stableford scoring system

What is the Stableford Scoring System?

Stableford Scoring System

Stableford is a golf scoring system that assigns points to certain scores on a hole in golf. You’ll receive more points when you score better on a hole such as eagles, birdies, and pars than you receive when you score bogey’s or worse.

It incentivizes you to go after birdies and eagles since these scores are worth the most points in the Stableford game.

Stableford is a great system for keeping golf fun for the average golfer. A blow up hole isn’t as big of a deal in Stableford as it would be in Stroke Play.

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Here is the scoring system for Stableford:

  • 5 points – Three strokes under par (albatross / double eagle)
  • 4 points – Two strokes under par (eagle)
  • 3 points – One stroke under par (birdie)
  • 2 points – Even Par
  • 1 point – One stroke over par (bogey)
  • 0 points – Two strokes over par or worse (double bogey/triple/quad)

One of the interesting things you’ll notice with scoring in Stableford is that a bogey is still rewarded and earns you 1 point. Only when you make bad scores like double bogey or worse do you receive 0 points.

And since bad scores are treated equal with earning 0 points, you can pick up your ball once you no longer have a chance at scoring any points for that hole. This saves you from having to mark down a 9 or 10 or worse on the score card since it won’t count towards any points anyway.

The goal of Stableford is to receive the most points total. Each hole you’ll score a certain number of points based on if you make par, birdie, bogey, etc. and then you’ll mark down those points hole by hole and add them up at the end to get a total score.

To score a high point total you’ll want to make as many birdies as possible. In stableford, you can be more aggressive trying to make birdies and pars since there isn’t a negative outcome if you have a bad hole like with Stroke Play. Taking a snowman on a hole doesn’t have the same affect in Stableford as it does in Stroke play.

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Modified Stableford Scoring

Even though we just mentioned no negative consequence for having a bad hole in normal Stableford Scoring, there is a modified version of Stableford where you can earn negative points and get penalized for making bogey or worse on a hole.

Here is the modified Stableford Point System:

  • 5 points – Three strokes under par (albatross / double eagle)
  • 4 points – Two strokes under par (eagle)
  • 3 points – One stroke under par (birdie)
  • 2 points – Even Par
  • -1 point – One stroke over par (bogey)
  • -3 points – Two strokes over par or worse (double bogey/triple/quad)

This modified version of the game puts pressure on you to avoid making bogey or worse since you’ll receive negative points and have to deduct points off your score total.

This is the method the PGA used when they implemented the Stableford System into the Barracuda Championship. It penalizes the best players in the world for making scores worse than par.

Decide with your friends and playing partners which scoring method you prefer to use. Most amateur players will have more fun using the normal Stableford scoring system in golf but if your group is up for the challenge, the modified game might be fun too.

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Playing Stableford with Golf Handicaps

At my local golf club, we used to play the Stableford game with handicap to create a more level playing field since golfers are all different skill levels to make team play more fair.

Some guys can’t make a par naturally, but with handicap they can get an adjusted par score by getting to subtract strokes on a hole thanks to handicap format.

When using handicaps for playing Stableford, you’ll take your number of strokes on a hole and then subtract however many strokes you’re given for handicap on the hole to calculate an adjusted handicap stroke total.

This number is then used to calculate how many points you get based on if the adjusted score was a par or birdie or bogey, etc.

For example, if you are an 15 handicap, then you’ll get one stroke for the 15 toughest holes by rating on the scorecard. If hole #1 is one of the 15 toughest holes, then you’ll receive a stroke, meaning you can subtract one stroke from your final score on the hole.

Let’s assume you score a bogey (5) on this par-4. After subtracting off the handicap stroke, you would write down a 4 instead of 5 on the scorecard, which in this case would be par since it’s a par-4.

And since you scored a handicap adjusted par (instead of a natural bogey), you get to score your par for 2 points in the Stableford game.

It can get quite complicated with handicap but it helps make the game more fun for bad golfers who score 90+ for 18 holes, since they can subtract strokes off their scores using handicap to turn a double bogey into a bogey or par, and score some points with Stableford.

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History of the Stableford Scoring System

The Stableford was developed in the late 1800’s by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford. Quite the name he had but now this scoring system is named after him, Stableford, for short.

Despite being over 100+ years old, the Stableford Scoring System is still relevant today and is even used on the PGA Tour. In addition to stroke play and match play, the PGA Tour uses the Stableford scoring system at the Barracuda Tournament each year.

It was first introduced into tournament play in 1932 at the Wallasey Golf Club of England. It’s a popular golf scoring format overseas in International Play, but it still can be found here in the United States as a popular game to play as well.

Dr. Frank Stableford was a “Saint of Club Golfers” as he was frequently called by patrons for his role in keeping the interests of the average golfer at heart.

And keeping their interests was his main goal with developing the Stableford golf game. He designed the Stableford score system to keep golf fun the entire round of play. This way if you get off to a rough few holes to start, you’re not ready to throw in the towel and give up on the rest of your golf round.


How is Stableford different from Stroke Play?

Unlike stroke play, with Stableford we aren’t worried about total strokes on each hole and scoring the lowest total strokes for the entire round. If you have a bad hole, no worries. It won’t affect your entire round.

You can make a high score on a blow up hole and it will no longer effect you on the next hole. Unlike stroke play, that bad blow up score would haunt you your entire round and affect your total strokes overall.

Instead, Stableford is a game that scores points based on each holes outcome. The goal is to make as many eagles, birdies and pars as possible because they receive the most points. A bogey still receives 1 point so it’s not necessarily a bad score, like it would be with stroke play.

You can still win a hole by scoring more points than your partner, even if you both have bad holes.

How do you score points in Stableford?

Points are allocated based on making eagles, birdies, pars, and bogeys. You earn 0 points when you make a double bogey or worse. Each hole resets, so if you have a bad hole and score 0 points, you can try again on the next hole and have a chance to score 1-5 points.

Not much else changes in terms of golf. You still want to get the lowest number of strokes possible on a hole in order to get rewarded the most amount of points possible from the Stableford scoring system.

5 points are the most you can receive on a hole for making a three under par score (albatross / double eagle).

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