What Do Those Golf Scoring Terms (Birdies, Bogeys, Pars) Mean?

golfer rolling her ball into the hole
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So you're new to the game of golf and you keep hearing references to birdies and bogeys, eagles and pars. What are those things, anyway? What do those golf scoring terms mean?

Those (and other terms) are all names for different types of scores on an individual golf hole.

Start With Par, Go From There to Understand Golf Score Names

When explaining golf scoring terms, start with par, because all the other names of golf scores are defined in relation to par.

"Par" refers to the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to need to complete the play of one hole on a golf course.

Golf holes of different lengths will require more or fewer strokes by a golfer. And regardless of length, the par number of a hole always allows for two putts. So a 150-yard hole is one on which the expert is expected to hit the green with his tee shot, take two putts, and, therefore, require three strokes to finish that hole. Such a hole is therefore called a par-3.

And every hole on a golf course is rated as either a par-3, a par-4 or a par-5 (par-6 holes also exist, but they are rare).

A very good golfer—or a very lucky golfer—might complete a hole in fewer strokes than the par (called "under par"). And of course, most of us are not "experts" at golf, and so on most holes we'll need more strokes than the par (called "over par").

That's where those other terms—birdies, eagles, bogeys, and so on—come into play.

They describe a golfer's performance on a hole in relation to the hole's par:

  • A birdie is 1-under par on a hole.
  • A bogey is 1-over par on a hole.
  • An eagle is 2-under par on a hole.
  • A double bogey is 2-over par on a hole.
  • A double eagle (very rare) is 3-under par (also called an "albatross").
  • A triple bogey is 3-over par.

    Given that a par-5 hole is the highest par most golfers will ever see, there is a limit to how far under par a golfer can go. But a hole-in-one—knocking the ball in the hole with your first shot— is also called an "ace." (On a par-5 hole, making an ace means a golfer is 4-under on that hole and, yes, golfers have a term for that, too: condor.)

    Scores over par can keep going up, and you just keep adding to the prefix, as in quadruple bogey, quintuple bogey, and so on. Here's hoping that's knowledge you'll never need.

    The Actual Number of Strokes That Result in These Golf Scores

    Here's what these most-common golf scoring terms mean for holes with pars of 5, 4 and 3, in the actual number of strokes:

    Par-5 Hole

    • Double eagle: On a par-5, means you finished the hole in 2 strokes
    • Eagle: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
    • Birdie: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
    • Par: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
    • Bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes
    • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 7 strokes
    • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 8 strokes

    Par-4 Hole

    • Double eagle: On a par-4, means you finished the hole in 1 stroke—a hole-in-one (very, very rare on par-4 holes)
    • Eagle: You finished the hole in 2 strokes
    • Birdie: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
    • Par: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
    • Bogey: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
    • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes
    • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 7 strokes

    Par-3 Hole

    • Double eagle: Double eagles are not possible on par-3 holes (a score of 3-under on a par-3 would be zero)
    • Eagle: You finished the hole in 1 stroke—a hole-in-one
    • Birdie: You finished the hole in 2 strokes
    • Par: You finished the hole in 3 strokes
    • Bogey: You finished the hole in 4 strokes
    • Double bogey: You finished the hole in 5 strokes
    • Triple bogey: You finished the hole in 6 strokes

    Note that any hole-in-one or ace will be called by those terms, rather than by double eagle (on a par-4) or eagle (on a par-3). After all, why use double eagle or eagle when you can call it a hole-in-one?

    Another note about the alternative term for "double eagle": Albatross is the preferred term in most of the golfing world; double eagle is the preferred term in the United States.