I’ve decided that the traditional method of scoring a golf round is unnecessarily depressing, especially for a mid handicapper like myself. I rarely make a birdie and often find myself scrambling for bogey. I can reel off a string of pars that keep my scores in the mid-eighties, but par for a course is an unrealistic expectation.
For the most part, I’ve given up keeping score, and play instead for the joy of hitting the ball. If I play a hole without hitting a truly bad shot, I consider it a success. But when I do want to keep track of how I’m going, I use a different system:
First, I assume that every hole’s par is one higher than the one listed; a reasonable score for a on a par 4 therefore is a five. Then, all I have to remember is how many strokes I am over or under bogey. If I shot a five on the opening par 4, I’m even. If I get a birdie on the par five second, I’m suddenly two under.
It’s a much more positive experience. What my method tells me is that I’m slightly better than a bogey golfer, which is good enough for me. After all, the USGA says that the average score is somewhere around 100, and that only 25 percent of all golfers ever break 90.
It’s good to be among the top players in the world.
My occasional playing partner Brian has a variation on the theme. He calls his method “scoring fives.” We call it “Brian Math.” Under the scoring fives theory, Brian assumes that every hole on the course is a par 5. So he only keeps track of any score over or under five.
After a round, when you ask him what he shot, he’ll likely respond “twenty.” What that means in USGA scoring is that he shot a 110. But twenty sounds a lot better. It’s also a much healthier golfing experience – he doesn’t get stressed out trying to meet an unrealistic expectation.
Of course, the best method may be to ignore par altogether. This summer, my friend Paul took up match play. He and his regular group – all very good players – made it their regular format. And they were, by his account, very happy with the result. At the end of the day, all that mattered was how they had done relative to each other, not to par.
In conceding holes, and ending rounds at 2 and 1 or worse, they’ll never know their stroke play scores. But I’ll bet they had a lot more fun.