New Ways To Keep Score

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.

3 thoughts on “New Ways To Keep Score”

  1. My philosophy on scoring is similar to Brian’s.  If I make a 5 on every hole, then I will have a score of 90.  Now, lets say I manage to make a 4 on two of the Par 3s, I’ve got a score of 88.  Plus, 90 is 18 higher than a regulation Par 72, so that means I’m playing no worse than “bogey” golf.

  2. This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.  Golf is game based on a course designer’s idea of par.  If you don’t score properly, why not just hit balls at the range?  Scoring is part of the game and the only way to get better at golf is to find ways to make your score lower.  I feel like a person should score by the rules of the game and accept the fact that only the best hit par and below.

    Match play is a lot of fun.  This is a great way to keep competition even among uneven skilled golfers.  For more even golfers play a best ball is a great game as well.  When I play with my Dad and his friends we keep accurate score but play a best ball.  We switch partners every 6 holes so everyone has a chance to play with everyone.  It keeps the game interesting and the gambling pretty even.

  3. Well, if it’s the dumbest, then you haven’t been listening to the presidential candidates lately … smile

    Golf was, for a very long time, played without the concept of “par.” A score was simply what it was. Historically speaking, par is a relatively new idea. And it’s an artificial construct.

    Let me explain. Imagine that, on your local course, the superintendent erased all evidence of “par.” It’s no longer listed on the signs by the holes, nor on the scorecard. There are simply yardages.

    Would your scores change at all? Of course not.

    Or suppose that you went to a new course, and it had no par listed … it just indicted yardages. Would you do any worse or better? No. Your score simply would be what it was. Or if every hole was listed as a par 5? The answer is the same.

    All that said, when I do keep score, I keep it properly. I play by the rules—including 27-1—which most people do not use.

    All of the methods suggested (aside from my just playing for the fun of hitting the ball) are simply different ways to think about the course—ways that are no more or less arbitrary than par itself. And in the end, the number of strokes taken remains unchanged.


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