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How Scoring In Golf Works

The obvious answer on how scoring in golf works is that your score is relative to par. But does this answer really help anyone who's new to the sport?

Prior to my first golf lesson (on an early Saturday morning in March 2016), I brought my grandpas old golf clubs up from my parents garage to ask my dad all sorts of golf related questions I had long wondered about. He thought this was hilarious because I was literally on my way to a golf lesson. And although, he might have been right that this was kind of silly, the truth was I felt uncomfortable because I didn't even know the basics to golf, including golf's how scoring in golf works. When asked about scoring in golf, he simply said: "Your score is relative to par."

Needless to say, I had no idea what he meant, and so I followed up with several other questions like: what's par? What's par on a course? But, scoring in golf pretty much just remained a mystery to me until I played my first round.

Now having thought about it though quite a bit since then, I don't actually think my experience was unique. That is, if you're unfamiliar with this sport scoring is actually somewhat difficult to understand...

So let's take a look at scoring in golf and break it all down for the new golfers!

Oh, and by the way, if you're headed out on the golf course or want to be soon, don't forget your free checklist to help you prepare, and get re-organized after!


The basic principal is that unlike most other sports and games, it's the person with the lowest score (par) who wins.

What does par mean?

Every hole on a golf course (typically a golf course is made up of 18 holes), has a par level. Par means the amount of swings a golfer is expected to take. For example, on a golf course Hole #1 could be a "par 3" hole, while Hole #10 could be a "par 5" hole. Translated, this means that a golfer on Hole #1 ideally would be able to get their golf ball in the hole in 3 strokes and their golf ball in the hole on Hole #10 in 5 strokes.

To make sure we're all on the same page, I want to clarify that the meaning of "stroke" is simply: a swing; an attempt to hit the golf ball.

Par does not change for a player based on ability, or sex. Although the tee-off spot is typically different for men and women, which in turn affects distance from the tee box to the green. Women's tee markers are typically a bit closer to the hole. This means they have a shorter distance to get from the tee box to the green and therefore, a shorter distance to shoot par. (If you haven't played a round yet, I recommend reading this post which explains the layout of a golf hole . This will help with the language I used in the previous sentences!)

PRO TIP: women can tee up at the men's tee markers if they would prefer. I've never seen a golf club have a problem with this so long as ability permits it. The same is true for men, if they would prefer a closer distance.


Every golf course has a par level too. "Par for the course" means the sum of pars from all 18 holes. For example, a course might have a par of 72. That means when you add up all pars from all 18 holes, the total will be 72.


So, let's put this all together!

Let's say that the course you're going to play this afternoon is a par 72 course and you take 75 strokes to complete the course (all 18 holes) - good for you! You could report in that your score is +3 (or "three-over-par"). You could also say that you shot a 75.

Or, on the flip side, let's say that it takes you 70 strokes, on a par course of 72. Then you could report that your score is −2 (or "two-under-par") - amazing for you! Again, you could also say that you shot a 70.

In the case that you shoot 72 exactly this give you a score of 0, and you would say proudly, "I shot par!" :)

If you're playing 9 holes, you would typically just say your score relative to par as a total. For example, par for 9 holes at the course I typically play at, is 36 and last week when I played I reported in that I shot a 43.

Thus, you see, your score is relative to par! :)

PRO TIP: For a beginner, I typically say there's no need to keep score! However, if you're competitive side wouldn't let you drop it altogether, it's widely accepted that if you're under double par for your round (whether it be 9 holes or 18 holes) you're playing excellent golf!

By the way, it's also worth noting that in golf there are some specific terms associated with scoring, so to be thorough for you, I'm including it for your reference.



Hole in one

Double eagle (Albatros)

Three strokes under par on a hole


Two strokes under par on a hole


One stroke under par on a hole


Amount of swings a golfer is expected to take


One stroke over par on a hole

Double bogey

Two strokes over par on a hole

So, like I said earlier, scoring in golf is actually a complicated one! If you if yourself with questions, please feel welcome to leave them below as a comment. I'm happy to help further!

Meanwhile, I hope you go low out there! (Get it? :)

And also, don't forget your free checklist to help you out out there!

Talk soon,


P.S. Before I go, I want to invite you to join my email list community full of positive, supportive, fun loving female golfers! Sign up below!

Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Florence, and I encourage women to play golf! Feel welcome to reach out to me directly, here.

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