How To Read A Golf Scorecard

Understanding how to read a golf scorecard and keep track of your score is crucial to determine your handicap and offer everyone a fair chance when competing in a round of golf or competitions.

Although there is no standard size set for a scorecard, it is generally around 6 inches long by 4 ยฝ inches when it is folded making it easily fit in a pocket during your round of golf.

It consists of various sections and columns. Some are self-explanatory and others require some more detailed knowledge of the game to understand.

With a vast amount of information printed on the scorecard, new golfers may wonder What do the numbers on a golf scorecard mean?

Below is a short introduction on how new golfers can find scorecards confusing. We will help you understand them.

Hole Column

The hole number indicates the number of the hole that you are playing. Most golf courses divide this up into sections according to the number of holes on the golf course.

A 9-hole course will have holes 1 thru 9 while an 18-hole course will have an outward loop (holes 1 thru 9) and an inward loop (holes 10 thru 18).

Handicap / Stroke Index (SI)

Every hole is allocated a handicap or stroke index of the hole compared to the other holes on the course. The most difficult hole on the course will be the stroke 1 hole while the easiest hole on the course will have the highest stroke index, 9 or 18 depending on whether you play a 9-hole or 18-hole golf course.

There are two ways to assign the stroke index to a hole. Some clubs assign uneven stroke indexes to the outward loop and even stroke indexes to the inward loop. Other clubs may assign uneven stroke indexes to the most difficult of the two loops and even stroke indexes to the easier loop.

๐Ÿ“‹ Keep in mind: The most difficult hole will have a stroke index of 1 while the most difficult hole on the other loop will be assigned a stroke index of 2.

Yards In Different Colors

Every hole on the golf course is allocated a par score and a variety of distances. This is to afford everyone an equal opportunity to play a hole within a par score.

The most common tees are for professional or championship, menโ€™s tees, Senior tees, and womenโ€™s tees. The club colors are frequently incorporated into the colors used for the various tees on offer.

๐Ÿ“‹ Keep in mind: Playing from the tees that represent your ability the best will enable you to be competitive and score accordingly.

If you are a short hitter there is no harm in playing from the front-most tees to enable you to compete with the long hitters. However, most men steer clear of playing from the front-most tees to protect their egos.

You are not required to play from a specific set of colored tees for all 18 holes nor is it required for all the players in a group to play from the same tees.


The yardage section of the scorecard indicates the length of the hole as measured by the club committee. This can vary between golf clubs as some measure the length of the hole to the front of the green while others measure it to the middle of the green.

The point of measurements is generally indicated on the scorecard to indicate the measurement rule that is in use.

๐Ÿ“ข Need To Know: There are various lengths on every hole and are assigned to the various tees in use.


A par score is the number of strokes that a scratch or zero handicap golfer should require to complete a hole. This is generally associated with the length of a hole.

Par scores of between 3 and 5 are most common, however, some golf holes have par scores of six.

What Are The Golf Scorecard Symbols?

Scores are recorded on the scorecard for every hole and can be difficult to differentiate between a good and bad score on the hole. Golf scoring symbols are used to make it easier to read scorecards.

Circles and squares are used to differentiate between birdies and bogeys. Every shot over or under par is recorded by using an additional symbol e.g., a one-under-par will be represented by one circle while a two-under-par score will be represented by two circles.

๐Ÿ“ข Need To Know: Par scores are recorded without any symbol.

Course Rating

This is a term trademarked by the United States Golf Association that is crucial in determining a player’s handicap. It is used to indicate the difficulty of a golf course for bogey golfers relative to the course rating.

A Course Rating indicates the number of strokes an experienced golfer with a Handicap Index of 0.0 should play on a golf course under normal course and weather conditions. The numbers are expressed in decimals but measured in whole numbers.

For example, a Course Rating of 68.6 would expect a golfer with a 0.0 handicap index to complete the round in 69 shots.

๐Ÿ“ข Need To Know: The effective length combined with obstacles and challenges that scratch players may experience in their landing zones around the course is used in calculating the Course Rating.

Slope Rating

The Slope rating of the course indicates the difficulty of the golf course in relation to other golf courses as rated by the governing bodies of golf. This can vary between 55 and 155.

A standard golf course will have a rating of 113 which you will see is used in the calculation of your handicap index.

Net Score

The net score indicates your score once you have deducted your handicap from the number of shots you have recorded during your round of golf.

The golfer with the lowest net score is generally the winner of the competition.

๐Ÿ“‹ Keep in mind: A golfer with an 18 handicap that plays 89 shots will record a net score of 71.

What Do Circles and Squares On A Golf Scorecard Mean?

A single circle around the score is the equivalent of a birdie, a double circle the equivalent of an eagle, and three circles the equivalent of a double eagle (AKA an albatross).

Scores over par are recorded using a square with a square for every hole over the par score. A bogey will be recorded as a single square, a double bogey as two squares, and so forth.

What Does Handicap Mean In The Golf Scorecard?

The handicap section enables you to record the handicap index that you are allocated by the handicap system in use at the club that you are playing and is used at the end of the round when calculating your net score.

๐Ÿ“‹ Keep in mind: A golfer with an 18 handicap will be allowed an extra shot on every hole, a 10 handicap golfer will only be allowed an extra shot on holes with a stroke index between 1 and 10, and a golfer with a handicap of 24 will be allowed 2 extra shots on holes with a stroke index between 1 and 6.


The use of a scorecard is crucial to measure and keep track of your performance in a round of golf.

It is important to understand the information that is shared with you on the printed card and understanding golf scores. It is also crucial to appreciate how to use this in calculating your performance in relation to other golfers and other golf courses.

Keep tracking your scores and determine the areas that may need improvement for getting your handicap lower.

Any additional information that you have come across on a scorecard or feedback will be appreciated in the comments section below.


What does stroke index mean on a golf scorecard?

The stroke index on a golf scorecard indicates the difficulty that the committee assigned to a hole based on the scoring by club members. Holes are marked between 1 and 18, or 1 to 9 on a 9-hole course. Every hole is assigned a number indicating the difficulty of the hole. Stroke 1 is the most difficult hole on the course and stroke 18 is the easiest hole on the course. Courses number one loop (9 holes) with even numbers and the other loop with odd numbers.

What is SSS on a golf scorecard?

Standard Scratch Score (SSS) on the scorecard indicates the difficulty of the course and is assigned by a group of golfers that evaluate the difficulty of the course in comparison with other courses.
SSS represents the score that a scratch golfer is expected to achieve on the course under normal conditions. This was implemented when the international handicap system was implemented offering everyone an equal chance to achieve a realistic handicap.

How do you mark an eagle on a golf scorecard?

An eagle is defined as a score that is two shots less than par for the hole. To indicate an eagle on the scorecard for easy identification you place two circles around your score on the specific hole.

What does a golf scorecard look like?

A scorecard is divided into sections containing various pieces of information. The top left-hand side indicates the player(s) and their handicap information while the top right hand contains specifics of the competition, final score, and signature of the marker. Each hole is represented together with the distance for each hole from the various tees and the handicap index set by the club committee.

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Charl is a full-time writer who has been with Golfible since 2019. He is an avid golfer and tech enthusiast. When not writing, he tries to squeeze in a round of golf or escape to the mountains.

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