Stableford Scoring in Golf – How Does it Work?

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While most golfers are familiar with the rules and format of stroke play, not everyone knows a great deal about Stableford scoring and how it actually works. But as anyone who has played it will attest, Stableford is an extremely popular and fun way of playing golf.

Stableford works by awarding players points that are calculated based upon their score, handicap, and the stroke index of the hole they’re playing.

To win a Stableford competition, you must outscore your fellow players.

This article introduces you to everything you need to know about the Stableford scoring system in golf, explaining the rules, scoring system, and even the modified Stableford format that is played on the PGA Tour.

Let’s begin by defining what exactly Stableford scoring is and where the popular format first came from.

What Exactly is Stableford Scoring?

Stableford is a popular scoring system in golf and awards points on each hole based upon how a player performs against their handicap. The player with the most points at the end of eighteen holes is declared the winner. 

The points system was developed by Dr. Frank Stableford and was first used informally at Glamorganshire Golf club in Penrith, Wales, in 1898.

However, it wasn’t until a competition at Wallasey Golf Club in England in 1932 that Stableford’s format was used competitively.

Today, the Stableford format is enjoyed by golfers around the world, as it speeds up play and motivates players not to give up on their round if they have a particularly bad hole, as there are scoring opportunities throughout the round.

How Do you Score Stableford Points in Golf (Rules Explained)?

As far as scoring Stableford points go, it’s actually pretty simple when you get the hang of it.

Based upon your current handicap, the R&A states that Stableford points are scored in the following way:

  • Double bogey or worse (2 over par or more) = 0 points.
  • Bogey (1 over par) = 1 point.
  • Par = 2 points.
  • Birdie (1 under par) = 3 points.
  • Eagle (2 under par) = 4 points.
  • Double eagle (3 under par) = 5 points.

Extra strokes are awarded to players based upon their handicap and the hole’s stroke index (or difficulty).

So, for example, a player with a handicap of eighteen would receive an extra stroke on every hole of the course.

A player with a handicap of twelve would receive twelve extra strokes, each allocated on the twelve most challenging holes on the course (those marked stroke index one through twelve).

If you’re a plus one handicapper playing Stableford, however, you would be required to reduce your number of strokes on the easiest hole on the course (stroke index eighteen).

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Here’s an example to make things a little clearer for you: 

  1. Let’s assume you have a handicap of eighteen and your playing partner has a handicap of twelve.
  2. On the first hole par four (stroke index two), you would both receive an extra stroke, so par is actually five instead of four. As the hole plays out, you score six, while your partner scores five.
  3. In a Stableford format, you would receive one point (for scoring one over par) while your partner would score two points (for scoring par).
  4. As you move to the par-three second hole (stroke index fourteen), you receive one additional stroke while your partner would not.
  5. Therefore, supposing you both score three, you would receive three points (for one under par), while your partner would receive two points (for par).
  6. When recording Stableford points on a scorecard, you’re required to mark the gross score (number of strokes) as well as the points scored by each player.

What is the Modified Stableford Scoring System?

As the name would suggest, the modified Stableford scoring system is a variation of the scoring system introduced by Dr. Frank Stableford more than 100 years ago. The basic premise of the modified Stableford is that good play earns points, and poor play takes points away. 

The modified Stableford is scored in the following way:

  • Double eagle = 8 points.
  • Eagle = 5 points.
  • Birdie = 2 points.
  • Par = 0 points.
  • Bogey = -1 point.
  • Double bogey or more = -3 points.

The modified Stableford scoring system is used at the Barracuda Championship, the only event on the PGA Tour that scores in this way.

The modified version is better suited to players with a higher skill level, as they’re more likely to card birdies and eagles and less likely to score double bogeys!

How Many Points is a Birdie in Stableford Worth?

In a traditional Stableford format, a birdie is worth three points. And because of the way that Stableford works, your chances of scoring a birdie actually increase. 

Continuing with our example and assuming that you play off eighteen, a gross par on any hole will yield you a net birdie, thanks to your additional stroke.

So, if you begin by scoring four on the first hole par four, with your additional stroke in a Stableford format, this would actually be a birdie, and you would receive three points as a result.

How Do You Win Stableford?

While golf usually motivates players to card the lowest possible score, Stableford is all about scoring the highest number of points. Ultimately, to win a Stableford competition, you need to score more points than those you’re competing against; it’s really that simple. 

But to score points, you must adapt your game and develop a strategy that rewards risk.

You should also consider who you’re competing against and establish potential scoring opportunities where you receive more strokes than your playing partners.

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While a wayward tee shot out of bounds won’t ruin your card as it might in stroke play, it will limit your scoring chances.

As with all formats of the game, keeping the ball in play from tee to green and aiming for as few strokes as possible will give you the best chance of winning a Stableford competition.

What is the Difference Between Stableford and Stroke Play?

Stroke play scoring is different from Stableford. In stroke play, every single shot matters and contributes to your final score. In Stableford, if you’ve already taken more shots on a hole than can be scored (anything over a double bogey), you can pick your ball up and move onto the next hole.

Stroke play is the format of golf that every player is most familiar with.

Every ‘stroke’ or shot that you play throughout the round is noted, and your overall score is recorded against the par of the course.

If, for example, you score 90 and par is 72, your stroke play score would be +18.

If you’re playing stroke play in a handicap competition, your handicap comes into effect and alters your score.

Taking the example above, if your handicap is twelve, your overall stroke play score would actually be +6 when your handicap is taken into account.

The Stableford format encourages quicker play and keeps things interesting until the very last hole.

It’s an excellent format for beginners and recreational golfers as one or two bad holes won’t necessarily ruin your Stableford scorecard!

Stableford Scoring Apps – (are there any to use?)

There are several apps that you can download that help you to work out your Stableford scores, so you don’t need to worry about memorizing all the points and rules right from the start. Here are a few apps for you to check out:

In the early days of playing Stableford, you might find the scoring system a little complex to get your head around. But don’t worry, it gets easier as you become more experienced with the format.

The three apps listed above are available on iOS and Android, so if you’re looking for help recording your Stableford scores, these apps are a great place to start.

Are You Going to Play Stableford Format?

Stableford is one of the most popular scoring formats played by golfers worldwide.

In addition to monthly stroke play medals, golf clubs tend to arrange Stableford competitions that are equally as popular with their members.

And while the scoring system may seem a little confusing at first, things get a lot easier the more you play!

If you haven’t yet played a Stableford format, you will find that it’s a fun and engaging way of making your way around the course, and it ensures that a couple of bad holes won’t ruin your scorecard