Stableford Scoring: Can It Make Your Rounds More Fun?

Stableford scoring is the most popular format played by amateur golfers around the globe. On top of speeding up play, it enables high handicappers to compete in the same tournament as mid and low-handicap golfers. So, let’s dive right in: What is Stableford scoring?

Stableford scoring tallies points for every hole based on your score. Essentially, a higher score is better! You’d get:

  • 0 points for a double-bogey
  • 1 point for a bogey
  • 2 points for a par
  • 3 points for a birdie
  • 4 points for an eagle
  • 5 points for an albatross

Stableford scoring can keep games competitive with mid-to-low handicap golfers. But beginners may struggle to score if they don’t often get bogeys, pars, or birdies. However, it is advantageous because you won’t get wrecked if you have one terrible hole.

Is Stableford scoring a better way to play for you? Want to give it a try?

In this post, you will learn the origins of this popular system and the variations used by amateurs and professionals.

History Of The Golf Stableford Format

According to Wallasey Golf Club, the origins of the Stableford point system in golf can be traced back to Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford.

The gentleman after whom the format is named originally concocted an alternative golf scoring system in 1898 as a member at Glamorganshire. He attempted to assign points to the standard bogey competition format at the time, but it proved unsuccessful.

Over thirty years later, after spending time in my motherland of South Africa, the surgeon finally cracked the formula. He was practicing his game on the 2nd fairway at Wallasey at the back end of 1931 when he concocted the Stableford point system as we know it today.

Dr. Stabelford was concerned by the number of golfers tearing up their cards and withdrawing from tournaments after a couple of holes. Instead, the golf points system enabled players to recover after one horrible hole. As you know, one poor play in strokeplay can sink your entire round.

Standard Stableford Scoring System

smiles on golf score card stableford

Stableford rules assign points to each score. The lower your score on each hole, the more points you receive. The golfer with the most points at the end of the round is declared the winner.

The R&A Rule 21.1.b stipulates how many points each score is worth during a round.

Score Name Strokes Points
Condor Four under par 6 points
Albatross Three under par 5 points
Eagle Two under par 4 points
Birdie One under par 3 points
Par Even par 2 points
Bogey One over par 1 point
Double Bogey Two over par O points

As you can see in the table, scores under par receive more golf points. Hence, a low net score translates into a higher points tally.

In addition, you’ll notice that there are no points for a double bogey or worse, which means you can pick up your ball once you exceed these strokes and press on to the next hole.

Benefits of Stableford Scoring:

  • Saves time
  • Speeds up play
  • Prevents one shocker from completely ruining your round

Noticeably, higher handicap golfers would stand at a disadvantage in this scoring system because they rarely score birdies. This is why we have the golf Stableford scoring system for handicaps, which I will cover in the next section.

Stableford Format With Handicaps

Stableford with handicaps requires some thinking and calculations as players are rewarded with points relative to their handicap. However, it helps even the playing field in competitions where scratch golfers compete against higher handicappers.

Therefore, not every player gains the same points on a hole if they all card a par. Let me provide some examples to put this format into perspective.

For example, if your handicap is 10, you stroke every hole on the course with a handicap score of 1 to 10. If you bag a par on one of these holes, you receive 3 points for your efforts, while a bogey gets you 2, and a double is worth one.

Conversely, you do not stroke the holes with a handicap rating of 11 to 18. When you card a par on these holes, it is only worth 2 points, and a bogey is worth one. On this occasion, a double gets you nothing. Spare a thought for scratch golfers, as this is their reality on every hole, and there are no additional strokes.

Furthermore, when your handicap exceeds 18, you double-stroke on select holes. For instance, a 27 handicapper double strokes on the nine most difficult holes on the golf course.

As you’ll see in the table below, Bill, a 27-handicapper, scores 4 points for par on a stroke 8 hole. That is because Bill’s 27-handicap earns him a double stroke on the nine most challenging holes.

Finally, Eric, a 36 handicap golfer, double strokes on every hole on the golf course. When he scores a par, he is awarded 4 points, while a bogey is worth 3, a double 2, and a triple equals a single point.

As the below highlights, despite a 36-handicap difference between Bob and Eric, the Stableford with handicaps format enabled them to compete. In the end, Bob and Eric tied for the win with 37 points a piece.

Example of Stableford Format with Handicap:

Name Handicap
Bob 0
Sandy 18
Bill 27
Eric 36

 

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Total
Par 4 4 4 4 3 5 3 4 4 3 5 4 3 5 4 5 4 4
Stroke 9 7 13 3 11 1 17 15 5 16 14 6 18 2 8 12 4 10
Bob 3 4 3 5 3 4 5 4 4 3 4 4 3 5 5 3 4 4
3 2 2 1 2 3 0 2 2 17 2 3 2 2 2 1 4 2 2 20 37
Sandy 5 6 5 7 4 5 3 7 6 3 4 6 4 6 5 5 6 5
2 1 2 0 2 3 3 0 1 14 3 4 1 2 2 1 3 1 2 19 32
Bill 6 5 6 7 4 6 3 7 5 5 6 6 4 7 4 8 6 5
2 3 1 1 2 3 3 0 3 16 1 2 2 2 2 4 0 2 2 17 33
Eric 7 6 5 8 5 6 6 5 6 7 7 7 4 5 7 7 5 5
1 2 3 0 2 3 1 3 2 17 0 2 1 3 4 1 2 3 3 19 37

If you are just starting your golfing journey, I suggest reading our beginner’s guide to golf handicaps. This will help you understand how a handicap benefits you, and how it is calculated.

What Is The Modified Stableford Golf Scoring System?

golfer hitting a sand bunker shot on sunset

A modified Stableford scoring golf system assigns a significantly higher points value to scores under par than the standard system. In addition, a modified Stableford golf point system issues negative points for a bogey or double bogey.

The PGA Tour employs modified Stableford rules for the Barracuda Championship, where an eagle is worth almost double the points of a birdie. You’ll notice in the table below that a par is worth no points, while a bogey is minus one point. Anything worse than a double bogey costs you three points.

I find that the modified Stableford encourages attacking golf as it provides a higher reward for lower scores.

Modified Stableford Golf Score System Chart:

Score Name Strokes Points
Albatross Three under par 8 points
Eagle Two under par 5 points
Birdie One under par 2 points
Par Even par 0 points
Bogey One over par -1 point
Double Bogey or worse Two over par -3 points

FAQ

What Is A Good Stableford Score?

A consistent Stableford score will see you at approximately 36 points. However, a Stableford round with over 36 points is a successful day for a golfer. As a junior, my coach had a rule. You score 30 points in a league match or go in the pool. Thinking back, he was pretty lenient.

Now that you know what a successful Stableford round looks like learn what an average score is in golf.

How Many Shots Do I Get in Stableford?

The quantity of shots you get in Stableford boils down to your handicap. For example, a 0 handicap golfer will receive no additional strokes for the round. Conversely, an 18 handicapper will get a shot on every hole on the golf course.

Furthermore, a 27-handicap golfer is entitled to double strokes on the most challenging nine holes on the course. Nevertheless, they receive a single stroke on the remaining nine holes. Finally, a 36-handicapper will double-stroke every hole meaning a bogey gets them 3 points, while a par is worth 4.

Can Your Handicap Get Cut in a Stableford?

Yes, tournament organizers can cut your handicap in Stableford if you bring in a ludicrous quantity of points. As a result, your handicap is adjusted slightly to reflect your skills on the day in question.

Truth be told, I have never played in a tournament where this has happened. It should have, given the number of ringers I have lost to in the past games.

Conclusion

There is your detailed rundown on Stableford scoring from the origins at Wallasey Golf Club to different format variations. Clearly, Dr. Frank Stableford was a genius. Due to his invention, the average golfer can enjoy a round of golf without one terrible hole destroying the outing.

The next time you think about employing the Stableford scoring format, ponder the option that makes the most sense for your group. If you are all low handicappers, you may wish to challenge yourself with the modified Stableford scoring format. On the other hand, you can stick with the standard setup.

Whether you are an ordinary golfer with a mid-to-high handicap, I suggest you stick to the Stableford format with handicaps to embrace the beauty of this sport.

Matt Callcott Stevens
Matt Callcott-Stevens
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Matt is a seasoned golf equipment writer and sports fanatic. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for over 28 years.

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