Have you ever watched a golf tournament on TV and wondered what all the numbers mean? Golf terminology can be confusing at the best of times, birdie this, bogey that. What does it all mean?
On a golf leaderboard, the letter “E” stands for Even. This means the golfer has taken exactly the expected number of shots relative to par. He’s not taken any more or any less shots than the course should have been played in.
What Does Par Mean In Golf?
In most sports it’s pretty easy to judge how well you’re doing. In sports like basketball, soccer or tennis, where you face off against an opponent in each match, you are judged on whether you have scored more or less points than that opponent. If it’s more you are winning, less and you are losing. Easy!
In a sport like golf it’s more difficult. You’re not usually competing directly against an opponent (unless the competition is a matchplay format – more about that here). You’re competing against the course and then being ranked on how successful you were against that.
In order to rank the various players in a tournament against the course you need to have a measure that everyone can be judged against. This is called “par”.
Par is determined on a hole by hole basis and then added together to come up with an overall par for the course.
Most courses will contain a mixture of par 3, 4 and 5 holes with the distance and difficulty being a factor in which category they fall into. Par 3’s are the shortest and Par 5’s the longest. Note, holes can go up to par 6+ but this is very rare and not normally found on standard courses.
How Long Is The Average Par 3, 4 or 5?
The individual holes have a minimum and maximum length they need to be in order to fall into each category. They are as follows:
- Par 3 – a minimum of 0 yards to a maximum of 250 yards
- Par 4 – a minimum of 251 yards to a maximum of 470 yards
- Par 5 – a minimum of 471 yards to a maximum of 690 yards
- Par 6 – a minimum of 691 yards
How To Read The Leaderboard In Golf
Below is the example of a golf leaderboard from a recent PGA tournament. I’ve included details on how to understand what’s going on.
- The yellow circle tells you which round is currently being played. Most PGA tournaments are held over 4 rounds, one each day Thursday through Sunday.
- The Green circle is that players score relative to par for the tournament overall. In this case Justin Rose has taken 7 shots less than par (the -7) so far. You would hear this being referred to as “seven under”.
- The blue circle is the score taken by that player for the current round only. So you can see that Jhonattan Vegas has shot a score of 64 on that day. Sometimes this will show a number between 1 and 18. In that case it means the player is still on the course and that is how many holes he has completed of his round of 18.
- The red circle is the players current position out of the field. So Justin Rose is in first place currently. You’ll notice there is no second place and it skips straight to third. That’s because Harold Varner is tied on -7 with Justin Rose so they are first AND second currently with the next best score then being third.
What Does F Mean On A Golf Leaderboard?
Sometimes, in the blue circle on the image above, you will see the letter “F” instead of a number like a 65 or 1-18.
This simply means “Finished” and is another way of saying that player has completed their round for the day.
Whether this or the round score is used is normally at the discretion of whoever is producing the leaderboard graphics.
What Does +1 Mean In Golf?
This is a simple one. Plus one (normally displayed as +1) simply means you’ve taken one more shot than you would normally be expected to over the course of the holes you’ve played. It’s also referred to as having “dropped a shot” because you have given up one shot against par.
What Does A Golf Score Of 4 & 3 Mean?
Some golf tournaments are not played relative to par and are instead played in a head to head format. This is called matchplay and the scoring system is a bit different.
In a matchplay tournament players will go up against each other in a knockout format and if they win their individual match will advance to the next stage.
To win a match you have to “win” more holes than your opponent by scoring better than them on that particular hole.
An example would be if two players went head to head on the first hole of a matchplay round. Player A scores a 4 but player B goes one better and manages to score a 3. In this case player B would win the hole and would be said to be “one up”. If player B then won the second hole he would be “two up” etc.
Player A could get back into the match by winning the third hole which would make the score “one up” to player B. Any holes where both players get the same score are said to be “halved” and discounted from the score.
At some point during the match one player will be ahead by enough holes so that it is impossible for the other player to catch them. At this point the match ends.
The result of the match is declared as, for example, 4 & 3. This means one player had won 4 holes more than his opponent and there were only 3 holes remaining to play. As it would be impossible for the losing player to catch back up, the match is finished and a result is declared.
Different Golf Scores Explained
What Is A Birdie?
A birdie is a score of one under par on any hole. On a par 3 this would mean a player had taken 2 shots to get the ball into the hole. On a par 4 the player must have taken 3 shots and on a par 5 the player would have taken 4 shots.
What Is An Eagle?
An eagle is a score of two under par on a hole. So on a par 4 this would be a score of 2 and on a par 5 a score of 3. An eagle is an excellent score on a golf hole!
What Is An Albatross?
An albatross is a score of three under par on a hole. So on a par 5 this would mean holing out your second shot. Obviously it takes some substantial luck to get a score like this, they are extremely rare.
What Is An Ace?
An ace is another term for a hole in one. You’ll most frequently see these on shorter par 3 holes where players will easily be able to reach the green in a single shot. Even so, these are still extremely rare and most golfers will go their entire lives never making a hole in one!
A score can fall into more than one category. So for example should you make a hole in one on a par 3 that is both an ace and an eagle (as it is two under par for that particular hole). Obviously it’s much more impressive to say you’ve had a hole in one so most golfers would use that!
To Sum Up…
Hopefully the above info is helpful to you. Golf scoring is a unique system that can take some getting used to but if you watch a few tournaments on tv you’ll pick it up in no time and be able to enjoy all the exciting action!