As a caddie I’m sometimes asked to keep score for my player or team. With the invention of golf scoring apps and devices such as Vpar this has made the scoring task a whole lot easier. But what if the player or team you are caddying for does not have the luxury of a digital scoring system? Do not fear… here is my fool proof guide “how to score in golf”.

Firstly, if you are new to golf or caddying let me explain a few of the terms which you will need as they will be used in the scoring process.

Par – This can mean two things. Either the number of strokes that the hole should be played based on its length, which can usually be found on the scorecard. Or the other meaning which is “par for the course”. In this instance it is the number of strokes in which the entire course should be played if you were a scratch golfer with a handicap of zero.

Index – this rates the degree of difficulty on each hole. Index 1 is generally the most difficult and index 18 is usually the easiest. The index allows the player to allocate their handicap points over the holes on the course.

A golf “handicap” refers to the number assigned to a golfer which accurately reflects the golfer’s skill level. It reflects the approximate number of strokes a golfer is able to take in relation to even par. Therefore, the lower the handicap, the better the golfer, and vice versa. Having a handicap allows golfers of all levels to be able to play together regardless of their skill level.

There are three main ways to score in golf.

Stroke Play

For this scoring system you will count every stroke the player makes (even with a miss) on every hole and enter each number onto the scorecard. After the round you then add up all the strokes taken for the 18 holes which then gives you a gross score. The handicap is deducted from that figure to give a net score (gross score – handicap = TOTAL net score). For example, if a player finishes his round with a gross score of 80 strokes and has a handicap of 10, the player’s net score would be 70 (80-10=70). It is the NET score that is given to the committee.


The stableford scoring system is the most widely used in corporate and charity golf days and is similar to stroke play but player’s receive points relating to their strokes. With stableford scoring the par of each hole is important.

For example, if you are playing a par 3 hole then you would expect the player to take 3 strokes to complete that hole. Par 4 would take 4 strokes and par 5 would be 5 strokes.

The basic point scoring for Stableford is as follows:

1 point for a 1 over par score (Bogey)

2 points for a level score (Par)

3 points for a 1 under par score (Birdie)

4 points for a 2 under par score (Eagle)

5 points for a 3 under par score (Albatross)

The index for the hole allows your player to allocate your handicap over the individual holes for an 18 hole competition.

E.g. A 45 handicap is allocated an extra 2 strokes per hole plus an additional stroke on the 9 hardest holes indexed 1-9.

  • 3 additional strokes on index 1-9
  • 2 additional strokes on index 10-18

A 36 handicap is allocated two extra strokes on all 18 holes.

An 18 handicap is allocated one extra stroke on all 18 holes.

A 9 handicap is allocated one extra stroke on only index 1-9.

  • This player would NOT get any strokes for the remaining holes 10-18.

The following example is based on a handicap of 20, playing a par 5 hole with an index of 10.

  • Your player will be allocated two extra strokes so therefore the par for this hole will be 7.
  • If your player take 7 strokes they will score 2 points.

If your player exceeds their own par by 2 strokes (based on their handicap) they cannot score any points for that hole and must pick up.

Match Play

Match play is a simple scoring system where a player or team earns a point for each hole in which they have defeated their opponents with less strokes. The winner is the player or team with the most points at the end of play.

Similar to stroke play, you must count your players strokes taken on a given hole. The player with the lowest score on a given hole receives one point. If the golfers tie, then the hole is halved. For example, in an 18-hole match, the first hole is a par-4 and Player A scores a 3 (birdie) and Player B scores a 4 (par); Player A is now 1-up with 17 to play. In the same match on the second hole, a par-5, Player A takes 8 strokes and Player B takes 5 (par); Player B wins the hole and the match is now “all square” with 16 to play. On the third hole, a par-3, both players take 3 strokes and the match is all square with 15 holes to play. Once a player

is “up” more holes than there are holes remaining to play the match is over. For example, if after 12 holes Player A is 7-up with six left to play, Player A is said to have won the match “7 and 6”.

When the opposing players scores are even after the last hole, the players will play on until a player wins a hole (sudden death).

Handicaps are allocated hole by hole, as in the stroke play, with one exception. In a head-to-head match, the players use the difference between their handicaps. For example, if Player A’s handicap is 5 and Player B’s handicap is 14, Player B receives one stroke at each of the course’s nine most difficult holes, while Player A plays at scratch, receiving no handicap strokes. A four-person match with the players’ handicaps of 2, 4, 11 and 16, respectively, the three highest handicappers calculate their allocated strokes relative to the best player. The first player would play at scratch, the second player receives three strokes, the third player would get nine strokes and the fourth player would receive 15.

Regardless of scoring method used it is crucial that scorecards are correctly filled out to avoid any penalties or disqualification. The vital information that must be on the card before you hand it in is:

  • Players name & handicap
  • Date
  • Type of competition
  • Stroke score for the hole
  • Player & Marker signatures (DO NOT sign the card until it is complete)

If you found this blog interesting or are thinking you may like to join our Keen Caddie team then please get in touch for more information

Alternatively, if you have a golf day coming up and need a caddie then please drop us a line 0333 335 5331 or email, we would be happy to help!