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Understanding Golf Scorecard Symbols

When playing a round of golf, it is crucial to understand the symbols and terms found on a golf scorecard in order to accurately record and analyze your performance. The golf scorecard explained will typically feature symbols such as a number representing the hole number, the course rating which indicates the difficulty of a golf course, and the par for each hole.

Additionally, golf scorecards may also include symbols for birdie, bogey, and double bogey, which indicate the number of strokes taken on a particular hole compared to par. Understanding these symbols is essential for accurately recording your score and evaluating your performance on the golf course. By learning how to read a golf scorecard, players can gain valuable insights into their strengths and weaknesses, as well as track their progress over time.

Furthermore, recognizing the hardest hole on the course can help players strategize and adjust their game plan accordingly. Overall, comprehending the symbols and terms on a golf scorecard is an important aspect of the game that can enhance the overall golfing experience. 

What Are The Golf Scorecard Symbols?

For those who are new to golf, understanding the symbols on a golf scorecard is essential in order to keep score properly. These symbols indicate the various aspects of a golf game, such as the golfer’s handicap index, yardage of each hole, and the net score.

The symbols also reflect a golfer’s performance, as they indicate whether a hole was played above or below par.

For instance, a ‘+’ symbol means the golfer played the hole above par, while a ‘-‘ symbol means the golfer played the hole below par.

In addition, the symbols also indicate the difficulty of each hole, with 18 being the easiest and 1 being the hardest. The symbols also account for a golfer’s handicap, with a scratch golfer being able to play a hole in the same number of strokes as the par and a higher handicap golfer being allowed additional strokes depending on their handicap level. Overall, understanding the symbols on a golf scorecard is critical for keeping track of one’s performance and overall progress in the game. 

How To Read A Golf Scorecard

To effectively read a golf scorecard, one must familiarize themselves with the common symbols and numbers found on the scorecard. The scorecard next to each golf hole will indicate the relative difficulty of the hole, denoted by various symbols and numbers.

It is important to understand what these symbols and numbers mean on a golf scorecard in order to strategize the game effectively. One may want to consider buying a scorecard holder to keep the scorecard organized and easily accessible during play. Each section of the scorecard will display information relevant to a specific aspect of the game, such as the front nine or back nine.

By understanding the symbols and numbers displayed on a golf scorecard, one can gauge their performance and make informed decisions about their strategy on the course. 

Common Golf Scorecard Symbols

Golf scorecards provide a place to record several aspects of your golf game using a shared visual language. By learning the meanings of scorecard symbols like those representing par, birdies, bogeys, and other scoring concepts, you can use a scorecard to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your game.

Par and Stroke Symbols

The number printed on each hole box of a scorecard represents that hole’s par – the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to require to complete the hole. Common par values per hole are 3, 4 or 5. After playing each hole, golfers mark their score by writing the number of strokes taken in that hole’s box using numerical digits.

For example, marking a “3” means you matched par with 3 strokes on a par 3 hole. Marking a “4” on a par 4 hole or a “5” on a par 5 hole also signifies you met par. Other numeric symbols carry additional meaning when marked on scorecards.

Birdies and Eagles

In golf terminology, a “birdie” occurs when a player completes a hole in one stroke less than par. On scorecards, players signify a birdie by drawing a circle around the score achieved for that hole. For example, circling a “2” on a par 3 or circling a “3” on a par 4 means the player shot a birdie on that hole.

An “eagle” occurs when two strokes under par are scored on a hole and is represented by drawing a triangle around the eagle score achieved. For instance, this would mean circling a “2” scored on a par 4 hole or circling a “3” scored on a par 5 hole.

Bogeys and Worse

A bogey in golf means the player took one stroke more than par to complete a hole. Bogeys are indicated on scorecards by drawing a square around the bogey number. For example, if you scored a “4” on a par 3 hole, you would circle the 4 you mark in the hole’s box to show you bogeyed that hole.

Worse scores than a bogey use the same square symbol with additional indicators. A double bogey (two over par) uses two squares, a triple bogey (three over par) uses three squares, and so forth. Other variations on this theme include “X” symbols used to represent scores that cannot be fixed in relation to par, often used when a player fails to complete a hole.

How to Mark a Golf Scorecard While Playing

Knowing golf scorecard symbology is crucial for marking your card properly while on the course. Follow these steps for keeping score:

At the First Hole

Before teeing off on the first hole, fill in some identifying details at the top of the scorecard such as your name, your playing partner’s name if competing, date, and course name. You’ll thank yourself later for documenting this info!

After Each Stroke

After every swing taken during the hole, mark a slash in pencil below the par number printed in the hole’s box. Count your total strokes once your ball reaches the putting green, carefully tallying any penalty strokes incurred on that hole.

In the Hole Box

Once you have holed out by sinking your final putt, neaty write your total stroke count for that hole in the designated box. Circle birdies or eagles, square bogeys or worse accordingly. Then proceed to the next hole’s box to repeat the process.

Subtotals After 9 Holes

At the end of the 9th hole, write your total score on the “out” nine subtotal line. Do the same after the 18th hole concludes on the “in” subtotal line. Finally, total your scores from all 18 holes and write this grand total score prominently below the two subtotals.

Decoding a Completed Golf Scorecard

Filled out golf scorecards utilize symbols, subtotals and final totals to reveal a detailed account of a completed round. By decoding the markings and numbers, much insight can be gained regarding a player or team’s strengths, trouble areas, and overall performance across 18 holes.

Front vs Back Nine Scoring

Comparing the subtotals between a scorecard’s front 9 holes and back 9 holes shows if a player performed better early or later in the full round. Consistency between nines indicates solid stamina, while wild subtotal fluctuations point to potential endurance issues.

Total Score and Misses

Of course, one’s final grand total score after adding up all 18 holes remains the ultimate scoring result. Higher totals obviously mean more strokes taken in aggregate over the round. Also note any commonly missed pars, birdie opportunities or multiple penalty strokes incurred on holes for insight on specific skills needing refinement through practice.

Birdies and Eagles

Circling great scores using birdie and eagle symbols allows easy visualization of where a player’s strongest holes and shotmaking occurred during the round. Multiple circled scores point to holes suiting that player’s game especially well. Note these to set strategy for improvement or course management next time playing there.

Bogeys and Blow Up Holes

A crowded hole box filled with squares and other symbols for high scores helps quickly identify where major meltdowns happened out on the course. Make these blow up holes a priority for course management adjustments, trouble shot practice, or mental game strategies to limit similar disasters in future rounds.

Golf Scorecard Etiquette and Practices

Proper golf scorecard etiquette ensures accurate scoring, readable cards and an enjoyable experience for all players in your group. Here are some key golf scorecard does and don’ts to follow:

Legibility Matters

Write numbers, symbols, lines and other markings neatly and clearly using pencil. Sloppy cards filled with messy scrawls lead to scoring errors and confusion. methodically take your time as you go.

Double Check Totals

Before signing and handing in your scorecard after completion, carefully check your totals for accuracy both vertically in each hole box and horizontally across subtotals and final total lines. Fix any mistakes immediately if found.

Never Alter Completed Holes

Only amend your current hole’s strokes if a ruling change occurs before teeing off on the next hole. For example if a penalty is accessed while still on the 5th hole. But never alter already finished holes after moving ahead without permission.

Sign and Attest Your Card

Once you have double checked your totals and are fully satisfied every last score and symbol on your golf scorecard is 100% correct as marked, sign your name in the designated signature area before turning your card in to certify its validity.


What do the shapes mean on a golf scorecard?

The shapes indicate special scoring terms: circle for birdie, triangle for eagle, square for bogey. Multiple squares signify higher values like double or triple bogey.

How do you read a golf scorecard?

First check the printed par number as the expected score for experts on each hole. Compare the actual written score to par to see if the player was under, at, or over par. Tally total strokes for insights.

What do the golf scoring terms mean?

Par means expected score; birdie is 1 under par; eagle is 2 under par; bogey is 1 over par. Double bogey is 2 over, triple bogey means 3 over par. Shapes highlight these special scores. Total strokes are counted to finalize the scorecard.


Learning golf scorecard symbology and proper scorecard practices enhances enjoyment of the game by adding deeper layers of meaning, analysis and a standardized visual language to every round played. With scorecards accurately marked, each golf experience becomes its own record book allowing players to reflect on and improve their ongoing golf journey over time.

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