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How Does Golf Scoring Work?

Beginners FAQ: Keeping Score in Golf


Writing down golf scores
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Scoring in golf is sometimes a mystery to those unfamiliar with the sport because in golf - unlike most other sports and games - it's the person with the lowest score who wins.

But golf scoring is as simple as can be. Every time you take a whack at that little white ball, that's a stroke. Every time you make a stroke, count it. At the end of each hole, add up your strokes for that hole and write the number down. At the end of the round, add up the strokes for each hole and, there you have it, your golf score.

There are some other circumstances - for instance, every beginner (every golfer of every level) will have to take penalty strokes here and there. At least, if you're playing strictly by the rules.

But most simply put, a golf score is the number of times you whacked that little ball around the course.

Score in relation to par is also very easy to understand and compute. Each hole is given a number representing "par" - the number of strokes it should take a skilled golfer to finish that hole. If the par is 4 and you make a 5, then your score in relation to par is 1-over. If the par is 4 and you make a 3, then your score in relation to par is 1-under. (In addition to "1-under" or "1-over," there are other, more colorful terms used for relation to par -- see the FAQ, "Birdies, eagles, bogeys - what are those things?)

If par for the course is 72 and you finished with a 92, then your score in related to par is 20-over.

More in-depth explanatioms of related topics can be found in these articles:
How do I mark the scorecard?
Keeping score in match play
Keeping score in Stableford play

Here are some relevant definitions for beginners:
Par - Birdie - Eagle - Bogey
Par 3 - Par 4 - Par 5

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