How to Score in Golf

Look ahead! Unlike the scoring system in most sports, in golf less is actually more. A score of 72 is much better than a score of 102. Scoring may seem simple – hit the ball, find it, hit it again, and so on – and add up all the shots at the end. However, there are a few details you need to know before you start playing golf and scoring correctly. See Step 1 to get started.

Scoring the Points in a Stroke Play

Get a card to mark the score. A round of golf is played with 18 holes. After each hole, you must mark your scores on the card. Even experienced players can forget a hole here or there if they don’t have a card. Keep track of your score and the scores of the other players in your group.

Usually you are responsible for keeping track of your opponent’s score, and your opponent is responsible for keeping track of yours. After each round, you have to look at your opponent’s card, check that the score he wrote down is correct, and sign or put your initial on the card. You will also have to do this at the end of the game. So if your opponent makes a mistake (even if it is an honest one) that somehow puts your score at a disadvantage, you have to take the blame.

Other players choose one person to be responsible for scoring everyone’s points before the game starts.

Count all intentional attempts to hit the ball with one shot. Players are likely to make contact with the ball 99.9% of the time. But if he/she tries to aim at the ball and misses, it will still count as a hit. On the other hand, if you are going to practice a throwing motion and accidentally hit the ball, this will count as a stroke as well. Every time you make a move, it will count as a stroke, whether it is advantageous or not.
Each hole will have a number of shots listed under the category “par”. This is the approximate number of strokes that must get the ball to the hole. If par is 3 and you take 4 strokes, your score will then be +1. If the par for the entire course is 80 and you finish the game with 95, your score is +15.
Although you don’t need to know them to score, it is good to know that a birdie is one shot under par, an eagle is two under par, and a bogey is one shot over par.
Some players decide that they cannot exceed a double bogey for each hole, i.e. two shots over par.

Learn about penalties. Penalties are shots that give you extra points. Remember that your score should be as low as possible, and penalties make it go up. Here are some types of penalties:
If you hit the ball into the water and throw a new ball in the designated spot, you take a penalty of 1 stroke.
If you send the ball over the boundary (as indicated by the white stakes) and replay the same shot at the original location, you take a 2 stroke penalty.
If you miss a ball and take the same shot at the starting location, you take a penalty of 2 shots.

Add up your points. When you are done, add up your points on each hole to get a cumulative total. Check it out. If you are participating in a tournament, one of your opponents will be monitoring your official score. You must check and sign your card to make the score truly official. The player with the lowest amount of points wins the game.
Some players add up the points every nine holes so that they don’t have to do a lot of calculations at the end and can settle the dispute more easily.

Find out what your handicap is. Once you have played at least ten rounds of golf in the same game (or as many rounds as necessary), you will know your handicap. It takes into account your previous scores over the same round, and you can play with your handicap in mind. (The goal is to improve on what you have done previously.)[2]
If you want to go fancy with your handicap, you can play using the Stableford method. With this method, your golf score is not based on how many strokes you take per hole, but on the average amount of points you get per hole. If your average score equals par, you get 2 points; if you can hit the hole with one shot over par (a bogey), you get 1 point. If you hit it one shot below par (a birdie), you get 3 points, and if you hit it 2 shots below par (an eagle), you get 4 points. The player with the most points wins.

Scoring the Score in a Match Play

Mark each hole as “plus one” or “minus one”. This is a great way for beginners to play, and you don’t have to be so strict about monitoring exactly what happened each round. You just need to get more holes than your opponent. So, let’s say that on the first hole your score was five and your opponent’s was three; your opponent is now at “+1” because he has one more hole than you.

Give up a hole if necessary. If you are having too much trouble putting the ball in the hole during a round and would rather save your energy and mental health, you can give up that hole and go to the next one. You start from scratch on the next hole.

Keep track of who won at each hole. Keep playing and note who won on each hole after each round. Only write +1 if you are one hole ahead in a round or -1 if you are one hole behind. If you and your opponent put the ball in the hole with the same amount of strokes, you can write “EQUAL” below the hole and consider it a tie.

End the match when one of the players has more holes ahead than remain to be played. Matches can be scored on “four and three”. This means that one player will win when he is four holes ahead, and only three holes remain to finish the match (after the 15th hole), as the other player will not have a chance to win enough holes to turn the match around.

Don’t get obsessed with the number of shots. If you are a beginner, it is more important to pay attention to getting the ball into the hole than to get upset about taking too many shots. In this way, you will be more focused on getting a rhythm rather than overanalyzing your game. As you progress, you can work on marking each of your shots and make room for improvement.


Learn how to calculate your handicap. A good golfer and a bad golfer can play a competitive round using their handicap.

If you are playing a round for fun and the round ends in a tie score, break the deadlock by practicing the putting green. Or an arm wrestling match.

You would be amazed at how many shots are “ignored” by the players. If your opponent says he hit a “five” and you think it was a “six,” review the shots to see which number is right.

Know the basic rules of golf when it comes to penalties. This will avoid headaches when it comes to scoring and possible arguments with your opponents.


  • If you sign up for a scoreboard category that is not suitable for you within a tournament, you will be disqualified. And this would be a waste of five hours of outdoor activity.
  • If drinking beer is part of your round of golf, give up scoring and pay attention to keeping the golf cart in its proper place.
  • If your playing partner is someone who always tries to give himself a lower score, don’t argue. Especially if it is a spouse/boyfriend. Find someone else to play with.