Golf Score Cards Solved: How To Read a Golf Scorecard

New to golf? It’s understandable that the detail on the score card may seem a little daunting and perhaps not even make sense.

The golf score card is a critical component for every golf course and for every golfer.

The primary role of a golf score card is a place for you to record your scores on each hole and when the round is complete to add up your total score.

It may be laid out in landscape or portrait with golf score cards designed to fold in half to comfortably fit into the back pocket of your golf pants.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of the golf score card, including how to read a golf scorecard, explaining one’s handicap on golf scorecards and running through some examples.

Let’s get into the swing of it!

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Golf Score Cards: A quick Overview

Every golf score card will have the following detail:

  • Hole Numbers
  • Teeing Grounds and Yardages
  • Hole Par
  • Hole HCP
  • Free Rows/columns to record scores for up to 4 golfers
  • Date and room for Player Signatures (only really used for competition golf)
  • Details about the Course Rating and Slope.

An inexperienced scorer must make sure they avoid two potential disasters:

That he/she is looking at the correct row for their card as there is a Men’s and Ladies’ Par. Often there will be differences in the par on certain holes. In our example card, you will see that the 10th hole is a par 4 for the men, but a 5 for the ladies.

The same applies when looking at the Hole HCP (handicap). There are even bigger variances in the Hole HCP’s between the two sexes.

Related article: Learn How To Break 90 In Golf With These Six Tips.

The Golf Score card – Before You Start

There are details that golfers will use before teeing off:

#1: Deciding which teeing grounds to play from.

Generally speaking, a golf group are like-minded golfers and will easily agree which tee they want to play from. Some courses may not even offer the choice. This is particularly true when playing golf in the United Kingdom.

Pick the right length of course that suits your group.

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3 options for the Men and 2 for the Ladies in our example:

Tee Option (Men)Total Yardage
Tee Option (Ladies)Tee Option (Ladies)
Green 5457
Picking Your Tee Of The Day

#2: Deciding on your competition for the day

The Men’s and Ladies’ HCP row becomes your reference point for virtually every game of golf, as play is generally based on nett scores after handicap.

The beauty of this handicap system is that it allows players from all standards to play against each other.

Wondering what is a nett score? Well, say a golfer scores a 5 on a hole; this is the gross score. You receive a stroke on the hole according to the HCP index – therefore your nett score is a 4 – as simple as that!

HCP figures represent the difficulty of each hole:

  • HCP #1 hole is regarded as the hardest on the course through to…..
  • HCP #18 hole as the easiest
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The scorer will be responsible for recording the stroke allowances for their chosen game for each player.

Player 1NameHandicapHCP Holes (where strokes received)
1El Bandido8HCP 1-8, 1 shot on these holes
2The Flashing Blade16HCP 1-16, 1 shot
3Billy the Bomber20HCP 1&2, 2 shots, HCP 3-18, 1 shot
4Steady Eddie24HCP 1-6, 2 shots, HCP 7-18, 1 shot
Example of Stroke Allowances in a Friendly Four-Ball Match

Based on these handicap figures using the example scorecard for holes 10-14 from the Men’s card playing the Raynor Tees:

Men’s HCP2818610
Men’s Par44343
El Bandido5G, 4N4G, 3N3G, 3N6G, 5N4G, 4N
The Flashing Blade6G, 5N3G, 2N4G, 4N5G, 4N3G, 2N
Billy the Bomber6G, 4N5G, 4N3G, 2N6G, 5N4G, 3N
Steady Eddie7G, 5N4G, 3N3G, 2N5G, 3N4G, 3N
Sample section of scorecard

You wouldn’t record scores with a G (gross) & N (nett) in the box. This is not necessary but added in this example for everybody to understand.

The Bold numbers for El Bandido and The Flashing Blade highlight holes when they do not receive any shots. ie their handicap is below the HCP on the hole.

The Bold numbers for Billy the Bomber and Steady Eddie highlight holes when they receive two shots.

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Golf Score card – Example 1: Stableford Competition

A very common format using a points system awarded on each hole relative to your NETT score.

Different venues and countries adopt their points scoring system for a Stableford game. In this example, we will go with the following:

Nett Score on HoleStableford Points
Albatross (Double Eagle USA), 3 under par5
Eagle, 2 under par4
Birdie, 1 under par3
Bogey, 1 over par1
Double Bogey, 2 over par (or worse)0
Example of Stableford Points Scoring System

The smart cookie will work out that playing the course to par equates to 36 points. This is a pretty good day. Anything above is a great day and falling below 36 points is no disaster.

Having been responsible for organizing club competitions for several years, the average score at a Stableford event is only 28 points – it’s hard to play to your handicap.

Recording Stableford Scores On The Scorecard

If the responsibility is just for one player’s score to avoid potential errors, I would do the following: 

  • Row 1 (with player’s name) enter the gross score
  • Row 2 enter nett score
  • Row 3 enter Stableford Points
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This final row is the relevant number at the end of the day to find your winner – but if anybody questions and many do, you have all the scores available for a thorough audit!

If one player is recording all four scores, then they will have to be neat to fit in all the detail. Record the gross score and the Stableford points into the box.

A 5 gross, nett 4 on a Par 4 hole = 2 points. Record on the scorecard as 5/2.

Players should still have their own scorecard so that they can see when they may receive shots.

Expecting the scorer to make an announcement on each tee for all four golfers whether they have shots is not fair – and this will also slow down pace of play. Not what we want.

Golf Score Card – Example 2: Matchplay

Another very popular form of golf when playing with two or four golfers. This format is not about recording scores as you are playing a head-to-head match on each hole.

Let’s revert back to our four players used earlier to explain how match play works:

PlayerNameHandicapHoles where Strokes Received
1El Bandido8None (the lowest handicap player has no shots)
2The Flashing Blade168 (difference between their handicap and lowest handicap in the group)
3Billy the Bomber2012 (as above)
4Steady Eddie2416 (as above)
Strokes received by Each Player in a Matchplay Game

Each hole is a shoot-out between the two teams. Here we have players 1&2 against 3&4. Holes will be won by the lowest nett score from the four players. The hole is halved if the scores match.

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Recording Matchplay Scores On The Scorecard

Men’s HCP2818610
Men’s Par44343
El Bandido, 8 handicap (0 shots) & GROSS/ BEST NETT
The Flashing Blade, 16 handicap (8 shots) SCORE
Billy the Bomber, 20 handicap (12 shots) & GROSS/ BEST NETT
Steady Eddie, 24 handicap (16 shots) SCORE
Match Play Scorea/s+1a/s-1-2
Matchplay Scorecard – actual scores are not necessary, just inserted in this example

The scores are being recorded by the top pair.

A/S = Match all square. +1 Means they are ahead by one hole. They then lose the next 3 holes to go -2; this means they are 2 down in the match.

Related Article: The 8 Best Golf Betting Games

The scorecard in Competition Golf

In time you will move forward to play organized competition golf. Now scorecards are swapped between players in the group. Their score will be recorded in the first row.

At the end of each hole always ask the player whose card you are marking what they scored on the hole to confirm the number. Hopefully, there will be no anomalies but if the player offers a different score, clarify this before starting the next hole.

Always record your score on the lower section as it will be needed as a reference to check your score at the end of the round with the player who has been marking your card.

On completion of a competition round, players cross-reference their cards to ensure all hole scores are correct, total up the score and sign the card before returning it to the competition organizer. Two signatures are required, the player (scorer) and the marker (attest).

Thankfully the Rules of Golf were changed in the last revisions (2019) to lessen the chances of disqualification for totaling up a wrong score.

If a score on a hole is incorrect and less than you scored, then this is an automatic disqualification. If it is more, then you survive but this higher score frustratingly remains.

How are these mistakes made? Well surprisingly easy. Your brain is frazzled after the round, you are not focused when you go through your scores with your marker – and hey presto, a mistake is made.

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Quite simply, if you go through the card hole by hole and agree on each score, then all will be good in your world and disqualification will forever be avoided.

Famous Golf Score card Disqualifications

It may be hard to fathom but golf score card mistakes happen even at the highest level.

US Masters, 1968

Roberto De Vicenzo completed four rounds of the 1968 Masters Tournament tied for the lead with Bob Goalby at 277.

However, De Vicenzo’s marker during the fourth round, playing partner Tommy Aaron, mistakenly gave De Vicenzo a 4 on the 17th hole instead of his actual 3. De Vicenzo signed his golf score card and turned it in without double-checking his score.

When the tournament committee added his score for the round, it came up with 66 rather than the correct 65, giving him a four-round total of 278. Instead of entering a playoff for the championship, De Vicenzo was given second place, even though there was no doubt that he was tied for first.

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This error potentially cost him a Major Championship.

US Women’s Open, 1959

Another sad tale of a disqualification this time at the 1959 US Women’s Open at Winged Foot. An excited Jackie Pung, having won the championship, returned but forgot to sign her golf score card.

After much anguish by the committee, the Rules of Golf had to be applied and she was disqualified.

On a happier note sympathetic Winged Foot members then literally passed a hat and Pung received an amount over the $7,500 winner’s purse – but no Major title to her name.

There we have it, even the best can make costly errors with their golf score card. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap! Due diligence, focus, and accuracy can avoid any potential disappointment.

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Golf score Card Sorted – What’s Next?

Now you know about a handicap on golf scorecards and how to read a golf scorecard – what’s next in golf’s terminology to understand?

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I have been in love with the game of golf for over 30 years and this passion propelled me to find work in the golf sector way back in 1997. In recent years I have worked as a full-time golf caddy in Scotland and Florida until Covid struck - hopefully my wonderful lifestyle will soon return. When not working, I like to keep fit, play golf and enjoy a nice glass of single malt!

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