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Golf History FAQ: Origin of Term 'Bogey'

How Did 'Bogey' Enter the Golf Lexicon?

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You better watch out or the Bogey Man's gonna get you! The Bogey Man must have been a golfer, because he lent his name to a golf score of 1-over par.

According to the USGA Museum, the "Bogey Man" was a character in a British song of the late 19th Century. He lived in the shadows and said in song, "I'm the Bogey Man, catch me if you can."

The USGA writes that British golfers of the era began chasing the Bogey Man on the golf course, meaning chasing after the perfect score (catch me if you can).

An aside: Sure is strange how some words develop, isn't it? Now back to the program ...

Over time, the term "bogey score" came into usage - but it denoted a good score, not a poor one. In other words, bogey was interchangeable, at that time, with the word "par."

In the early part of the 20th Century, however, par began to be applied to the ideal score of professional golfers, while bogey gradually became applied to recreational golfers. From there, it was a short leap to its current meaning of a score of 1-over par.

As "par" became the accepted term for a good score on a hole, "bogey" was applied to the higher score recreational golfers might expect to achieve.

Sources: USGA, R&A

Related FAQs:
Did the term 'par' originate with golf?
Where do the terms 'birdie' and 'eagle' come from?

Return to Golf History FAQ index

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