What is a Birdie? Golf’s Scoring Success Demystified

golfer celebrating after making a putt

Golf is a game filled with various terms and rules that can sometimes be confusing for beginners and experienced players alike. One term that you’ll often hear on the golf course is “birdie.” In this article, we’ll explore what a birdie is, how it affects golf scores, and the impact of birdies on the game.

What is a Birdie in Golf?

A birdie in golf is a score of one stroke under par on a hole. It’s achieved when a golfer completes a hole using one less stroke than the hole’s predetermined par, indicating a better-than-average performance for that particular hole.

Origin of the Term “Birdie”

The term “birdie” dates back to the early 20th century. It is said to have originated in 1899 at the Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey. According to the story, a golfer named Ab Smith hit an incredible approach shot, and his partner exclaimed, “That was a bird of a shot!” The term “bird” was slang for something outstanding or excellent.

From then on, when a player scored one under par on a hole, it was referred to as a “birdie.” The term quickly spread and became a standard part of golf terminology.

How to Achieve a Birdie

A birdie is achieved when a golfer completes a hole in one stroke less than the hole’s par. Par is the predetermined number of strokes that an expert golfer is expected to take to complete a specific hole or course. For example, if the par for a hole is 4, and you finish the hole in 3 strokes, you’ve made a birdie.

Here are some strategies to increase your chances of making a birdie:

  1. Improve your short game: A strong short game, particularly putting, can be the key to achieving more birdies. Focus on improving your putting skills and distance control on chips and pitches.
  2. Be accurate with your approach shots: Hitting your approach shots closer to the hole can significantly increase your chances of making birdies. Work on your iron play and learn to control your ball flight for better accuracy.
  3. Take advantage of par-5 holes: Par-5 holes often present the best birdie opportunities. Develop a strategy for playing these holes that maximizes your chances of reaching the green in fewer strokes.

The Impact of Birdies on Golf Scores

scratch golfer - scorecard

Birdies can greatly affect a player’s overall score in a round of golf. Since a birdie is scored when a golfer finishes a hole in one stroke less than par, each birdie made lowers the player’s total score. In professional golf and tournaments, birdies can be crucial in determining the winner, as the difference between first and second place is often just a few strokes.

Birdies and Golf Handicaps

In golf, a player’s handicap is a numerical measure of their potential playing ability based on their past performance. A lower handicap indicates a more skilled golfer. Birdies can play a significant role in lowering a golfer’s handicap, as consistently making birdies is a sign of a player’s ability to perform well on the course.

The relationship between birdies and golf skill levels is evident when comparing the performance of amateur and professional golfers. Professionals tend to make more birdies per round than amateurs, which is a testament to their superior skill and consistency.


How many shots is a birdie?

A birdie is one shot less than the par for a hole.

How is a birdie scored in golf?

A birdie is scored when a golfer completes a hole in one stroke less than the hole’s predetermined par.

What is the history behind the term “birdie” in golf?

The term “birdie” originated in 1899 at the Atlantic City Country Club, where a golfer named Ab Smith hit an excellent shot, and his partner exclaimed, “That was a bird of a shot!” The term “bird” was slang for something outstanding, and it evolved into “birdie” to describe a score of one under par on a hole.

How do birdies affect a golfer’s overall score?

Birdies positively affect a golfer’s overall score by lowering it, as a birdie represents a better-than-average performance on a hole.

Is a birdie better than an eagle in golf?

No, a birdie is not better than an eagle. An eagle is a score of two strokes under par, which is a more exceptional accomplishment than a birdie, which is one stroke under par.


In conclusion, a birdie is an essential term in golf, representing a score of one stroke under par on a hole. Understanding what a birdie is and how it impacts golf scores can help players appreciate the game’s nuances and develop strategies to improve their performance.

Birdies can make a significant difference in a golfer’s overall score and play a crucial role in determining winners in professional golf and tournaments. By focusing on improving your short game, approach shots, and strategy on par-5 holes, you can increase your chances of making birdies and lowering your handicap.

The history and impact of birdies in golf showcase the game’s rich traditions and the importance of skill and consistency. So, the next time you’re on the golf course, keep striving for those birdies to elevate your game and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving this coveted feat.

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with decades of experience playing this amazing sport. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn, improve and enjoy the game of golf.