, you may want to explore advanced scoring methods. These can include systems like skins, best ball, scramble, and alternate shot formats. Each of these methods brings a unique twist to the game, often emphasizing team play and strategic decision-making.

For example, in a skins game, each hole is worth a certain value (the ‘skin’), and the player who wins the hole wins the skin. If there is a tie, the skin carries over to the next hole, increasing its value. This creates an exhilarating dynamic where one hole can dramatically shift the balance of the game.

Importance of Golf Scoring Methods in Professional Tournaments

Understanding golf scoring methods is vital not only for your personal game but also if you follow professional golf. Most professional tournaments use stroke play, but many also use match play, Stableford, and Modified Stableford formats.

By understanding these scoring methods, you can better appreciate the strategies employed by the pros, the dramatic swings in the leaderboard, and the thrilling finishes that golf tournaments often provide.


In conclusion, mastering golf scoring methods can significantly enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the game. By familiarizing yourself with these methods, you’ll be able to strategize better, appreciate the nuances of the game, and ultimately improve your performance on the golf course.

Remember, golf is a game of strategy and precision. And understanding its scoring methods is a crucial step toward mastering the game. So, whether you’re a weekend golfer or aspiring to turn professional, make sure to brush up on your knowledge of golf scoring methods. Happy golfing!

Read Also: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Golf Course?