How Golf Scoring Works: A Step By Step Guide For Beginners ⋆ Golf Tips For Beginners (2023)

Golf can be a great sport for anyone of any age.

With so many public and private courses available to golf enthusiasts of all levels, it's hard not to spend your afternoons playing.

But when you're just starting out, there's one aspect of golf that might raise the following question.

How does golf scoring work?

Golf scoring works by counting the number of intentional putts, taking into account penalties, and adding handicaps and par.

While it may seem like a complicated system, once you understand the basics, scoring in golf becomes easy.

So before teeing off or yelling, "Go!" Keep reading to learn how golf scoring works in a simple step-by-step guide for beginners.


The first step in any golf game isGet a dashboard.

Most golf courses will have pre-made score cards that you can get from the clubhouse reception or from an enclosure near the first hole (it usually looks like a wooden letterbox).

How to Read a Golf Scoreboard

When you're a first-time golfer, there are many elements to a golf scoreboard that can be confusing.

From Golf Week, here is an extensive list explaining what each item on a golf scoreboard means for the game:

  • list of holesIt is usually at the top of the scorecard for the hole list. This will list the number of holes on the golf course. You usually play in numerical order, but if the course is busy, players can start at the midpoint and return to their starting hole after playing the highest numbered hole. (for example, holes 1-18, start on hole 10 and play to hole 18, then holes 1-9).
  • outside and insideThese are terms for specifying which holes are closest to the clubhouse. Those marked "Out" (usually holes 1-9) are parts of the course that are played outside the clubhouse. Those marked "In" (usually holes 10-18) are parts of the course that play towards the clubhouse.
  • color namesThey are labeled to help inform players how far from the teeing area (starting area) is for each hole. You can think of each color as a difficulty rating system.
    • Black or gold = tougher shirt
    • Blue = Perfect for above-average level players
    • White = Perfect for high handicap players
    • Red = course with fewest tees (ideal for quick games or absolute beginners)
    • Green = Perfect for any player, but especially for beginners.
  • NumbersOn your scorecard there should be numbers that are already complete.
    • The numbers just below each hole number represent the distance from the tee box to the hole.
    • The numbers to the right of the color names represent the difficulty and steepness of the hill.
  • minusesIt may also be labeled "Index". It works like a ranking system to tell you which hole is the most challenging.
    • If the handicap is closer to 1, this is the most challenging hole on the course.
    • If the handicap is closer to 18 (or whatever the highest number of holes is for that course), it's easier.
  • paresTorque is essentially the number of strokes (anticipated swing in the golf ball) it must take to sink the golf ball into the hole. Normally, when you add up the total number of pars, it should be around 72 (for an 18-hole course).

How to fill out a scorecard

Now that you understand what each element represents on a golf scorecard, you can fill in the information correctly.

Unlike other sports where accounts and scores are maintained by a third party,each player must keep track of their pointsin golf

This includes accurately reporting your handicap and strokes.

According togolf weekHere are the six steps to correctly filling out a golf scorecard:

  1. Name of each playerYou should have a list of all the players on each scorecard, as well as the name of whoever keeps track of your points (also known as the "score keeper").
    • Although each player has their own scorecard on which they will need to report points,it is excellent practice to try to keep track of everyone's scoresWhen it's possible. This is especially true for newer players; thus, there is confirmation of the score at the end of the match.
  2. Score all shots by each playerIn a game of golf, a putt is defined as an intentional stroke at the golf ball. Even if the ball doesn't move, if a player hits it, it counts as a hit.
    • You can add or subtract par and handicap at the end of the game.
  3. Add up the hits of each playerJust add the shots for each hole in the player's line. It's good practice to do this halfway through (the 9th hole) so that the process goes faster towards the end.
  4. add torque differenceTo find this out, just add up all even numbers and subtract your number from that. For example, if the total number of pars on the course is 75 and you have 70 strokes, you will have a par less than 5 (which is good!)
    • Once you know the torque difference, add or subtract these numbers to the stroke totals. This is commonly known as "score against par".
  5. add the handicapA handicap is used to help level players' experience levels. Generally, more experienced golfers will have a lower handicap, while less experienced golfers will have a higher handicap.
    • To add the handicap to your score, simply subtract your handicap number from the total number of strokes you have taken.
    • For handicaps, they can be found by averaging your previous golf games, or you can use the handicaps printed on the scorecard.Beginners are recommended to use the handicaps printed on the scorecard.
  6. marker signatureWhoever recorded the score must sign the bottom of the scorecard. If they kept score but someone else wrote down what they were saying, that person should sign the "marker" section.
    • For casual games, this isn't as important, but when it comes to competitions, it could mean the difference between victory and disqualification!

How to count changes with purpose

In golf scoring, the number of shots a player takes is extremely important.

The main objective in golf is to try to sink the golf ball into the hole using as few intentional shots as possible.

But what counts as an intentional swing?

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Every time you hit the golf ball with the intention of hitting it, it counts as one stroke.Even if you completely miss the ball, it still counts as a hit!

However, this means you are free to move your clubs as much as you like against the artificial grass, just try not to kick too much grass!

Of course (pun intended), if everyone in casual gaming is a total novice and agrees, you can create your pattern for what you'd like to consider a "swing".

However, keep in mind that in any other game or competition, every shot counts.

How to total points

To keep golf scores, you need to know when to add or subtract specific numbers to get an accurate score. There are two main factors you need to consider when adding up the points at the end of the round.

Hetwo main elementsthat will affect a player's total game strokes (points) are:

  1. Disadvantage
  2. same difference


Golf Handicap simply means the varying number of player experience levels that help people of different levels to play together.

Another way to think of a golf handicap is in the context of playing tag with young children.

You, an adult, wouldn't run as fast as you can to give the kids a chance to catch up.

It's the same idea for a golf handicap; It's so that people of any level can play on the same field.

To calculate your handicap differential, you need to have theNext information:

  • Hit count (or score) in at least five recent rounds
  • course rating
  • Golf course slope number

The more rounds you manage to score together, the more accurate your handicap score will be. Using the information above, you can plug your stats into the following formula:

Handicap Differential = (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

To use:113 is a factor in the formula, so don't substitute another number!

For example, suppose you have the following golf scorecard for seven rounds:

VERDE 71/1313205101503504003285102568

To use: everything in bold is already included in the golf scorecard when you first receive it.

*This line will be where you mark the dashes

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To find your handicap differential, you would do the following:

Handicap Differential = (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating = [(74 – 71) x 113] / 131 = [(3) x 113] / 131 = 2.58 or 2.6 handicap

disability index

Along with the overall handicap score, you can also find what is known as the "handicap index" with the differential calculation.

In the most basic sense, it's the way to find out your handicap at the end of each round.

To find the differential calculus, he relied on theNumber of rounds you play:

  • If you played 5-10 rounds:Find the smallest handicap differential and multiply it by 0.96.
  • If you played 11-19 rounds:Find the average of the five lowest spreads and multiply by 0.96.
  • If you played 20 rounds:Find the average of the ten lowest spreads and multiply by 0.96.

Using the golf scorecard example above, to find your handicap rating you would do the following:

Handicap index = lower differential x 0.96 = (6) x 0.96

Handicap Ratio = 5.76, or 5.8 as it is always rounded to the nearest tenth.

The reason your handicap differential and handicap index are different numbers is that your handicap differential is more accurate as it represents the total game.

Meanwhile, the handicap index only takes a small sample of your overall play.

Therefore, to get the most accurate handicap number, use the handicap differential formula.

Golf Scoring Penalties

There are 34 ground rules created by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

These rules are there to help keep the game fair, especially between uneven players.

When scoring penalties in golf scoring, follow these twenty rules:

  1. If you ask another golfer which club he hit the ball with:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  2. If the ball moves after putting the club behind it:Add one stroke to your score for that hole unless you are knocked off the tee.
  3. If you can't find your ball:
    • Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
    • Return to the original spot where you hit the loose ball and try again.
    • Add another shot to your score for that hole.
  4. If you hit the ball where it cannot be played:
    • Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
    • Release the ball the same distance as the hole (i.e. if you hit the ball 30 meters from the hole in an unplayable spot, you must place the substitute ball 30 meters from the hole in a playable spot).
    • Alternatively, you can take a two-stroke spot and start over at the original spot where you hit the ball.
  5. If you hit the ball out of bounds (white bets):
    • Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
    • Play again from the same position.
  6. If you move the ball to a better position:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  7. If you play a raw ball (out of bounds) and move a plant:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  8. If you play a ball that was dropped incorrectly:Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
  9. If you hit the ball and it hits you back:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  10. If you hit the pin when placing:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  11. If you play a ball that is not yours:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  12. If you place your ball on another player's ball while it is still on the putting green:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  13. If you place your ball marker in the wrong place:Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
  14. If someone else corrects your swing direction before you hit:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  15. If you try to cover peak marks before making a putt:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  16. If someone else is protecting you from the elements (rain, wind, etc.) while you are putting on:Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  17. If you wait more than ten seconds for a ball to fall into the hole:Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
  18. If you put your clubs down (also known as "putting your clubs down"):Add two strokes to your score for that hole.
  19. If your ball falls into water from which it cannot be retrieved:Add a stroke to your score for that hole.
  20. If you have more than 14 clubs in your bag:Add two strokes for each hole played with the extra clubs up to four strokes per round.

Different scoring techniques

If the idea of ​​having to keep track of handicaps and putts seems too advanced for your players' levels, there are alternative ways to score your golf game that are much more beginner friendly.

The three most common alternatives to scoring in golf are:

  1. Holes up or holes down
  2. Peer based score
  3. game match

Holes up or Holes down

Holes Up or Holes Down is an excellent golf scoring system, especially for beginners. it just means thatthe player who first puts the ball in the hole scores the point.

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If you want equal opportunities for all players,you can also score if the first one to put the ball gets more points, and everyone who scores later gets one less until the last person scores a point by dunking the ball.

For example, if you have four players, the score would look like this:

  • First person to dunk the ball = 4 points
  • Second person to dunk the ball = 3 points
  • Third person to dunk the ball = 2 points
  • Last person to sink the ball = 1 point

Peer based score

Rather than relying on handicaps to get an idea of ​​how skilled a player is, you can score out of par.

When you receive your golf scorecard, there should be a Par number already listed for each hole on the course.

This even number indicates how many strokes it should take to sink the ball.

If you hole the ball in fewer strokes than indicated on the scorecard, a negative number (called "playing under par") is assigned for the difference between par and the total number of strokes you have taken.

If you hole your ball in more strokes than indicated on the scorecard, you assign yourself a positive number (called "playing over par") for the difference between par and the total number of strokes you've played. it gave.

For example, if hole #3 is par number 9 and it took you seven strokes to sink the ball, your score based on par would be -2.

If your partner makes ten shots on the same hole, your score based on par will be +1.

When scoring based on par, remember the formula:

Your number of strokes – the Even number = Your net score

Pair-based scoring terms

If you're going to score based on par, there are eight standard terms you should be familiar with.

Not only will you help communicate the exact score to your fellow players, but you'll also impress them with your golf knowledge!

The eight common scoring terms for golf are:

  1. Condor– Play four under par
  2. Albatross (or double eagle)- Play three under par
  3. Eagle- Play two under par
  4. birdie- Play one under par
  5. Par– Play equal to par, usually noted with an “E” on the scoreboard
  6. Spectrum- Play one over pair
  7. double wagon- Play two over par
  8. triple wagon- Play three over par

game match

Match Play scoring for golf puts more emphasis on each hole rather than the system as a whole.

To score using the method of play, a point is awarded to the player who has the lowest number of strokes per hole.

If there is a tie, each player gets half a point. If you are playing with teams, the player on the team that had the fewest hits uses his score to determine the winner against the opposing team.


For example:

  • If it takes seven strokes to sink your ball and your opponent takes eight strokes to sink your ball, you win the hole and get a point.
  • If you and your opponent take eight shots to hit your balls, you both get half a point for the hole.
  • If your team member takes nine strokes to sink the ball, but you only give seven, then your team represents your score as seven.

Vocabulary for scoring Match Play

Like par-based scoring, golf game scoring has specific jargon that you should be familiar with.

When it comes to setting the current score for a match, stick to these terms:

  • all square -Scores are tied for the round.
  • two up -A player or team is two holes ahead
  • Sleep -If a player or team is ahead by the same number of holes remaining, they are called a "dormie" or "dormie".
  • margin of victory -It's when a player or team is determined to win because there's no way the opposition can score enough to tie or win.
  • X e Y -This is how the final score is delivered. “X” is the number of entry holes and “Y” is the number of remaining holes.
    • Usually this is just for the winning margin.

Can you get a minus golf score?

There is a possibility of having a negative golf score. When you score over par, you may end up under the expected shots to complete a hole.

When that happens, you end up with a negative number for total strokes versus par.

For example, if the course's par is ten strokes and you make eight strokes, that would leave you at -2 to par.

The number comes from how far your number of strikes is from the set par. You can think of the numbers as being on a number line with the defined number of dashes (even) being zero.

You can also have a negative golf score if your handicap is greater than your number of strokes.

At the end of rounds, you can find your net score (total strokes) and subtract it from your handicap.

If you played a game where you didn't have many shots, your handicap would be higher; therefore, you would end up with a negative score.

Negative and lower golf scores are a good thing!This means you take fewer shots to get the ball in the hole, which is the whole point.

In conclusion

Scoring in golf is as complicated as the scorer allows.

The hardest part is remembering all the rules and regulations that go along with each number's meaning.

If you record the numbers accurately and don't rush towards the end of the game, it should be easy enough for any beginner to follow along.

Plus, you have the freedom to score in the way that best suits players when it comes to casual golf.

Just remember the basic rule:Golf scoring is based on the total number of strokes a player takes.The lower the number, the better the player!

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