Golf Scoring System

Golf Scoring System

Additional Golf Scoring Terminology:

If you’re new to the game of golf, or a seasoned vet, we all have to play by the same golf scoring system. Granted, some of you may not bother to keep your golf score depending on the way you’re swinging the club that day. And some decide only to keep their golf score on the “good” holes, and tend to forget about the bad ones and pretend they never happened. But that’s the great thing about this game; you get to start over on every new hole.

The golf scoring system is all based around a standard which is referred to as par. Each hole has its own par number that is determined by the difficulty of the hole. The difficulty factor is mainly judged by how long the hole is from tee to green. Without the use of the handicap golf scoring system, all golfers tally up their golf scores and compare their scores relative to the course’s set par value.

Golf courses will generally have at least three different “sets” of tees. So each hole can be played at different difficulties based on your skill level. There are always a set of women’s tees. Some courses have a separate set of “senior” tees. Then the next longest tees are the “standard” or normal tees that the majority of men will play. Most all courses will then have a longer set of tees for the more advanced players. And finally, the nicer courses that host professional tournaments will have a set of tees even further back for the pros. The longest set of tees on any given course is generally referred to as the “tips”. Each set of tees has a unique course rating and slope rating that is used to determine your golf handicap, but we’ll delve into that later.

So not only does each hole on the course have a given par value, but within that same par, you can choose to play a different length of tees to make it more or less difficult according to your skill level. There are lots of options to test our skills and golf scoring ability appropriately. With the way the golf scoring system is set up, there are only three different “levels” of par…3, 4 and 5. Length is the main determining factor of what number of par is assigned to each individual hole. You’ll hear the term “green in regulation” or GIR. This means that the golfer is able to reach a green in two shots fewer than the overall par for the hole. So for a par 3, the golfer has to have a legitimate chance at reaching the green in one shot in order to have two putts to par the hole. Following this same logic, par 4s are generally able to be reached in two shots, and par 5s it normally takes most players three shots to reach the green.

Par 3s are relatively shorter holes that the golfer can reach the green in one shot. Par 3s on most golf courses range in distance from a minimum of around 100 yards to a maximum of about 200 yards. There are some exceptions, but for the most part this is what you’ll see. A green in regulation on a par 3 is safely landing the ball on the green in one shot.

Par 4s usually range from 280 to 450 yards roughly give or take depending on the course, but the majority of all par 4s will fit in this range. Shorter par 4s are usually designed so that there is “trouble” around the green to provide a risk/reward for the longer hitters to entice them to try and drive the green. But if they miss, they’ll have to pay for it on their next shot from a bunker or from taking a penalty for driving it in the water, or something like that. A green in regulation on a par 4 is safely landing the ball on the green in two shots.

Par 5s usually measure between 450 to 580 yards depending on the course. Some longer hitters can reach some par 5s in two good shots, but for the most part, par 5s are designed to take three shots to reach the green for most golfers. Again, in order to tally a green in regulation on a par 5, you must safely land the ball on the green in three shots.

The combination of all the par values for all 18 holes will determine what the overall par value is for the course. You’ll find the majority of courses have a par of 72 as the norm. 36 for the front nine, and 36 for the back nine. The way each course goes about adding up to the 36 is different, but a standard combination is two par 3s, two par 5s and five par 4s, for a total of 36.

Once you add up all of your strokes for the round, you’ll get a value that’s either more or less than the par value for that course, and that will be your score in relation to par. This value goes into the formula to help determine your golf handicap. Your golf handicap is an adjustment to the overall par value for the course. The value of your handicap is added to the course par to essentially create your very own par for the course based on your ability.

Golf handicaps allow players of all skill levels to play against each other competitively. It also creates a benchmark for you to build upon and judge how much you improve over the course of time as you play and practice the game more.

For example if two players were going to play against each other, and one player doesn’t have a handicap, also referred to as a “scratch golfer” (scratch means a zero handicap), and the other golfer has a 12 handicap. The scratch golfer would have to give 12 strokes to the other golfer, essentially meaning that the 12 handicapper would be playing to a par of 84 on a course that normally plays to a par of 72, while the scratch player would be playing to a par of 72. This handicap system levels the playing field, and creates a level standard for each unique player.

To help facilitate golfers of different handicaps, each golf course ranks each of the 18 holes from hardest to easiest. The hardest hole is ranked as the #1 handicap hole on the course, and easiest hole is given a handicap value of #18. With this in mind, if a the two players referred to above were to play each other in a match play round of golf, the 12 strokes would be applied to the 12 hardest holes. That means that the scratch golfer would have to give one stroke per hole on the 12 highest ranked handicap holes for that specific course. On the remaining six easiest holes, the two players would play against each other straight up without giving/getting any additional strokes.

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