How To Read A Golf Scorecard

October 31, 2023

Golf is a game of precision and strategy, where players strive to complete each hole in as few strokes as possible. To keep track of their performance, golfers use a scorecard. Understanding how to read a golf scorecard is essential for players and spectators alike. In this article, we’ll break down the components of a golf scorecard and explain their significance.

A standard golf scorecard is a piece of paper that displays information about the golf course and provides space for players to record their scores for each hole. At the top of the scorecard, you’ll typically find the name of the golf course and the numbers of each hole, numbered one to eighteen, representing each hole’s order of play. Below this, you’ll see a list of yardages for each hole, which tells you the distance of the hole from each set of tees. A typical golf course will usually have at least three sets of tees; the mens, seniors, and womens. Some courses may have up to seven tee boxes per hole.

What Do The Circles And Squares Around Shot Number Mean?

The circles indicate the number of strokes a player took to complete a hole according to par. For instance, if a player scores a birdie (one stroke under par) on a hole, you will see the number on the scorecard be circled. Conversely, if a player scores a bogey (one stroke over par), you’ll see a square around their score on the hole. 

In the occurrence of an eagle (two strokes under par) or a double bogey (two strokes over par) you will see a double circle (eagle) or double square (double bogey) around the score. The shapes surrounding strokes on a scorecard help golfers calculate their scores with ease and give them a visual on their golf score.

What Do The Handicap Numbers Mean On A Golf Scorecard?

Handicap numbers play a crucial role in leveling the playing field in golf, allowing players of varying skill levels to compete fairly. A golfer’s handicap is a measure of their ability, expressed as a number. The lower the handicap, the better the player. On a golf scorecard, you’ll find a column labeled “Handicap” or “HCP.” Each hole will have a corresponding handicap number.

These handicap numbers indicate the level of difficulty of each hole, with lower handicap numbers assigned to easier holes and higher numbers to more challenging ones. Handicap numbers help players determine how many strokes they can deduct from their gross score to calculate their net score. This net score facilitates fair competition among players with different skill levels by accounting for the inherent difficulty of specific holes on the golf course.

What Are The Numbers In Blue, White, And Black Rows?

Golf courses often have multiple sets of tees, each with varying distances and difficulty levels. To accommodate golfers of different abilities, scorecards typically feature rows for different tee boxes. These rows are usually color-coded as blue, white, and black, representing the forward, middle, and back tees, respectively. The colors of these rows may change depending on the golf course.

The numbers in these rows indicate the yardage for each hole from each tee box. This information helps golfers choose the appropriate tee box based on their skill level, ensuring a more enjoyable and competitive round of golf. Beginner golfers might opt for the forward tees, while more experienced players may challenge themselves from the back tees to test their skills on longer and more demanding holes.


Reading a golf scorecard is an essential skill for golfers and fans of the sport. Understanding the circles and squares around shot numbers provides insights into a player’s performance relative to par and their handicap. Handicap numbers help level the playing field in competitions, allowing golfers of different skill levels to compete fairly. Additionally, the numbers in the blue, white, and black rows help golfers select the appropriate tee box for their game.

In conclusion, understanding the elements of a golf scorecard is a valuable skill for golfers and fans alike. By grasping the significance of circles, squares, handicap numbers, and tee box information, you can enhance your enjoyment of the game and gain insights into player performance. Understanding the scorecard allows you to get a better understanding of the golf course and how it will fit your playing style. 

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