How to Score Golf: A Comprehensive Beginner's Guide

Golf can seem like a complex game to new players, especially when it comes to scoring. 

When I first started golfing, I remember feeling overwhelmed by all the different terms and rules. But once I learned how to score properly, my enjoyment of the game increased dramatically. 

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about scoring in golf, making it simple and fun. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refresh your knowledge, this guide will help you get the most out of your game.

Let’s dive into this step-by-step guide to keeping score in golf…

How to score golf feature imageLearn how to score golf with our easy-to-follow guide. Master the game and impress your friends!

How I Mastered Golf Scoring: My Journey to Lower Scores

I was always passionate about golf, but my scores were embarrassingly high. Every round felt like a struggle, and I often found myself frustrated on the course. Despite my love for the game, I couldn't seem to improve my scores and felt stuck in a cycle of mediocrity.

Determined to get better, I started researching and practicing diligently. I read books, watched tutorials, and even took a few lessons. However, the real change began when I decided to break down the scoring process and understand every aspect of it. I learned the importance of tracking every stroke, understanding penalties, and leveraging the handicap system.

As I delved deeper, I realized there was a more straightforward way to approach golf scoring. It wasn't just about hitting the ball; it was about strategy, mindset, and meticulous tracking. This new perspective opened up a world of opportunities for me to improve my game systematically.

I developed a framework that simplified the scoring process:

1. Get a Scorecard: Always start with a scorecard to track your progress.

2. Record Every Stroke: Count every swing and penalty.

3. Learn Key Terms: Understand terms like par, birdie, bogey, and handicap.

4. Sum Up Scores: Add up your strokes and apply your handicap.

5. Verify and Submit: Double-check scores and submit them for accuracy.

Implementing this framework transformed my game. My scores began to drop, and I started enjoying the game more. I could track my progress, understand my mistakes, and celebrate my improvements. Today, I play with confidence and relish every round of golf. The journey from frustration to mastery taught me that with the right approach, anyone can improve their golf scores and truly enjoy the game.

"Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character." - Arnold Palmer

Step 1: Get a Scorecard and Decide Who Will Keep Score

The first step in keeping score is to get a scorecard. Most golf courses provide these at the clubhouse. The scorecard not only helps you track your score but also provides essential information about each hole, such as its par and distance.

- Scorecard Basics: A typical scorecard has a grid layout with spaces for each hole, the par for each hole, and spaces to write your score.

- Designating a Marker: If you’re playing with others, decide who will keep score. Usually, one person (the "marker") is chosen to record scores for the entire group. If you’re playing alone, you’ll keep your own score.

Here’s a personal tip: double-check the scores at the end of each hole to ensure accuracy. I’ve learned the hard way that mistakes can lead to disputes later on!

Step 2: Recording Your Strokes

Recording your strokes accurately is crucial in golf scoring. Every time you swing the club, it counts as a stroke, even if you miss the ball completely (yes, those embarrassing moments count too!). 

Here’s how to keep track:

- Count Every Stroke: Each attempt to hit the ball is a stroke. This includes misses and penalty strokes.

- Penalties: Understand and add penalty strokes for rule infractions. Common penalties include:

  - Out of Bounds: If your ball lands outside the course boundaries, add one penalty stroke and play another ball from where you last hit.

  - Water Hazards: If your ball lands in a water hazard, add one penalty stroke and either drop a ball behind the hazard or use a designated drop zone.

  - Unplayable Lies: If your ball is in a position where you can’t play it (like in thick bushes), you can declare it unplayable, add one penalty stroke, and drop a ball within two club lengths of the original spot, no closer to the hole.

Here’s a story from one of my early games: I was playing a round with friends and hit my ball into a water hazard. At first, I was frustrated, but then I remembered the rules for handling penalties. I dropped a new ball behind the hazard and took my penalty stroke. It wasn’t the best outcome, but knowing the rules helped me stay calm and continue the game without further mistakes.

By accurately recording your strokes and penalties, you ensure a fair and enjoyable game. Always keep track on your scorecard and double-check with your playing partners to avoid any disputes.

Step 3: Understanding Golf Scoring Terms

Golf has its own unique set of terms that can be confusing at first. Knowing these terms will help you understand your score and improve your game. Here’s a glossary of the most important scoring terms:

- Par: The standard number of strokes that an expert golfer is expected to make for a given hole. Each hole on a golf course is assigned a par, typically ranging from 3 to 5.

- Birdie: One stroke under par. For example, if you complete a par 4 hole in 3 strokes, that’s a birdie.

- Eagle: Two strokes under par. Achieving an eagle is less common but very rewarding.

- Albatross (Double Eagle): Three strokes under par. This is extremely rare and a significant achievement.

- Bogey: One stroke over par. If you take 5 strokes on a par 4 hole, you’ve made a bogey.

- Double Bogey: Two strokes over par.

- Triple Bogey: Three strokes over par.

- Handicap: A numerical measure of a golfer’s potential that allows players of different skill levels to compete against each other. Lower handicaps indicate better players.

When I first started learning these terms, I made a cheat sheet and carried it with me during my rounds. It was incredibly helpful to refer to it whenever I was unsure about the terms. Now, they’re second nature, and understanding them has made me a more confident player.

Step 4: Adding Up Your Score

Once you’ve completed your round of golf, it’s time to add up your scores. This step ensures you have an accurate final score, which is essential for tracking your progress and comparing your performance with others.

- Summing Strokes: On your scorecard, write down the number of strokes taken on each hole, including any penalty strokes. At the end of the round, add up the total number of strokes for each hole to get your overall score.

- Applying Handicaps: If you have a handicap, you can subtract it from your total score to get your net score. For example, if your total score is 95 and your handicap is 20, your net score would be 75.

Here’s a quick example of how to add up your score:





Total Strokes




























- Checking for Accuracy: After adding up your scores, double-check each hole to ensure there are no mistakes. It’s also a good practice to compare scores with your playing partners to confirm accuracy.

During one memorable game, I was sure I had a certain score, but after reviewing with my playing partner, I realized I had missed a penalty stroke. It’s easy to overlook things in the excitement of the game, so always double-check.

Step 5: Finalizing and Submitting Your Score

The final step in scoring your golf game is to finalize and submit your score. This step ensures that your scores are officially recorded and verified.

- Verifying Scores: Before finalizing your scorecard, review it carefully to ensure all scores are accurate. This includes checking each hole's score, adding up the total correctly, and ensuring all penalty strokes are included.

- Signatures: Both you and your marker (if applicable) must sign the scorecard to verify its accuracy. This is especially important in tournaments and official games.

- Submitting the Scorecard: Once verified, submit your scorecard to the appropriate person or place, usually the clubhouse or tournament organizer.

Here’s a quick story: In my first tournament, I was so nervous that I forgot to sign my scorecard. Thankfully, my playing partner reminded me just in time, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing disqualification. It’s little details like these that make all the difference.

Understanding how to keep score in golf can transform your experience on the course. By following these steps, you’ll not only play better but also enjoy the game more. Remember, golf is not just about competition; it’s about enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends. Now that you have a solid grasp of scoring, go out there and have fun!

Key Takeaways for How to Score Golf

- Get a Scorecard: Obtain a scorecard from the clubhouse. It provides essential information about each hole and helps you keep track of your score accurately.

- Record Every Stroke: Count every attempt to hit the ball, including misses and penalty strokes. This ensures your score is accurate and fair.

- Understand Penalty Strokes: Learn the common penalties and how to add them to your score. It avoids confusion and keeps your scorecard correct.

- Learn Golf Scoring Terms: Familiarize yourself with terms like par, birdie, eagle, and handicap. This makes understanding your score and progress easier.

- Sum Up Your Scores: At the end of the round, add up all the strokes for each hole. Apply any handicaps to get your net score.

- Verify Scores: Double-check your scores and get them signed by you and your marker to ensure accuracy before submission.

- Submit Your Scorecard: Hand in your scorecard at the clubhouse or to the tournament organizer. This officializes your game results.

FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About How to Score Golf

How do you score golf?

To score golf, you record the number of strokes taken for each hole on a scorecard. Add any penalty strokes incurred. At the end of the round, sum all strokes to get your total score.

What is a par in golf?

Par is the standard number of strokes that an expert golfer is expected to make for a given hole. Each hole has a designated par value based on its length and difficulty.

How does the handicap system work in golf?

The handicap system allows players of different skill levels to compete on an equal basis. A handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer's potential. Lower handicaps indicate better players. Your handicap is subtracted from your total score to get your net score.

What are penalty strokes in golf?

Penalty strokes are added to your score for rule infractions. Common penalties include hitting the ball out of bounds, into a water hazard, or declaring an unplayable lie. Penalties usually add one or two strokes to your score.

How do you record penalties in golf?

Record penalties on the hole where they occur. For example, if you hit the ball out of bounds on hole 3, add one penalty stroke to your score for that hole.

What is the difference between match play and stroke play?

In stroke play, the total number of strokes determines the winner. In match play, each hole is a separate contest. The player who wins the most holes wins the match.

What does a birdie mean in golf?

A birdie means scoring one stroke under par on a hole. For instance, if you complete a par 4 hole in 3 strokes, that's a birdie.

What is an eagle in golf?

An eagle is when you score two strokes under par on a hole. For example, finishing a par 5 hole in 3 strokes.

How do I improve my golf score quickly?

Focus on improving your short game, including putting and chipping. Practice regularly and consider taking lessons to refine your technique. Using the right equipment also makes a difference.

You're probably thinking golf scoring is too complicated, right?

Well, it seemed that way to me too at first, but once I broke it down step by step, it became much easier. Just follow the basics and you'll get the hang of it.

What is a bogey in golf?

A bogey is when you score one stroke over par on a hole. For example, taking 5 strokes on a par 4 hole.

What is a double bogey?

A double bogey is when you score two strokes over par on a hole.

What is the Stableford scoring system?

In the Stableford system, points are awarded based on the number of strokes taken relative to par. The player with the most points wins. For example, scoring one stroke under par earns you 2 points.

How do you handle ties in golf?

Ties can be resolved in several ways, such as playing extra holes or comparing scores on specific holes. The method depends on the tournament rules.

You're probably thinking you need to memorize all the golf terms, right?

Well, actually, you can just keep a small cheat sheet with you. Over time, the terms will become second nature as you play more.

What is a golf scorecard?

A golf scorecard is a card provided by the golf course that helps you keep track of your scores for each hole. It includes spaces for recording strokes and any penalties.

How do you submit a scorecard?

After completing your round, verify all scores for accuracy. Both you and your marker should sign the scorecard. Then, submit it to the clubhouse or tournament organizer.

You're probably thinking you'll never remember all the rules and penalties, right?

Well, neither did I at first. But with a bit of practice and a few rounds of golf, you'll start to remember them naturally.

Learn More and Enhance Your Golf Skills Today