Which Is Better: Bogey or Double Bogey?

By M.L. Rose
Some golfers refer to a double bogey as a "buzzard," but the term isn't widely used.
Some golfers refer to a double bogey as a "buzzard," but the term isn't widely used.

Bogey is the golf term for a score that’s 1 over par on a single hole. A double bogey represents a score of 2 over par for one hole. Therefore, a bogey is always a better score than a double bogey. There are, however, occasions when the effect of scoring a double bogey is no worse than that of shooting a bogey. In match play, for example, if one player scores a par, it doesn’t matter if his opponent shoots a bogey or a double bogey, as he loses the hole either way.

Derivation of Bogey

The golf term “bogey” first appeared in England in 1890 when Hugh Rotherham, secretary of the Coventry Golf Club, wanted to establish a standard number of strokes a good player should take on each hole. In the system that was developed, the score we now call a par was then termed a bogey. The word came from an English dance hall song titled “The Bogey Man” which included the lyrics, "I’m the Bogey Man, catch me if you can." The idea was that the golfer was trying to catch the proper score, just as the song challenged listeners to catch the bogey man.

Par System

An English golf writer first used the term “par” to represent a perfect score in the 1860s, but the term didn’t catch on. In 1911, the United States Golf Association developed a system standardizing scores, but it used par as the expected score, with bogey relegated to 1 over par. The British eventually followed in the 1920s.

Establishing Par

The USGA originally determined that any hole up to 225 yards long would be a par 3, meaning a score of 4 would be a bogey while a 5 would be a double bogey. Holes between 225 and 425 yards would be par 4s, holes of 426 to 600 yards would play to par 5, while any hole longer than 600 yards would be a par 6. Each par designation assumes that a player will take two putts. So for a par-4 hole, for example, the assumption is that a good golfer, playing in ideal conditions, will reach the green in two shots and take two putts to achieve a par.

Double Bogey

The term “double bogey” refers to a score of 2 over par on a single hole. Some have tried to pin the label “buzzard” on the double bogey, but the term hasn’t caught on with the golfing public.

In the United States, scores of 1 under par for a specific hole began to be referred to as birdies in the early 20th century. Continuing the avian theme, 2 under par became an eagle and 3 under was labeled a double eagle or an albatross.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

Photo Credits

  • Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images
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