You and your friends decide to play a round of golf after work one day and head over to your local golf course. After you book your tee time, you head in the pro shop and pay for your round. The pro shop attendant hands you a scorecard and tells you where the first hole is to tee off.
But, how do I keep score? What are all of these yardages? What does slope mean? What is this handicap number?
DON’T WORRY, the card looks more confusing then it is. There is a lot of critical and useful information on the golf scorecard that will help you when you are out playing on the course! If you are new to golf and don’t know what you need in your bag or where even to start, take a look at my beginning golfers’ survival guide. I go over everything you need to know before hitting the first hole!
Below are 12 steps to help you understand the essential features of a scorecard and how to use them to immediately score lower!
1. Hole #
Across the top of the scorecard are the hole numbers. Depending on which course you are at there should be either 9 or 18 holes on the scorecard. The pro shop will either send a group off of the front 9 (holes 1-9) or the back 9 (holes10-18) so remember which side you are starting on so you know where to look on the scorecard.
Now that you know which hole you are starting on, it’s time to observe the yardage for each hole. The yardage distance for each hole will be displayed under the hole number and will vary depending on what the par is for the hole (more on this later). If you ever want to find yardages on your own, you are going to want to use a rangefinder. Check out my options for affordable rangefinders on my recommended golf gear page here!
There will be a total yardage column after the 9th and 18th holes where the front and back 9 total yards are located. Use this information to decide which set of tees you are going to play from
3. Tee Colors
Each colored tee represents different yardages that you will play on each hole. If you want to play the course longer, you can play from the top tee which is the first tee all the way to the top- left of the scorecard. The yardages of each colored tee keep going down the further you go down the scorecard. All courses have different colored tee markers so it’s best to look at which color you want to play by observing the yardage for each 9 and selecting the appropriate tee based on your skill level.
Here is a general example of which type of golfers play from which tee box:
- Forward Tees: Women, seniors, and beginners play from these tees to make the golf course the shortest length
- Middle Tees: Intermediate golfers play from these tees to make the course an average length
- Back Tees: These tees are reserved for highly skilled golfers or professionals. Playing from the back tees make the course the longest in the distance played.
Under the colored tees, there is a box on the far left side to put the names of those playing. The maximum number of players in a group will be 4 golfers.
After everyone’s name has been written on the left side of the scorecard, it is important to look at the PAR for each hole and then at the total for each 9 holes.
Standard golf courses usually have a total par of 36 for each side making 72, par for 18 holes. Some courses may be higher or lower depending on the hole structure of the course.
- Par 3’s, will have lower yardage and it is expected you get the ball in the hole in 3 shots. You can read my article here to learn how to master par 3’s!
- Par 4’s are average in length, and it is expected you get the ball in the hole in 4 shots.
- Par 5’s are the longest and require 5 shots to get par on the hole.
When playing a standard stroke play match, you will be counting the number of shots it takes to get the golf ball in the hole from the tee box, writing the total under the appropriate hole.
After counting the number of shots, you can use the following terms when writing in your score
- Double eagle (Albatross): 3 strokes under par
- Eagle: 2 Strokes under par
- Birdie: 1 Stroke under par
- Par: Exact strokes as the par of the hole
- Bogey: 1 stroke over par
- Double Bogey: 2 strokes over par
- Triple Bogey: 3 strokes over par
Anything higher than a triple bogey is usually just said as the number of strokes taken that hole.
After you complete 9 holes, the total number of strokes should be added up and recorded in the last column under the correct name of the player. If you are keeping score for another golfer, it’s always best to go over their scores with them to make sure you each have the correct strokes per hole.
If these terms are confusing for you, check out my definitions for common golf terms in my article here!
Each scorecard will have a row titled “handicap,” and there will be a number under each hole.
Handicap numbers range from 1-18 and rank the difficulty of each hole.
A hole with a 1 handicap will be the hardest hole, and a hole with an 18 will be the easiest hole.
Note: Some courses will split the handicap ratings per 9 holes so you will have a different set of handicap ratings for every 9 holes you play. (1-9)
The course rating located on the scorecard is the assumed score a “scratch” golfer would shoot at the course.
The number is usually between 67-77. The lower the course rating, the easier the course, as rated by the USGA. (United States Golf Association)
There will be a course rating for each colored tee so make sure you are looking at the correct row of the tee you are playing.
9. Slope Rating
Next to the course rating on the scorecard, there will be a slope rating. The slope rating is the difficulty the USGA has rated the course comparing the score for a ‘bogey golfer’ to a ‘scratch’ golfer.
The range of the slope is usually between 55 and 155 with the average course rating being 113 for a course of medium difficulty. There will also be a different slope for each colored tee you chose to play from.
You can find more info about the course rating and slope here and how it relates to finding your own golf handicap!
10. Making the round official
At the bottom of the scorecard, there will be a line that says SCORER, and a line that says ATTEST.
- In competitive golf, the scorecard will not be officially recorded if it is not signed.
- Generally at the beginning of each round, scorecards will be exchanged so that your opponent(s) will have your scorecard and you will have theirs.
- At the end of the round, you will go over all your opponent’s scores making sure that they are accurate and added correctly.
- Sign the bottom of their scorecard under SCORER and have them sign Attest.
- Retrieve your scorecard back and sign the ATTEST line.
- Write in the date of the round played, and your scorecard will be regarded as “official.”
- Maneuverings around a golf course can sometimes be hard especially when you have never played at the course before.
Usually located on the back of the scorecard is a map of the course showing all of the holes.
Using the map can be very beneficial when the course has water hazards as you can note which areas to avoid. They also make many smartphone apps and GPS devices that show you a map of the course where you can see an overview of each hole.
12. Rules and Etiquette
Also located on the back of the scorecard there are usually local course rules and proper etiquette guidelines that are expected to be maintained on the course. The average pace of play is generally mentioned as well so it is always best to see how quickly you are supposed to play your round so that you can get the most enjoyment from your golf round. To learn more about golf etiquette and pace of play, click here to view my full article
The scorecard has a lot of useful features that are very beneficial when playing your golf round. Learning the yardage for each hole and knowing how to write in scores helps keep golf competitive and fun!
Quick Tip: I always tell my students to print off a scorecard or look online for the course they are going to play, BEFORE, the round. This helps you get an idea of:
- Which tees you want to play
- Which holes are the hardest
- Where the hazards are on each hole
- Where the golf course is located
Knowing the scorecard before your round will help you feel more organized and prepared to navigate around the golf course. If you are curious about how to use yardage markers while in your round, read my article here so you can take advantage of everything the course offers!
It’s not as intimidating as it looks and by understanding these steps, you can take full advantage of the scorecard and be fully prepared for your round!