Keeping Score

When it comes to keeping score on the golf course there are two common methods you need to know, Medal and Stableford. There are a few other scoring types out there but you will rarely come across these, especially early on in your golfing career.

Before you get started with the scoring it will be a good idea to have a look at our glossary to make sure you understand the following terms, as they will be referred to in this section:

Medal

Medal is the true essence of the game however, for the average amateur in South Africa, most clubs will only hold a medal event once a month, colloquially called the monthly medal.

How Do I Keep a Medal Score?

Play from the tee box until you get the ball in the hole on each and every hole, counting every shot along the way. Normally club competitions will be determined based on a player’s “net score“, not his/her “gross score“. The exceptions include events such as The Club Championship where the winner will be determined by “gross score“, although there are normally prizes for “net score” as well. Don’t worry too much about whether results are determined by gross or net, either way you must count every shot you hit during your round.

Why Play Medal?

Medal is the only true reflection of ones golfing ability as you have to finish each and every hole, not as easy as it sounds! Medal requires an entirely different mindset to the Stableford events that amateurs play week in and week out as there is no limit to how many shots a player may take in completing each hole, whereas Stableford has a maximum.

Stableford Scoring

In South Africa Stableford scoring is the most common method of scoring you will encounter and the most important for you to be able to understand. Although it may sound quite complicated the first time you hear about it, fear not, it’s actually pretty straight forward.

How Do I Keep a Stableford Score?

In order to understand and correctly calculate Stableford points you will need to understand the “Stroke Rating” system.

Stableford is simply a conversion of a player’s “net score” relative to par, into points. The conversion from net score on any one hole to Stableford score on that hole looks like this:

  • Net Albatross (3 under par) = 5 points
  • Net Eagle (2 under par) = 4 points
  • Net Birdie (1 under par) = 3 points
  • Net Par = 2 points
  • Net Bogey (1 over par) = 1 point
  • Net Double Bogey (2 over par) or worse = 0 points

It’s easiest to understand by way of some examples:

  • A five handicapper makes a par on every hole of the course, on the holes stroked 1 – 5 he will receive 3 points each (those are net birdies), on all the rest he will receive 2 points each. He scores 41 points.
  • A 16 handicapper makes bogey on strokes 1 – 10, he receives 2 points each on those (net pars). He makes par on strokes 11 – 15 and receives 3 points each on those (net birdies). He bogeys stroke 16 and 17 for 2 points on stroke 16 (net par) and 1 point on stroke 17 (net and gross are the same as he doesn’t stroke). He birdies stroke 18 for 3 points (net and gross are the same as he doesn’t stroke). He scores 41 points.

Why Play Stableford?

Stableford was invented to deter golfers from giving up on their round after having a bad hole or two as there is essentially a limit to how much damage you can do to your score with one bad hole. The reason stableford has become so popular is basically that it suits the amateur game much better than medal does; it incorporates the handicap system easily and helps the pace of play as players don’t have to finish every hole, once a player can no longer score any points they are encouraged to pick their ball up and proceed to the next hole. When a player doesn’t complete a hole they record a score of two over par if they get no stroke or one stroke on that hole; if they double stroke the hole then they record a score of three over par. If the hole isn’t completed the score must be circled on the scorecard to indicate that it wasn’t finished. The reason one still records any score at all is so that after your round you still have a total score you can capture for your handicap on the Handicap Network Africa website.

Competition Formats

Now that you understand how to tally up your individual scores during a round of golf lets have a look at some of the team formats you are likely to encounter on golf club competition days or corporate golf days.

Betterball (called Best Ball in America)

In a Betterball competition two players are paired together and only the better of their two scores on each hole counts towards the team’s total. A Betterball competition could be played as Betterball Stableford, Betterball Medal or a few other less common variants such as Betterball Bonus Bogey.

Alliance

An alliance is played by a team of either three or four players, the committee will specify what the maximum number per team is. Of these players only some or one of their scores will count on each hole; again, the details will be determined by the committee. The most common alliance format you will see is Fourball Alliance, Two Scores to Count. This means that there are teams of four and the best two scores on each hole count for the team total.

Foursomes

This is not a very commonly played format in South Africa. Two players comprise a team playing with one golf ball and taking alternate shots. One player will tee off on all the odd number holes and the other will tee off on all the even numbered holes. If amateurs are playing and it is a handicap competition then the partners combine their handicaps and divide by two to get their team handicap.


This guide covers the most common scoring formats and competition formats you will encounter but there are many others! If anything is unclear or there are any other formats in particular you have encountered and would like explained please do let us know in the comments.