Golf Score — Stroke Play

Let’s go over how to score. There are a lot of rules in golf, so how to score could be a very large topic. I’ll break scoring down as simply as possible. You will have a nice introduction on how to score here so that at a minimum, you won’t have to experience that fear of the unknown during your first tournaments as caddy.

First, any attempt to advance the ball to the hole by hitting it with a club is called a stroke. Basically, a golf score is comprised of adding up all the strokes it took the player to hole out, i.e. stroke the ball into the cup on the green according to the rules of play. Every attempt to advance the ball, whether or not the ball is actually struck as intended, is to be counted as a stroke. For example, a swing and a miss that was intended to advance the ball is counted as one stroke. However, accidentally tapping the ball off the tee while setting up is not a stroke, as the player was not attempting to advance the ball and the ball was not yet in play.

The tee, or tee box, is the where the first stroke of each hole occurs. Every stroke from the tee to the cup is added up and recorded as the score for that hole. On the score card, there is a box numbered for each hole. The score for a given hole is written in the box for that hole number. At the end of the round, the hole scores are added together as the total score for the round. Just to be clear, the lower the score the better, the goal is to hit the ball into the cup with as few strokes as possible.

You will also see the yardage and par number for each hole on the score card. The yardage indicated on the score card is from the middle tee position to the middle of the green. The tee and cup positions are varied from day to day to even out course wear and tear and vary the nature or “play” of each hole a bit. Distance and measuring will be discussed later.

The par number is the number of strokes considered standard for the hole. The standard for any hole assumes two putts. Therefore, if you subtract two from the par number, you will know how many strokes it takes to be on the green in regulation. Pars are universally three, four, or five, and of course the par rating is dependent upon the length of the hole. Often you will hear, “on in two with a two putt.” Thinking of the score this way may help as an easy way to keep score for the hole. You count how many strokes to get onto the green, and then how many putts to sink the ball into the cup, then add them together for the hole’s score.

At the end of the round the hole scores are all added together to find the total score for the round. Usually the scorer and player are responsible for the accuracy of the hole scores and the total score is added up by the scoring official at the scoring table. Teach your child golfer how to keep score early. Later they will need to pay attention to their score and their playing partners’ scores as well.

Often a golf score is described relative to par. Adding up the individual par numbers for every hole gives you the par for that course. Many times par for a course is thirty-six for nine holes, and seventy-two for eighteen holes. Some courses are par seventy or seventy-one. Stating a score relative to par would be how many total strokes different from par the score is. So a score of seventy on a par seventy-two course would be stated as “two under” or -2. In a multi-day tournament, scores are added together for all the days. So for a three day tournament on a par 72 course, if you shoot a seventy each day your tournament score would be a 210. Par for the tournament would be three times 72 or 216. So this score would be six under par for the tournament, or -6.

If a rule is broken during play, often the rule calls for a penalty. For example, if the flag stick is touched by a putted ball, there is a two-stroke penalty. So, if the ball goes in the hole on the fifth stroke, and touches the pin, the scorer should put a seven in the box on the score card for that hole, thereby adding two strokes the hole’s score for the penalty. As a side note, always remove the pin from the hole when putting on the green!

Another note on the score card … do not put any markings on the face of the card. Only hole scores and signatures are allowed on the face of official score cards. If you plan to use hash galaxy marks or any other markings, use the back of the card or another piece of paper. The player can be penalized or disqualified if the card is inappropriately marked up.
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