How to Score in Golf

By Richard Kalinowski
Scoring a round of golf can be somewhat confusing if you never have played before.
Scoring a round of golf can be somewhat confusing if you never have played before.

Golf is a widely popular sport in the United States and abroad, and the sport’s popularity will not likely diminish in the near future. Though traditionally less active in the sport, the number of women actively engaging in golf has risen nearly twofold since 1997, according to the Associated Press. While most new players understand the basic concept of the game, scoring a round of golf can be somewhat confusing if you never have done it before. Luckily, even somebody new to golf can score a round by following a few quick steps.

Mark scores for each hole immediately after the hole is complete; you do not want to risk forgetting or guessing scores later on.

Scores should be marked numerically, indicating how many strokes it took the player to get the ball in the hole; players also can agree to “concede” the hole rather than actually getting the ball into the hole. The United States Golf Association indicates that a hole “concession” means a ball is very close to the hole and both players agree to skip the next shot, marking the skipped shot as one stroke, essentially assuming the player would have made the conceded putt.

Do not set hole maximums. The USGA states “the Rules of Golf do not set a maximum score for a hole.”

Add a one-stroke penalty to the score if the golfer’s ball is deemed “unplayable” because it was lost or went out of bounds. In addition to scoring this extra stroke penalty, the golfer must hit the new “provisional ball” from the spot where the lost ball originally was struck, thereby incurring a distance penalty along with the stroke penalty. If a lost ball is found after a provisional ball has been used, the formerly lost ball becomes the new “in-play” ball, but the one-stroke penalty remains on the player’s score.

Score all playable balls the same, with one swing equaling one stroke. Unless a ball is out of bounds or lost, it must be played where it lies—this includes balls in water hazards, according to the USGA. Hazard balls are even considered playable, and golfers cannot negotiate stroke penalties for moving playable balls.

Add up player scores at the end of the match, comparing the final, raw number to the course’s “par.” Final golf scores are not given as raw stroke numbers, instead they are given as “under” or “over” par. For example, if the course has a par of 35, and it took you 33 strokes to complete the entire course, your final score is not 33, rather it is “2-under par.”

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