Birdies, Bogeys, Pars, Eagles: Guide to Golf Scoring Terms

birdie sign next to golf ball

If you’re new to golf, you may be wondering what the golf scoring terms mean. These terms can sound quite strange to people who don’t know about golf.

However, there’s a story behind words like par, birdie, eagle, and albatross. Let’s look at the common golf scoring terms and explain what they mean.

Golf Scoring Terms Explained

Par is a good starting point because it’s our baseline score. Everything else is easily explained once you’ve got your head around par.

Par

Par is the number of strokes a scratch golfer (zero handicap) is expected to take on a given hole. So, if the first hole on your home course is a par three, a scratch golfer is expected to complete that hole in three shots.

If the second hole is a par four, that player should complete it in four shots. The scratch golfer should complete a par-five hole in five strokes.

A par-six hole in golf is rare. However, the scratch golfer would need to score a six to get a par on one of these rare holes.

The scores on each of these holes are called a par, even though the number of shots taken is different for each one. That’s because par relates to the length of the hole.

A par-three hole is short, a par-four one is longer, and a par-five hole is longer again. The added distance makes the hole harder, so the par for the hole increases with the length.

Birdie

A birdie is a better score than a par. Any beginner golfer who scores a birdie on a hole should be very happy.

When you get a birdie, you score one under par for that hole. So that means you finished a par-three hole in two strokes, a par-four hole in three strokes, and a par-five hole in four.

If by some miracle, you scored a birdie on all 18 holes, you’d score 18-under par for your round. To calculate this score, you add up each one under par over the 18 holes.

Eagle

An eagle is yet an even better score. Eagles are quite rare for the average golfer and usually happen on a par-five hole.

An eagle on a hole means you finished that hole in two under par. Therefore, you scored two shots better than par.

That’s a hole-in-one on a par three, two shots on a par four, and three on a par five. Getting an eagle is an outstanding achievement in golf, especially if you get a hole-in-one on a par three.

Albatross

The albatross in golf is also known as a double eagle. Like the bird it’s named after, an albatross in golf is very rare.

When you get an albatross, you finish the hole in three under par. That means you score three shots better than par.

On a par-three hole, an albatross is impossible – you can’t record a score of zero. An albatross on a par-four hole means you get a hole-in-one. That’s not unheard of, especially with the pros, but it’s rare. On a par-five hole, an albatross is a score of two shots.

If you ever score an albatross, make sure the drinks are on your buddies in the clubhouse.

Bogey

Okay, now that we’ve got the good scores out of the way, we should cover the not-so-good. If you’re a beginner, bogey is a good score to aim for.

The bogey is a golf scoring term that means you scored one over par on a given hole. So, you score one shot worse than par when you get a bogey.

That’s a score of four on a par three, a five on a par four, and a six on a par five. Scoring a bogey isn’t so bad, especially if you’re a beginner or a high handicapper. However, better players want to limit the number of bogeys they get during a round.

Double Bogey

A double-bogey is one shot worse than a bogey. Beginner golfers will likely see a lot of double bogeys on their scorecards.

You’ve scored two-over par on the hole when you get a double bogey. That’s two shots worse than par.

A double-bogey on a par three is five shots, six shots on a par four, and seven shots on a par five. You don’t want too many double bogeys during a round because they can make your score balloon in no time.

Triple Bogey

The triple bogey can be distressing for any golfer. That’s especially true for better players, as one triple bogey can destroy a round.

Getting a triple bogey on a hole means you score three over par. So, a triple bogey on a par three is a six. It’s a seven on a par four and an eight on a par five.

The triple bogey is a game destroyer. Even if you have only two of these during your round, it’s unlikely you’ll score well overall.

We’ll stop the bogey train there because you don’t want to think about anything beyond a triple bogey.

Check out the table below for a quick guide on the number of shots for each scoring term on each type of hole.

 Par 3Par 4Par 5
AlbatrossImpossibleHole-in-one2
EagleHole-in-one23
Birdie234
Par345
Bogey456
Double Bogey567
Triple Bogey678

The Origins of Golf Scoring Terms

Like all words, golf scoring terms have an origin story. Let’s look at the five main golfing terms from worst to best.

Bogey

The term bogey originated in England in the late 19th century. Bogey was the first stroke system to standardize the number of shots a good player should take at each hole. That’s very much like the par system we use today.

In that system, a bogey golfer was seen as a good player. Also, a bogeyman was used to describe an evil spirit people feared.

Therefore, golfers at that time played against Mister Bogey when testing themselves against the bogey scoring system. The bogey didn’t become the term for one over par until later.

Par

The golf scoring term par originates from a stock exchange term. A stock was said to be above or below its expected ‘par’ figure.

In 1870, golf writer Mr. AH Doleman first used the term par to describe the perfect score for 12 holes at Prestwick. It was the expected score to win ‘The Open’ that year.

Birdie

The birdie is an American term from the early 20th-century American slang term ‘bird.’ That slang term referred to something excellent.

Firstly, golfers of that era referred to a good shot as a bird. They later started using this term to describe a score of one-under-par on a hole.

Eagle

An eagle is an extension of the birdie as a good score, and the term originated in America. As the bald eagle is an American symbol, it makes sense that American golfers would use the eagle to signify a good score.

The term eagle followed closely behind the birdie. By 1919, golfers started using the term in Britain as well.

Albatross

The albatross scoring term is of British origin. It came later than terms like birdie and eagle, and it’s a continuation of the avian theme in golf.

In America, golfers used the term double eagle instead of albatross. Today, the word double eagle is still popular in the US.

In 1931, E E Wooler scored the first press-recorded albatross. He scored a hole-in-one on the 18th hole of the Durban Country Club in South Africa. As you now know, that hole was a par four.

Other Golf Scoring Terms

Other golf scoring terms have been introduced over the years. Some have caught on, and some haven’t.

Curlew

A curlew, known as a ‘whaup’ in Scotland, was once suggested as a term for a hole-in-one. This kept with the bird theme in golf, but it didn’t catch on. Now we use the term hole-in-one or the less formal ‘ace.’

Condor

In golf, a condor describes a score of four under par for a particular hole. So, that’s a hole-in-one on a par five.

Golf didn’t need this term until 1962 when Larry Bruce made a hole-in-one on a 480-yard dogleg par five at Hope Country Club in Hope, Arkansas. Only five condors have ever been recorded, making them very rare indeed.

Turkey

When you hear of a turkey in golf, you might think it means something bad. That’s not the case, however.

You definitely want a turkey the next time you play a game. It refers to scoring three birdies in a row during a round of golf. Achieving that will brighten up your day, no doubt.

Conclusion

And that ends our dive into the world of golf scoring terms. The bogey seems like a fitting term for a bad score. It sounds like a word you want to stay away from during your round.

The bird theme in golf seems to have happened by complete accident. Once the birdie was established as a good score, it made sense to continue the theme for better scores. The better the score, the bigger the bird.

Start hunting for birdies before you consider taking on the big boys, though.

Photo of author

Joe Morelli

Joe's been playing golf for 25 years, starting as a junior golfer in his early teens. He loves getting out on the links with his dad and friends -- whether an early weekend foursome or his weekday, afternoon league.