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What do those golf scoring terms - birdies, bogeys, pars - mean?

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Golfer hitting out of bunker or sand trap.
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Question: What do those golf scoring terms - birdies, bogeys, pars - mean?

So you're new to the game of golf and you keep hearing references to birdies and bogeys, eagles and pars. What are those things?

Answer: They are terms that describe different types of scores on an individual golf hole.

Start with par, because all golf scoring terms are defined in relation to par. "Par" refers to the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to need to complete the play of one hole on a golf course (or of the full golf course, but the one-hole definition is the one that is relevant here).

Golf holes of different lengths will require more or fewer strokes by a golfer. And regardless of length, the par number of a hole always allows for two putts. So a 150-yard hole is one on which the expert is expected to hit the green with his tee shot, take two putts, and, therefore, require three strokes to finish that hole. So that hole is designated a par-3.

A very good golfer - or a very lucky golfer - might complete a hole in fewer strokes than the par. And of course, most of us aren't "experts" at golf, and so on most holes we'll need more strokes than the par.

That's where those other terms - birdies, eagles, bogeys, et.al. - come into play. They describe a golfer's performance on a hole in relation to the hole's par:

  • A birdie is 1-under par
  • A bogey is 1-over par
  • An eagle is 2-under par
  • A double bogey is 2-over par
  • A double eagle (very rare) is 3-under par (also called an "albatross")
  • A triple bogey is 3-over par

Given that a par-5 hole is the highest par most golfers will ever see, there is a limit to how far under par a golfer can go. But a hole-in-one - knocking the ball in the hole with your first shot - is also called an "ace." Scores over par can keep going up, and you just keep adding to the prefix, as in quadruple bogey, quintuple bogey, and so on. Here's hoping that's knowledge you'll never need.

Here's what the golf scoring terms mean for holes with pars of 5, 4 and 3.

Par-5 Hole

  • Double eagle: On a par-5, means you finished the hole in 2 strokes
  • Eagle: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
  • Birdie: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
  • Par: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
  • Bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes
  • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 7 strokes
  • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 8 strokes

Par-4 Hole

  • Double eagle: On a par-4, means you finished the hole in 1 stroke - a hole-in-one (very, very rare on par-4 holes)
  • Eagle: You finished the hole in 2 strokes
  • Birdie: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
  • Par: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
  • Bogey: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
  • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes
  • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 7 strokes

Par-3 Hole

  • Double eagle: Double eagles are not possible on par-3 holes
  • Eagle: You finished the hole in 1 stroke (a hole-in-one, in which case you'd call it a hole-in-one or an "ace," rather than eagle)
  • Birdie: You finished the hole in 2 strokes
  • Par: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
  • Bogey: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
  • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
  • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes

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