Golf For Beginners: Tips and Tricks to Keeping Score in Golf

Golf has become a major part of the cultural scene. Whether you are watching the pros, playing a few holes with friends or competing in a tournament, the game has become fashionable for all. There are several core components to golf, but one of the most important, obviously, is keeping score.  You simply cannot track your progress and know how you have improved unless you know your scorecard inside and out.  Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you at keeping score in golf.

Keeping Score in Golf: Items List

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Obviously, you will have to have all of the necessary equipment to play the game, as well as a course to play on.  Keeping score in golf is a relatively easy process, once you have a good grip on the scoring terminology.

Scorecard: You can either get a physical card, or you can track your progress digitally through an app.  We will focus on the card, as that is the easiest way to learn how to keep score. Apps can be great; just make sure that you can track all scoring processes like par and handicaps.

Pen or Pencil: You will also need something in which to record your score.

An Opponent: This part is not necessarily required for scoring unless you are doing match play. We will cover the different methods of scoring, but to track progress in match play you will need someone to play against.

Keeping Score in Golf: Golfing Terms

If you are still new to the game, you might not know all of the prerequisite terms that come along with golf scores. To make sure that you are not lost (in this post and in the game), we will go over some of the common words and phrases heard out on the green.

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Stroke: Any attempt to hit the ball, even if you miss;

Par: The rating for the hole based on the number of strokes it should take to get your ball into the hole;

Birdie: If the hole is completed (your ball successfully makes its way into the hole) and you are one stroke under par;

Mulligan: A do-over;

Handicap: Depending upon how well a beginning player will perform on the course, this scoring method gives a number of strokes above par to the player per round.  This is to compensate a beginner’s score to make it competitive with a more experienced golfer playing in the match. The process of figuring this out varies with every golfer, so we will not go into details here;

Rough: A patch of the course that is difficult to hit your ball from;

Green: The area surrounding the hole;

Hazard: an obstacle that can cause you to lose your ball, and subsequently gives a stroke to your final score. These can include bodies of water or sections of undergrowth that are not part of the actual course.

Again, the process for keeping score in golf is relatively straightforward.  But that does not mean that there are not some important rules to follow. Also, there are two methods for scoring your game: match play or stroke play. We will go over both procedures so that you can do both should the need arise.  Scoring varies by player and a good sense of common courtesy.  However, what follows is a very common scoring experience.

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Keeping Score in Golf: Stroke Play Basics

For this style of scoring, you will need to mark down how many times you or your opponent tries to hit the ball. Whether or not you succeed is irrelevant- only that it was an honest attempt at hitting the ball. This is the most common method of scoring, and it will most likely be the way that you keep track of you and your companion’s progress.

One important rule about stroke play is that the number you write down is considered the actual score, even if it is wrong. For example, if you hit the ball three times to get into the hole but wrote down four, then the actual score is four. Even if you can prove it after the fact, courtesy dictates the number stays. The only time to make adjustments is immediately after writing it down.

Starting Your Scorecard

Whether you are tracking only yourself, your companion, or all players at the same time, it is important that you write it down before you start the game. Once you have agreed how the scoring will go, scoring perimeters must stay the same throughout the whole match. You can either write down your name, nickname, or initials, but once you have started the scorecard, you have to stick to it or start another one.

Keeping Track of Strokes

Even the best golfers can forget how many strokes they have taken before getting to the hole. However, try your best to be as accurate as possible. This will not only keep the game fair, but it will also enable you to figure out your handicap later. Again, even if you or your opponent tries to hit the ball and they miss, it still counts as a stroke.

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Penalties and Hazards

As mentioned, if you lose your ball to a hazard such as a lake or a stream, you will have to mark a stroke, whether you decide to fish out your ball or to use a brand new ball in its place. According to standard rules, if you lose the ball entirely, you should take two strokes to reset. Also, if you hit it out of bounds (as indicated by the course lines or flags), that is another two stroke penalty. You and your opponent should agree to hazard penalties before starting the game. That way, if you do lose a ball or hit it into a hazard, all parties can keep track accurately.

Add Your Score

When playing golf, you can either do a full round of eighteen holes or a half round of nine. Regardless of the number of holes you finish, add up the scores at the end to see what your total is. Usually, players will do a tally at the halfway point to see how well they are doing, and to see how their game improves on the back nine as well.

In golf, the winner is the person with the lowest score.  The point of the game is to hit the ball into the hole with as few strokes as possible.  A beginner should become knowledgable of how many strokes it takes per hole to get the job done.

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Keeping Score in Golf: Match Play Basics

Unlike stroke play, match scoring is based on each hole individually, rather than collectively. Instead of This time you do not track the number of shots and add them up altogether. Instead, you are figuring out who is “up one” or “down one” after each hole. Then, at the end, you determine who was up the most, and that person wins.

Keeping Track of Your Wins and Losses

The best thing about match play is that you do not necessarily have to be a professional golfer to win. All you need to do is be better than your opponent.  Although you are not tallying strokes altogether, you still need to know how many strokes you and your opponent take on each hole to figure out who won. For example, say it took you four strokes and your opponent five on one hole.  You are up that hole since it took you fewer strokes to get the ball in. To mark this on the scorecard, you would put a +1 or a -1 to signify a win or loss, respectively.

Draw Scoring

But what if you and your opponent reach the hole in the same amount of strokes?   You mark down “AS” for both of you and declare it a draw. It will not count towards your overall score of wins and losses.

Conceding a Hole

Sometimes it may seem like it takes too long to get your ball to the hole. If that is the case, you can concede the hole and give the win to your opponent. Because each hole is decided on its own merit, you do not have to worry about it greatly affecting your overall score. Simply start fresh with the next hole.

Winning a Match Play

With match play, you do not have to play nine or eighteen holes to figure out who has won.  Instead, measure the amount of holes that a person has over the other.  Use this as a guide to determine when the game is finished. For example, if you have four holes up over your opponent, then you can stop the game with only three holes left in the course, as a winner can already be declared.  The only time you will make it to the last hole is if you or your opponent is only up by one.  Of course, you will want to play every hole regardless, as the greatly improving golfer that you have become.

Keeping Score in Golf: It Takes Practice

Keeping score in golf is both simple and entertaining.  That is, if you like a bit of healthy competition and want to see how well you improve over a round. No matter what the score, the important thing is that you enjoy yourself on the course. Anyone can become a better golfer; do not get too wrapped up in scores if you lose.  Practice on your own until you can get better.  See you on the green!