How the Stableford Scoring System Works: Standard and Modified Rules

By Nick Heidelberger

Golf scoreboard with Stableford system

A Stableford or Modified Stableford scoring system in golf is somewhat unconventional, but a lot of fun if you understand how to score them properly. This article will help you understand how the systems work so you can implement them in a match with your golf buddies.

Instead of strictly tracking strokes, Stableford scoring assigns a point value to each score and the better you play, the more points you earn. Point values are based on a fixed target score, which by default is par but can be adjusted at the discretion of the Committee. Scores are earned on a hole-by-hole basis and the higher the total at the end of the day, the better.

The traditional Stableford scoring system uses a point-by-stroke approach, where each stroke represents one point up until a player can no longer earn a point. The Modified Stableford scoring system takes that risk-reward element to the next level, disproportionately rewarding extra points for lower scores and applying smaller penalties for higher scores in order to encourage aggressive play.

Stableford vs. Modified Stableford Scoring

Score in relation to fixed target score* Stableford Modified Stableford**
3 under fixed score +5 +8
2 under fixed score +4 +5
1 under fixed score +3 +2
Fixed score +2 0
1 over fixed score +1 -1
More than 1 over fixed score 0 -3

*The fixed target score is par unless the Committee sets a different target score
**As the name suggests, Modified Stableford point values can be modified. This is the scoring system used by the PGA Tour in the Barracuda Championship

Stableford scoring table

Stableford Strategy

In traditional Stableford scoring, once a player is more than one stroke over the fixed score, they can no longer earn a point on the hole, and can pick up their ball if they choose. With the Modified Stableford system rewarding lower scores, aggressive play is highly encouraged.

Stableford & Modified Stableford Scoring Example

Player A and Player B are using the Modified Stableford scoring values outlined above with par as their fixed target score. Player A makes three consecutive pars to open the round and has 0 points. Player B, meanwhile, makes one par, one birdie and one bogey, and has 1 point (earning two points for the birdie and losing one for his bogey). Player B has a 1-0 lead in the Modified Stableford game despite both players being even-par in stroke play. This illustrates how the Modified Stableford system rewards aggressive play.

Each year, golf fans get a chance to witness this extra-aggressive play among the world’s best players, as the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship employs Modified Stableford scoring.

Barracuda Championship

You can find a Modified Stableford format being played on the PGA Tour every July at the Barracuda Championship. The 2021 event was won by Erik van Rooyen and past champions include major champions Collin Morikawa, Geoff Ogilvy, and Gary Woodland.

American Century Championship

Another example of a Modified Stableford format is the American Century Championship. The celebrity golf event is known for its scenic views of Lake Tahoe each year around the 4th of July and has some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment, who are also quite good at golf.

Why Use Stableford Scoring?

Using Stableford or Modified Stableford scoring every once in a while can train golfers to seek out lower scores and not fear the higher ones. Conservative play can take over when golfers are focused on avoiding big numbers, but with damage limited under Stableford scoring, and success rewarded even more under Modified Stableford scoring, players can learn to play with a new, aggressive mindset.

Image: PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton via Getty Images

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America.