How to Read a Golf Score

By Steve Silverman

Reading a golf score can be complicated when you look at a scorecard. While the activity of writing down the score for each golfer in a foursome on a scorecard is relatively simple, there are other numbers on the scorecard -- including the individual's handicap and each hole's difficulty rating -- that make it a bit more complicated.


Difficulty: Moderate
Step 1
Look at the line next to each player's name. The score from each hole will be written down consecutively. By looking at the scorecard, you can tell what Player A scored on the 1st hole, 2nd hole and go all the way to the 18th. By adding these numbers after 18 holes, you get the final score for Player A
Step 2
Look at the first number next to each player's name prior to their first hole score. This number is the player's handicap index. This number has been issued by the Unites States Golf Association (USGA) after the player has turned in 10 scores from an accredited USGA golf course. This number is important in determining the player's final score.
Step 3
Subtract the players handicap index number from his final score. This "net" score will allow the scorekeeper to determine the winner of a particular match or tournament. If Player A shot a 77 and he has a handicap of 3, his net total is 74. If Player B shot an 83 and his handicap index is 10, he shot a 73 and gets credit for winning the match.
Step 4
Beneath the first two players' names on the scorecard is another row of blank spaces. This is where you fill in the winner of a particular hole in match play. In match play, the winner of a particular hole gets a designation of plus-1. If Player A wins the first hole because he shot a 4 and Player B shot a 7, Player A gets a plus-1 on the scorecard. However, if Player B wins the second hole because he shot a 3 on the second hole and Player A shot a 4, the match is now even. It doesn't matter that player A won his hole by three shots while Player B won his hole by a single stroke. The match continues to be scored in this manner until one of the players is ahead by more holes than there are left to play. So if Player A is up by three holes after 14 holes and wins the 15th hole to go plus-4 with three holes to play, the match is over.
Step 5
Look at the bottom row of the scorecard, there is a number next under each hole designating its rating on the course. If the 6th hole on the course is 589-yard, par 5 and it is designated by the number 1, that means it is the most difficult hole on the course. The 15th hole may is a 345-yard, par 4 and it will have the number 18 beneath it. That means that it is the easiest hole on the 18-hole course.

Tips & Warnings

Understand that you have to subtact a player's handicap index number from his total score to get his net total.

About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

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