How to Read a Golf Scorecard from Tell Me More Golf Instructors and Coaches Offering Their Advice to Golfers

How To Read a Golf Scorecard — Golf Instructor’s Advice

How to Read a Golf Scorecard from Tell Me More Golf Instructors and Coaches Offering Their Advice to Golfers

In this article, we’re going to look at golf scorecards.

As the head coach at Tell Me More Golf, I have over 50 years of golfing experience and I’m here to share my knowledge with you on golf scorecards. 

We’ll look at what scorecards are used for, plus go through the different aspects of the scorecard, looking at what the different numbers and markings mean. Let’s get into it. 

Golf Scorecard Explained

To put it simply, a golf scorecard is designed for players to keep a track of their score. With a scorecard you can record your score on each hole, so that by the end of the round, you’ll know your final score. 

The scorecard is essential if you’re competing against another golfer.

By recording the hole-by-hole score of each competitor, you’ll know who has won when it comes to the end of the round. 

The Basics 

Scorecards aren’t all that confusing, and realistically, they contain basic necessary information for you to complete your round of golf. 

Scorecards not only allow you to record your score plus the score of any playing partners, but they also provide course details, such as the yardages for each hole, the index of each hole, plus they provide space for player’s to include their handicaps, which can make it easier when working out who wins and who loses when factoring in different player handicaps. 


How To Read A Golf Scorecard

If you’re a beginner golfer, then picking up a golf scorecard for the first time can be a little confusing, but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with all the info. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with everything, it’s really simple to read a golf scorecard

Below we look at the different sections that you’ll read on a golf scorecard:

Hole Numbers 

Each hole will be listed on the golf course. The holes will appear on the scorecard in the same order that they will be played on the course.

In other words, the card starts with hole one and ends with hole 18. 


Next to each hole number on the scorecard, you will see larger numbers. Such as 357, or 465. These are the yardages for each hole.

There may be multiple numbers next to different colors, or under different labels.

This is to indicate the yardages for each hole from the different tee boxes. 

For example, if under hole four, the scorecard says something like “Yellow: 518”, then you know that hole four plays 518 yards from the yellow tees. Your scorecard will typically provide the yardages for red tees, yellow tees and white tees. 

Some golf scorecards will include the total yardage of the course. This is the yardage of each hole added together. 

Stroke Index

Each hole has a stroke index. This will either be displayed as ‘SI’ or maybe ‘Handicap’ on the scorecard.

What this refers to is the difficulty of the hole in relation to the other holes on the course. 

The lower stroke index numbers indicate the most difficult holes, while the higher numbers indicate the simpler holes. Stroke index 1 is considered to be the hardest hole on the course, while stroke index 18 is the easiest hole. Every hole has a stroke index number, ranging from to easiest to the hardest. 


This is an important one. Unless you’re a beginner, then you’ll know about the par of each hole, but if not, this is for you. 

Even as a beginner, you’ve probably heard things like “this is a Par 5” or “the next hole is a Par 3”. Such language is commonly used on golf courses. Understanding what this means will help with understanding the numbers on a golf scorecard. 

So, every hole has a par assigned to it. This is essentially the typical score for that hole. Therefore, if a hole is a ‘Par 4’, a score of 4 is considered typical. If you score a five, you’ll be one over par. If you score a three, you’ll be one under par. 


You will always see a space for your 18-hole total score on a golf scorecard. In other words, the score for your round

This is usually found immediately after the column for the 18th hole scores. In this area you input your total score for the round. 

At the bottom of the column you’ll see the course par, which is the par of all the holes added together. For example, if the course par is 71 and you finish 8 over par, you’d write 79 in the space provided for total score. 


How To Read A Golf Scorecard Handicap

Many amateur golfers have a handicap. This is a number attributed to them based on ability. The handicap system allows golfers of varying abilities to more fairly compete. 

For example, if you have a handicap of 18 and your playing partner has a handicap of 12, then you essentially get a six-shot head start. This means that if you lose by five shots, you’ll actually win after factoring in both handicaps. 

Each player can record their handicap on a golf scorecard, which can be helpful when scoring, especially when playing stableford, which is a scoring system that factors in handicaps and involves scoring points based on the number of strokes taken on each hole. 

In stableford, a scratch golfer (somebody with a handicap of zero) scores one point for a bogey, two points for a par, three for a birdie and four for an eagle. For a double bogey or worse, you receive zero points. However, this changes depending on your golf handicap. Let’s say your handicap is 18. In this case, you get an extra shot on each hole, so a double bogey is worth one point, a bogey is now worth two points, while a par is worth three. 

If you are using handicaps and playing stableford for instance, then it is important that you record each player’s handicap at the start of the round and this will make it easier to fill out the scorecard as you progress and see who wins in the end. 


How To Use A Golf Scorecard

Fortunately, golf scorecards are easy to understand and thus relatively simple to use. The headings on most golf scorecards are easy to read, so knowing what to put where is rarely an issue. 

Each scorecard will typically have room for four players. On some cards, there will be headings detailing Player A, Player B, Player C and Marker/Scorer. 

On other cards, you will merely have space for four players to write their initials. Alternatively, many golfers simply put their initial next to which player they will be on the scorecard. For example, you might put a C next to Player A, or a J next to Player B. 

Let’s take a look at other aspects of the golf scorecard from a user’s perspective:

Writing The Score

Every player’s score must be recorded in the spaces provided. This part is simple. All you do is write the score that you achieved on any given hole in the correct place on the scorecard. 

For example, if you score a four on the third hole, you put “4” on the scorecard under hole three.

If you’re responsible for filling out the scorecard then you will do this for each player in your group. Make sure that you write each player’s score in the correct place to avoid confusion later on.

Filling Out Each Nine 

At the end of the nine holes, most scorecards allow each player’s total to be added up and written down as a front-nine total. This is a great way of seeing where the game stands in terms of score at the half-way point.

The scorecard should also allow the same for the back-nine total. Totalling each nine individually allows you to see which nine you performed better on. It also allows you to see which of your group performed the best on each nine. 

Writing The Totals

When you’re writing your total score at the end of the round, plus the total score of any playing partners, remember to count slowly and double check the scores. This way you’ll avoid errors.

There will be space for each player’s total next to each other, which makes it simple to see who the winner is. 

Use A Pencil 

It’s not uncommon for golfers to make mistakes when filling out a scorecard, especially if you’re playing in a group of four. At the end of the day, you’re playing a round of golf, having fun, you can easily make a minor error when scoring. 

Because it is easy to make an error on the golf scorecard, it’s important to score in pencil, so that you can easily erase and correct the mistake. 

If you find yourself without a pencil, many golf clubs will issue one with the scorecard, or sell one for a small fee.


Patrick Corley

From a golf scholarship to a Southern California University, to a private golf coaching career and an instructor position at a nonprofit organization, I’m here to help you get better at golf! With my 50+ years of golf experience; I bring you Tell Me More Golf. A golf coaching website that helps your game with instructional golfing content that’s ultimately geared toward making you a better golfer and having more fun!
Our golf instructor team brings it all to you, so enjoy!

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