Golf Scoring Terms (Par, Bogey, Birdie, Eagle, Albatross, and More)

We've compiled a list of 100+ golf terms that are useful to know, but the golf scoring terms we'll cover in this guide are among the most essential when you're out on the course or watching televised golf.

Golf Scoring Terms Cheat Sheet

Golf Scoring Term
Explanation
Stroke
Any forward club swing that's intended to hit the golf ball.
Par
The number of strokes an expert player is expected to make for a given hole or a group of holes (usually 9 or 18).
Birdie
One stroke under par on an individual hole.
Eagle
Two strokes under par on an individual hole.
Albatross / Double Eagle
Three strokes under par on an individual hole.
Condor
Four strokes under par on an individual hole.
Ace / Hole-in-One
Getting the ball in the hole (cup) in only one stroke.
Bogey
One stroke over par on an individual hole.
Double Bogey
Two strokes over par on an individual hole.
Triple Bogey
Three strokes over par on an individual hole.
Quadruple Bogey
Four strokes over par on an individual hole.

Golf Scoring Terms Explained

Stroke - In golf, a "Stroke" is any forward club swing, including when putting, that a golfer is trying to hit the ball. 

You can essentially use "Stroke" as a synonym for a shot/putt, but keep in mind that it also includes "whiffs" if you miss the ball when trying to hit it.

Par - "Par" is the number of strokes that an expert or "scratch" golfer is expected to need to complete a hole. 

Par always includes two putts for each hole. On a par-4 hole, a scratch golfer is supposed to reach the green in two strokes, then complete the hole with two putts.

Distance, or more specifically "effective distance" (the distance a hole plays after accounting for whether it's uphill/downhill, its elevation, etc.), is the main determining factor in a hole's par rating.

Here are the USGA's distance guidelines for men:

  • Par-3 – Up to 250 yards
  • Par-4 – 251 to 470 yards
  • Par-5 – 401 to 690 yards

For women, the USGA’s distance guidelines are:

  • Par-3 – Up to 210 yards
  • Par-4 – 211 to 400 yards
  • Par-5 – 401 to 575 yards

The golf scoring term "Par" is also used to reference the combined par of a group of golf holes.

Full-length 18-hole golf courses include par-3, par-4, and par-5 holes. "Course Par" for the 18 holes will usually be between 69-73, with par-72 being most common for an 18-hole golf course.

Par can also be used for multiple rounds of golf. In the PGA tour, tournaments are usually played over four days, with 18 holes being played each day.

On a par-72 golf course, par for four rounds is 288. On leaderboards and television graphics, you'll usually be shown a professional golfers score relative to par for all holes played thus far in all days of the tournament. Sometimes their scores for individual rounds will also be shown or discussed.

Under Par - The term "under par" describe a player's score when they've taken fewer strokes than par up to a given point of the golf course.

If a player took 3 strokes to complete a par-3, 3 strokes to complete a par-4, and 4 strokes to complete a par-5 hole, their score could be described as "two under par" or "-2".

Over Par - The term "over par" can describe a player's score relative to par when they've taken more strokes than par.

If a player took 4 strokes to complete a par-3, 6 strokes to complete a par-4, and 4 strokes to complete a par-5 hole, their score could be described as "two over par" or "+2".

Even - "Even" ("E") can be used to describe a golfer's score when it is equal to the combined par of all holes that they've completed.

A golfer would be even through three holes if they took 4 strokes to complete a par-3, 3 strokes to complete a par-4, and 5 strokes to complete a par-5 hole.

Birdie - A "Birdie" is when a golfer scores one less stroke than par on an individual golf hole. Ex: 2 strokes on a par-3 hole.

In 2019, the PGA Tour average number of birdies per round was just 3.68. Justin Thomas led the way, averaging 4.58 birdies per round.

For average golfers, birdies (and even pars) are far more challenging to make than pros would indicate.

MyGolfSpy and TheGrint (a Golf GPS and Golf Handicapping App) analyzed how often users of TheGrint made par, birdie or better, bogey, double bogey, and triple bogey or worse.

As you can see in the chart below, golfers with a 16-20 handicap only average 0.3 birdies or better per round. TheGrint users at the same handicap range only make 3.6 pars per round.

Birdies, Pars, Bogeys Per Handicap (Source MyGolfSpy)

It's not until golfer's in that study reached a handicap in the range of 1-5 that they started averaging more than 1 birdie per round (and 9 pars per round).

Eagle - An "Eagle" is when a golfer scores two fewer strokes than par on an individual golf hole. Ex: 3 strokes on a par-5 hole.

Eagles are most commonly achieved by reaching a par-5 green in 2 strokes, then completing the hole with one putt.

Albatross / Double Eagle - An "Albatross" or "Double Eagle" is when a golfer scores three fewer strokes than par on an individual golf hole. Ex: 2 strokes on a par-5 hole.

An Albatross is far rarer than even a hole-in-one (ace).

Condor - A "Condor" is when a golfer scores four strokes less than par on an individual golf hole. Ex: 1 stroke on a par-5 hole.

Only four condors have been recorded in PGA history. Generally, the only way to accomplish a condor is to massively "cut off" a "dogleg" par-5 golf hole for a hole-in-one.

Hole-in-One / Ace - A "Hole-in-One" or "Ace" occurs when a golfer hits their first shot into the hole (cup), completing the hole in just one stroke. 

Aces are very rare. According to American Hole 'N One, the average golfer's chances of making a hole-in-one on a par-3 hole are 12,500 to 1. The odds improve for professional golfers at 2,500 to 1.

When aces do occur, it's almost always on a par-3 hole, though hole-in-ones have been accomplished on par-4 and even par-5 holes.

Bogey - A "Bogey" is when a golfer scores one stroke OVER par. Ex: 5 strokes on a par-4 hole.

While a bogey is a bad result for a low handicap or professional golfer, new and less skilled golfers are often fine with only needing one more stroke than par to complete a hole. 

If you got a bogey on every hole of a par-72 course, you'd shoot a 90. This is a major milestone for newer golfers.

Double Bogey - A "Double Bogey" is when a golfer scores two strokes OVER par. Ex: 6 strokes on a par-4 hole.

Triple Bogey - A "Triple Bogey" is when a golfer scores three strokes OVER par. Ex: 7 strokes on a par-4 hole.

Quadruple Bogey - A "Quadruple Bogey" is when a golfer scores four strokes OVER par. Ex: 8 strokes on a par-4 hole.