Golf Scoring Names for Beginners: And Why all the Bird Names?

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What is the difference between a birdie and a birdie? A bogey is a score that is below a birdie.

Golf scoring names aren’t always easy to decipher, especially if you’re a new golfer. But today, we’ll simplify the most common scoring systems so you finally know what score correlates to which term on the golf course. 

Golf scoring names for beginners

If you’re new to golf it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and language about the game. Not to mention the massive rule book – all of which can be overwhelming for the average golfer.

Today, we’ll focus solely on scoring to help you understand some of the most common terms in golf. Well also provide some historical and factual information about these scores. 

These are the Key Takeaways

  • Par is the metric for scores in golf. 
  • 12,500 to 1 are the odds of hitting an ace. 
  • Many common scoring terms date back more than 100 years. 
  • Par is the number of shots it takes. Should take a scratch golfer to hole out.

Keep reading to learn more about the history of these terms to improve your golf history knowledge. 

Most Common Scoring Terms for Golf 

Even if you’re an avid golfer, chances are you don’t know the history of some of the most commonly used terms in the game of game. All scores refer to the number and percentage of strokes that were made on each golf hole.

So let’s start with that term …


The first term that is arguably the most popular in the golf world is par; this is what a scratch golfer “should” score on a hole. The term didn’t exist until 1910 and represents a term in sports handicapping meaning level or even. 

There are 18 holes on a golf course with a mix par 3s, 4s, and 5s. Most full-length courses have a par 72 course with four par 3, four par 5s and ten par 4. While an executive golf course is a shorter course that has mostly par 3s and some par 4s. 

If you’re playing a 400-yard par 4 and make a four on the hole, you made a gross par. A net par is determined by your handicap.

For example, if you’re an 18 handicap golfer you get a stroke on every hole. So if you score a five on a par 4, you get a “net par.” 

If you shoot around par for the day, you’re known as a scratch golfer (one of the biggest goals of most golfers). Par golf places you in the top 10% of players, as the average handicap for men and women is 14.5 and 27.5 respectively. 


A birdie is another common name for scoring in golf. A birdie means that you scored one less than par on a hole. So if you’re playing a par 5 and you make a four, then you get a birdie.

But where did the term birdie in golf come from? Why is there so many terms that refer to birds vs. other mammals? It’s a good question and luckily the USGA has the answer for us.

According to the USGABirdie was first used in 1899. “H.B. Martin’s, “Fifty Years of American Golf” contains an account of a foursomes match played at the Atlantic City (N.J.) CC. One of the players, Ab Smith relates: ‘my ball… came to rest within six inches of the cup.

I said ‘That was a bird of a shot… I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in one under par he receives double compensation.”

In the 19th century the term “bird” was known as anything that was excellent or wonderful. Soon, other terms were created around bird names.

It’s hard to believe that birdies in golf have been around more than a century! 


The term bogey, which is the opposite of a par-three birdie, refers when a golfer scores one stroke more than par. A bogey is when you score a four on a par 3. A lot of players refer to themselves as “bogey golfers” because they tend to make a lot more bogeys than pars. 

A bogey, like the birdie term, has a unique backstory. According to the same USGA article from above, the word started in the early 1890s after a song called “The Bogey Man” was released. The song featured a character who lived in the shadows.

According to the USGA, “Golfers in Scotland and England equated the quest for the elusive Bogey Man with the quest for the elusive perfect score. By the mid to late 1890s, the term ‘bogey score’ referred to the ideal score a good player could be expected to make on a hole under perfect conditions.”

For more than a century golfers have always been trying to avoid the “bogeyman” on the golf course. 


An eagle is a scoring name that doesn’t happen enough for most golfers (or ever in some cases). An eagle is a score of two under on a hole, or two more strokes than par. An eagle is, for example, when it takes you three strokes on a par 5 hole to get out of the fairway. 

Par 5s are the holes where you’re most likely to score an eagle but they can happen on short par 4s too. If it’s a driveable hole you can hit on the green and make a putt or even get a chip in too. 

Par 5s are possible by making a putt and getting on the green in two strokes. You could also try getting to the green in just two shots and then chipping in for a total three strokes.

An eagle at a par 3 is called a hole in one. (More on that later).

Double Bogey

A double bogey occurs when you have two holes left. These are round killers because you will need to make two birdies, or an eagle, to make up the difference. 

Triple bogey

A triple bogey occurs when three strokes are more than the par. A triple bogey is when you score an eight on a par five golf hole. If it happens on a par 5 hole it’s also known as a snowman as well.

Hole in One 

A hole in one is undoubtedly the most prized shot in golf. But you’re going to have to play a lot of golf to give yourself a chance in most cases. 

Why? Because 12,500 out of 1 chance of getting an ace!

Click here for more information about other golf facts. 


Albatross (double Eagle)

Another rare shot in golf is the albatross. Also known as a double Eagle, it is also called a double eagle. This happens only on a par 5. You’ll typically need to hole out from 200 yards to make this shot which is a near impossible feat.

Your chances of creating an albatross are much lower than that of making a hole in one. It is estimated that it is 6,000,000 to 1. This happened to Xander Schauffele in the first part of the 2023 PGA Tour Season.

Needless to say, you’re going to need to hit a perfect second shot on a par 5 to make this happen. If you are able to overcome the odds, document it and save your golf ball forever! 


Keeping with the “bird terms” we can’t forget to mention a condor as well. This is when you’re four strokes under par which can only happen on a par 5 hole (there are some par 6s in the world as well).

A condor means you’re four under on a hole!

This incredible feat has only been achieved a few times over the years in golf. Larry Bruces 1962 ace on the Hope Country Clubs dogleg right par 5 fifth hole was an example. Did I mention that this hole measured 480 feet in length?

Kevin Pon, another 2020 golfer, achieved this feat on the 18th hole of Lake Chabot Golf Course. Imagine walking out of the round with two par 6s!

It’s probably safe to say he will keep that scorecard and ball for the rest of his life. Its unlikely that such a score will ever happen again, but it is a great memory.

FAQs on Scoring on the Golf Holes

Do you have more questions about scoring and other golf terms? If so, continue reading to discover the most commonly asked questions and answers below. 

What are the 7 scoring terms for golf? 

The seven most commonly used terms in golf scoring are albatross and eagle, birdie and birdie. Other terms include a triple bogey (which can also mean a “snowman” on a par 5, condor, and others). 

What are the golf scores called?

Scores in golf are based on how many strokes you have played. They indicate how close you are to par or under the hole.  

  • Condor: 4 below 
  • Albatross: 3 under 
  • Eagle: 2 under (two strokes under)
  • Birdie: 1 under (one stroke under)
  • Par: Level/Even on the Hole
  • Bogey: 1 over
  • Double bogey 2 over
  • Triple bogey: 3 Over 

Recreational golfers are more likely to have pars, birdies, and bogeys (with the occasional double bogey).

What are the different scoring methods in golf?

The most common scoring systems refer to how low or high you are on the hole. But scoring systems change based on the type of event you’re playing.

  • Stableford: This is a point system where you want the most points at the end of the round (which doesn’t always correlate to the lowest score).  Find out more about the Stableford Scoring System.
  • Match Play: Strategy and scoring are very different in a match play tournament. Click here for more information.

Why are golf scores named after birds in the first place?

According to the USGA the term “birdie” was coined in 1899. It was a slang term that meant excellent or wonderful at the time. Golfers used birdie to describe better shots than the original term. 

Final Thoughts about Golf Scoring Names 

You now have a lot of information to help guide you through the scoring process. There are also some great conversation starters that you can have with other players during the round. Remember that each score is a function of the number strokes required to complete the hole.

The better the score, the fewer strokes you make on each hole!

Because chances are they don’t know a lot of them. Heck, I’ve been playing for 20+ years and didn’t even know where the term birdie originated from. 

Don’t forget to check out these other articles that will help you as beginner golfer:

  • The Rules of Golf
  • 13 Rules of Golf Etiquette
  • How to read a Golf Scorecard 
  • Golf Scoring Symbols

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