Bogey, Birdie, Eagle and Albatross: How These Terms Add Up on Your Scorecard

By Kellie Noszka

Golfer filling out scorecard

We’ve all heard the golf scoring terms bogey, birdie, eagle and albatross (okay, maybe you haven’t heard that one) but those outside of the golfing world might not know what they mean. The words are ones you need to know as you learn the game, either on the course or as a casual observer.

It All Starts with Par

Par is probably the golf term most people recognize. From televised tournaments to miniature golf courses, par is seen everywhere.

Par is the number of strokes it likely takes a good golfer to get the ball into the hole. When a golf course is designed, the architect typically decides what is par for each of the 18 holes. Par on most regulation 18-hole courses is almost always three, four or five per hole.

Think of par like zero in mathematics. All numbers – negative or positive – are based around zero. Likewise, all scores in golf are in relation to par.

What is a Bogey in Golf?

We’ll start on the “bad” side of par and explain what a bogey means. A bogey is one stroke over par, so a golfer took one extra shot to get the ball into the hole in relation to par. Two strokes over par is a double bogey, three strokes over par is a triple bogey and anything over that is probably just called an expletive that can’t be mentioned here. You get the picture; there are no fancy names as the strokes increase, it’s simply xxxx-bogey. (For the record, “bogey” is an old-time name for goblin and it certainly feels your game is a little haunted sometimes when shooting all bogeys and above.)

Bogeys are tracked on the scorecard with a square around your score. For example, if you make a 5 on a par-4, you would put a square around the five. For a double bogey, you’d make two squares. For anything worse than a double bogey, make a square around your score and shade it in.

Now on to the “good” side of par, golf scoring that’s for the birds.

What is a Birdie in Golf?

A birdie is when a golfer shoots one stroke under par on a hole. Watch a PGA or LPGA tournament and you will see golfers convert many birdies. A birdie is also a score that is attainable for the average golfer. A good drive, lucky bounce or perfectly placed long putt can result in a birdie every now and then. Birdie is the redeemer in golf, the score that makes a bad day on the course feel like it was worth the effort.

To indicate a birdie on your scorecard, put a circle around your score.

What is an Eagle in Golf?

An eagle – two strokes under par on a hole – is tricky and average golfers could go a lifetime without ever recording one. It takes a very skilled golfer to put the ball into position to record an eagle. Eagles are most often scored on par-5 holes where long hitters can reach the green in two strokes and then sink the ensuing putt. A hole-in-one on a par-3 hole is also an eagle.

Eagles are represented on your scorecard with two circles around the score.

What is an Albatross in Golf?

An albatross in golf is just as spectacular as the bird that is its namesake. An albatross in nature is a flying seabird with the largest wingspan of any bird – up to 11 feet wide. In golf, an albatross is three strokes under par on a hole.

One way for an albatross to occur in golf is when a long-hitting golfer not only drives the green on a short par-4 but also sinks the shot. A golfer can also record an albatross by sinking a second shot on a par-5 hole. Both scenarios are extremely unlikely; the National Hole in One Association estimates the odds of scoring an albatross at 6 million to 1.

PGA Tour veteran Brooks Koepka scored a particularly memorable albatross in 2018 when he holed his second shot at the par-5 sixteenth hole at the Players Championship.

What is a Condor in Golf?

For good measure, there’s also a term for four under par on a single hole. While it may as well be called a unicorn, given the mythical odds, making a hole-in-one on a par-5 is called a condor. And yes, as unbelievable as it may sound, it has happened before.

There are also a handful of par-6 holes on the planet, where holing your second shot would result in a condor.

How it Looks on a Scorecard

Golf scorecard

If you’ve been tracking your birdies and bogeys with circles and squares on your scorecard, it’ll be easy to tally up your score at the end of the round. Simply add up the squares, subtract the circles, and that’s your score in relation to par. Add that to the par of the course, and that’s your score for the round.

Conclusion

It’s the numbers that ultimately count in golf, but knowing the correct scoring terms earns respect among other golfers and makes understanding the game easier.

About the Author

Kellie Noszka is a freelance writer and former sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post. She was a golf caddie for 10 years and earned an Evans Scholarship to The Ohio State University. Kellie developed a deep appreciation for the game of golf at an early age.