Stableford Scoring: Everything You Need To Know
Golf is such a fun sport as we get to play different courses in different conditions anytime we tee it up. But the scoring aspect of golf rarely changes… simply count your total shots for each hole and add them up after the round.
While stroke play is the most common way to score in golf, match play is another fun alternative. However, there is another method that a lot of players might not be familiar with that can really make golf interesting – it’s known as Stableford scoring.
Even though this format doesn’t get the kind of attention of match play or a scramble, it’s one of the most fun ways to play golf. In this article, I’ll simplify this format so you can mix up your weekend matches and have more fun on the golf course.
First off you might be thinking, what is stableford? It sounds like a term that you would find in horse betting, not the golf course.
The creator, Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford, was one of the first people to understand the complexity of golf. He saw players getting frustrated by having a few bad holes early in the round and wanted more golfers to enjoy the round.
He devised a system in Wales in 1898 to help players out and the stableford format was born over a century ago. It’s more common in the UK, but is used in the US as well. Plus, there is one PGA Tour event that uses this system in a format tournament setting.
Stableford is a system where the goal is to get the most points for each hole (not the most strokes). The game of golf itself doesn’t change, the goal is to shoot the lowest score possible just like stroke play.
What makes it so different from stroke play is how the points are calculated. With stroke play, you simply add up your score on each hole. But with a stableford system, the score you have on each hole is then converted into points.
Let’s take a look at how the points are calculated…
Stableford Scoring Point System
The traditional format is based on your score to par.
For this example, we won’t discuss handicaps as it alters the scoring. Here’s how many points you will get on each hole based on your score to par:
- Three under par (albatross aka double eagle) = 6 points
- Two under par (eagle) = 4 points
- One under par (birdie) = 3 points
- Even par = 2 points
- Bogey = 1 point
- Double bogey (and worse) = 0 points
As you can see, this is a fun way to mix it up on the golf course as scores at or under par are rewarded big time. Not to mention a bad hole won’t ruin your round and a few good holes can give you tons of points.
If you’re playing with a group that is made up of higher handicap players, you can change the scoring system too. For example, instead of making the score to par, you can make it to bogey. So a bogey would be two points, a par would be 3 points, etc. This is one of the reasons it’s such a cool format – you can cater it to the type of golfers you’re playing with.
Modified Stableford Scoring Format
As I mentioned before, there is one PGA Tour event that uses this system in competition – the Barracuda Championship. Their website outlines how the scoring system is adapted for the professional event:
- Three under par (albatross aka double eagle) = 8 points
- Two under par (eagle) = 5 points
- One under par (birdie) = 2 points
- Even par = 0 points
- Bogey = -1 point
- Double bogey (and worse) = -2 points
This is where things get interesting as any score over par is penalized, unlike a traditional format. But it makes sense to adjust the scoring for this event as the course is pretty easy and these are the best players in the world.
The Barracuda website elaborated by saying, “The strategy in Modified Stableford formats can, in most instances, be summed up in three words: Go for it. This scoring format rewards risk-taking on the golf course. For instance, if the professional is facing a carry over water that he normally wouldn’t try, the Modified Stableford format presents an incentive to go for it.”
As a fan, this makes for some great TV since golfers are more likely to play aggressive on short par 4s and play more aggressively on par 5s. This usually leads to more birdies, eagles, and maybe even a double eagle.
Handicapping a Stableford Event
When you incorporate handicapping, Stableford scoring gets a little more complicated, which is why I recommend using an app that does that math for you (more on that in a second). But here is the overview for how to play a stableford with handicaps.
- Like a normal round of stroke play, the fixed score is adjusted based on hole indexes. Ex. If you’re an eight handicap, you get shots on the eight toughest holes on the golf course.
- On the eight toughest holes, you will subtract one from your normal score like stroke play. But this will change the total number of points, which can vary based on the rules your group created.
- For example, if you made a gross par on the hole but got a stroke for your handicap, it’s a birdie. In stroke play, this is only a one shot difference but with a stableford you actually change the score by two points.
Setting Up a Stableford
The next time you tee it up with your regular golf buddies, suggest a stableford format instead of stroke play. Before heading out, make sure the details are clear by figuring out:
- Are you playing with handicaps or not?
- How much is each score worth (refer to the point system above)?
- Is the score against par? Or, if it’s a group of less experienced players, against bogey?
Lastly, have someone in your pairing use a scoring app (see below) to do the math. It’s really important to establish the rules before anyone has hit a shot to avoid any issues later on in the round.
Then, go out and play golf! It should make the round a lot more enjoyable as players will likely play more aggressively in order to score more total points.
If you’re still not 100% sure how this system works, don’t worry we have some additional information to help you out.
What is a good score in Stableford?
A good score is relative to the people you’re playing with. While the scoring system changes, the goal on each hole doesn’t really vary – get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible.
The fun part with this format is that it rewards risky, aggressive play. Since eagles and birdies are worth so many more points, it’s worth it to try and play hero golf on some shots. Plus, if you do miss big and make a double bogey or worse, it’s the same total score for that hole.
How many points is an eagle worth in Stableford?
It depends on the scoring system that you set up before teeing off. In a traditional format, an eagle is worth five points and in a modified stableford, it’s worth eight points.
Needless to say, an eagle can make a big difference at the end of the round. It’s well worth it to try and drive short par 4s and go for the green in two shots on par 5s.
The more opportunities you can give yourself to make an eagle, the better. Plus, even if you have to “settle” for birdie, you’ll still get much more points than a par.
How do you score Stableford with a handicap of 28?
The best way to score a stableford event is to use an app on your phone.
Whether you’re a 26, 32, or +2 handicap, it makes the math much easier. Using an app allows you to calculate scores in real time, alter handicaps if needed, and make it easier to focus on playing golf.
Otherwise, it’s hard on the person keeping score to do math for every golfer on each hole. Instead, use an app to make things simple.
Here are a few golf apps that will take the effort out of scoring and let you focus on golf:
- Score Card & Stableford Calculator by Expert Golf. This app has no pop-ups and high ratings in the App store. Golf Weekly even said, “The digital scorecard. Has everything you need for your round of golf.”
- Golf Score App: For $1.99 you can let the app do the math and let you focus on golf! This handy tool lets you set your stroke index (SI) and enter the score once each hole is complete.
- mScorecard: This highly rated golf app also makes it easy for Stableford and a lot more. There is a free and paid version.
I think mScorecard is the best app since it helps with stableford scoring and so much more. According to the website, it can help you:
- Use GPS to view distances to the green.
- Calculate and track handicap index over time.
- Store your rounds and analyze them to improve your game over time.
- Track stats throughout the round (fairways hit, greens in regulation, sand saves, scrambling, and more).
Plus, share scorecards and round statistics with friends, on Facebook and through email.
What are some other formats other than stroke play?
Now that you know more about stableford scoring, why not try out a different type of format in the future too. Some of the most fun include:
- Match play: This is what makes team events like the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup so entertaining. The most you can lose on each hole is one stroke… even if you make eight and they make four! Expect anything to happen in a match play setting.
- Four ball: Grab a buddy and play a best-ball (known as four ball). Take the best score on each hole or you can even do the average of both scores.
- Shamble: A different form of a traditional scramble in that every golfer plays their own ball after picking the best tee ball.
Other formats include Calcutta, Chapman, scramble, and more.
The stableford system is a great way to have more fun on the golf course. It’s a nice change up from stroke play and nearly as much fun as match play.
Remember, the goal of a stableford is to get the most points! But this doesn’t mean the lowest score will always win based on eagles and birdies.
This system is also great for beginners and high handicap golfers who might have a blow up hole early in the round. Instead of letting a bad hole ruin the day, keep swinging and try to make up points on the next hole. Remember, after a double bogey, everything is the same (zero points).
The Stableford is also fun because you can play more aggressively and not worry about an occasional double bogey. If you and your friends decide to play this type of event, make sure to download an app to make it easy figuring out total points. That way you don’t have to try and manually tally them up after the round.
Have you ever tried playing in a Stableford event?
Let us know in the comments below!