As a beginner in golf, one of the things that likely intimidates you is the scoring. The numbers (and even letters) reflect your skills, and you inevitably describe yourself as either a bad or good golfer depending on them. The best way to look at golf scoring is that it’s an identifier of how much effort you should put into the game, and the first thing you should know about golf scoring is that there are various methods!
Knowing how each scoring method works is key to understanding your progress and genuinely enjoying golf. In this article, we’ll touch up on the different golf scoring methods and focus on Stableford. What is this golf scoring method, and how does it work? Will it affect your golf journey as a high-handicap golfer? Let’s find out.
Golf Scoring Methods
Learning golf as a sport is undeniably confusing at first. You have lots of terms, rules, and tips to understand. The sport also has various scoring systems that players use to measure their success. Here are the three primary golf scoring methods:
In stroke play, the total number of strokes that the player takes on a course becomes their final score. The one who accumulates fewer strokes than anyone else wins. For example, in a 72-par course, the player with a score of par or lower wins.
Match play is the counterpart of traditional stroke play, wherein the objective is to win each hole. The player who manages to do this throughout the course or who wins the most holes wins the match.
Lastly, in Stableford scoring, the objective is to score as many points as possible. This scoring is a bit complicated for beginners, but the score is calculated based on the number of strokes you take on each hole. You earn points for each hole, and win by receiving the most points in the game.
Team Scoring Methods
Team scoring methods are essential since most golf tournaments and events involve teams of players. These methods include the following:
- Foursomes: A team game where two players take turns hitting the ball, and both will use the same ball until it’s holed.
- Four Ball Better Ball: Two players make the team, and the better score of each pair on each hole is recorded.
- Greensomes: Similar to foursomes, two players take turns hitting the ball, but both players tee off. Players with the weaker first shot take the second and then alternate until the ball is holed.
- Bloodsomes: A variation of the greensomes where the opposing team selects which ball the players will use during each hole.
- Scramble: Each team player (usually four players) tees off, and the best shot is chosen. All team players then play their second shots from the spot where the best shot was made until the hole is finished.
- Texas Scramble: A variation of the scramble where each team member tees off, and the best shot is chosen, but each team player must take at least four tee shots.
The History of Stableford Scoring
Now, let’s shift our focus to Stableford scoring. It may be your first time hearing (or reading) about this golf scoring method, but it has been around for over a century! Created in the late 1800s by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford, the scoring method was initially intended to encourage players to keep going and avoid quitting in the middle of the game.
Dr. Stableford was called the “Patron Saint of Club Golfers” because he always had the average golfer in mind. He learned that many golfers quit quickly because of bad starts, so he crafted the scoring system. Now, even if you get a disaster hole, you can still earn something and make an impressive score at the end!
How Stableford Scoring Works
As mentioned earlier, the number of points you earn is based on your number of strokes to finish a hole compared to par. One thing that makes Stableford scoring different is that the par is adjusted up or down, depending on your handicap. Therefore, this scoring method focuses on how you play against your own handicap.
Unlike other scoring methods, your goal in Stableford is to get the highest score. Here are the standard Stableford point values:
- 0 points – Two strokes or more over par (Double Bogey or worse)
- 1 point – One stroke over par (Bogey)
- 2 points – Par
- 3 points – One stroke under par (Birdie)
- 4 points – Two strokes under par (Eagle)
- 5 points – Three strokes under par (Albatross or Double Eagle)
- 6 points – Four strokes under par (Condor)
Another thing that differentiates Stableford from other scoring methods is that the point system is adjustable. The group of golfers or organizers can modify the point values depending on the difficulty of the course, the players’ handicaps, or other factors. A good example is the PGA’s 2019 Barracuda Championship point values:
- -3 Points – Two strokes or more over par (Double Bogey or worse)
- -1 Point – One stroke over par (Bogey)
- 0 Points – Par
- +2 Points – One stroke under par (Birdie)
- +5 Points – Two strokes under par (Eagle)
- +8 Points – Three strokes under par (Albatross or Double Eagle)
The modified Stableford scoring encourages aggressive play as players can earn more points for good scores than traditional Stableford scoring offers!
The Advantage of the Stableford Scoring
You may think that stroke play is much easier than Stableford scoring, and you’d rather just stick with the traditional scoring. Other players feel the same! However, you’ll miss out on some of the advantages of using the Stableford scoring method.
Rough Start? Play On!
One of the most significant advantages of Stableford scoring is that it encourages you to still play even if you have a terrible start. You don’t need to worry about having a bad hole; you can still get at least one point from Stableford scoring if your score is over par. The scoring method helps motivate players to keep going and strive for a better score even if their performance isn’t excellent.
No Need To Always Play It Safe
Another advantage of Stableford scoring is that it encourages players to take risks and play aggressively. You can still earn points even if you make a mistake! Players can make up for a bad hole by taking risks and earning higher points from lower scores in the next hole. The scoring makes the game exciting and allows players to improve as they learn to manage risk.
Lastly, the Stableford scoring system shows all golf players, especially beginners, that the sport can still be enjoyable and rewarding even if they’re not playing as well as intended. The scoring system gives golfers a new perspective: every shot counts, and they can still have a great time playing golf even if they don’t get the best score.
What About High-Handicap Golfers?
The United States Golf Association (USGA) explains that the purpose of your handicap is to enhance the game’s enjoyment. It also gives you the opportunity to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index and use it on any golf course, wherever you are in the world. Your handicap allows you to compete or play fair and equally.
The Stableford scoring method is advantageous in different ways. But what if we factor your high handicap in? Would the method lessen how the sport intimidates you? As mentioned above, Stableford scoring looks at how you play against your handicap. Put simply, it rewards you for working on your high handicap!
The Stableford scoring method allows golf players of various skill levels to compete more closely. The handicap will complicate the scoring, but this kind of scoring generally rewards golfers for playing well.
For example, you’d get a stroke on the five most difficult holes if you have a five handicap. A par for these holes increases by one stroke. If you get a par-four in one of these holes, it’d be a par-five. This scoring system means you earn par points if you shoot a five.
For players with a ten handicap, you subtract one from the first through the tenth handicapped holes based on your handicap. If you make a par on one of the most challenging holes, you end up scoring a birdie. You then use your net score for the points you earned on each hole.
For high-handicap golfers with a 20-handicap, you get one stroke for every hole and another stroke for the two toughest holes on an 18-hole course. If the most challenging hole is a par-four, it’d be a par-six, rewarding you birdie points with a score of five.
The Stableford scoring method considers your handicap, which means you can still earn points even if you shoot over par. It’s a great way to have more fun while playing golf and lowers the intimidation level of the sport! The scoring also encourages you to take risks, which teaches you how to manage risks and become a better golfer. Golf becomes more rewarding and less of a chore. On your next game, give Stableford scoring a try!