How To Keep Score In Golf: Score Your Stroke Play, Stableford, Match Play & More

how to keep score in golf

How to keep score in golf: 7 different formats

Learning how to keep score in golf is fairly straight forward. At a very simplistic level, you simply add up the shots it takes you to finish each hole, at the end of the round you add up all of your shots throughout the whole round and that’s your gross score. 

Each hole on the course is assigned a number of shots called ‘par’. You can get a 3-par, 4-par and 5-par hole. 

Par-3: The golfer is expected to finish the hole in 3 shots (par). This is usually with 1 shot onto the green and 2 puts. 

Par-4: The golfer is expected to finish the hole in 4 shots. Usually 1 drive, 1 shot into the green and 2 puts. 

Par-5: Par-5’s are the longest holes on the course. The golfer has 3 shots to hit the green and 2 puts. 

What is it called if I finish ‘under-par’ on any hole?

Just because a hole has been assigned a ‘par’ score, doesn’t mean that you have to score par. Ideally you would finish the hole ‘under-par’. After all, the golfer with the lowest score wins the round. 

If you finish 1 under-par on any hole, for example, if you score a 2 on a par-3 or a 4 on a par-5, this is referred to as a ‘birdie‘. 

If you finish 2 under-par on any hole, for example, if you score a 3 on a par-5, it is referred to as an ‘eagle‘. 

1 shot on a par 3 is called a ‘hole-in-one‘. 

2 shots on a par 5 is called an ‘albatross‘.

What about ‘over-par”

Golf also has terms for your score if you finish over-par on any hole. 

If you finish 1 shot over par, this is referred to as a bogey‘. If you finish 2 shots over-par, this is called a double bogey’. Then comes a triplebogeyand so on. 

Tips for keeping an accurate score

1) Keep a mental note of your shots throughout each hole – count them as you hit each one. 

2) Note down your score on your scorecard or paper as soon as the hole is over, so you don’t have to add them all up after the end of the round. 

3) Try to use a pencil with a rubber, if you make a mistake and start crossing things out/ scribbling all over the scorecard it can become hard to read. 

4) Use a mobile app or golf watch which can digitally keep score for you – Some apps even draw graphs and in depth analysis of how your scores are changing over time.


How to keep score in different forms of golf

Golf isn’t just ‘who scores the lowest gross score’ wins. There is many different formats of golf you can play. If you are a regular tournament player, you’ll be exposed to many of these formats frequently. Or if you are an avid golf watcher on TV, you’ll notice that the Ryder Cup is not your traditional format of golf – instead it’s ‘match-play’.

Stroke Play

Stroke play is your more traditional format of golf. Whoever scores the lowest score over the entire round wins the game. Most golf tournaments are stroke play, and they are sometimes referred as a ‘medal round’. 


In stableford, players are awarded points on each hole which are correlated to the amount of strokes they take to complete the whole. Whoever scores the most points over the whole 18 holes wins the round. 

The beauty of stableford, is that if you have a terrible hole, or lose a ball. You aren’t out of the game, you will just score zero and start the next hole with the chance to score high all over again. 

The UK stableford points system is as follows:

Number of pointsStrokes over / under par


Foursomes is played in a group of 4 split up into teams of 2 players. Each team has one ball, and each player hits alternative shots. For example, Player A will tee off on hole 1, player B will play the next shot and so on. It doesn’t matter who sinks the last putt of the hole, player B will tee off on the next hole. 
Foursomes can be scored via stroke play or match play. 

Better Ball

Better ball is played in a foursome in teams of 2. Every player plays a ball and keeps score. Each team takes the lowest score of each player on every hole. Better ball can be scored via stroke play, match play and stableford. 


Greensomes is very similar to Foursomes, except every player tees off. The weaker shot in each teem is picked up and the person who hit the weaker tee shot plays the next shot of the good ball and the players alternate from there. 


Scramble is a golf competition format which is played in teams of 4. Each player in a team tees off. The best shot is selected and the location is marked. All team members now take their 2nd shot from the marked location and this system is repeated throughout the whole game, resulting in much lower scores. Because it’s easier to shoot lower scores whilst playing scramble. The handicap for the team is 1/10th of the total combined handicaps of all players in the team.

Texas Scramble

Texas scramble utilizes the same rules as scramble, but there is one more requirements. The team must choose at least 4 tee shots from each player. This stops the best player in the team from hitting all of the best shots. 

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