Stableford scoring in golf: How does it work?

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Stableford scoring is a format in golf in which players will score points based on the number of strokes they need to complete each hole.

How did Stableford scoring come about?

Stableford scoring was the brainchild of Dr Frank Stableford, who pioneered the system back in 1931 to help prevent golfers from giving up after a poor start to their round. (Cheers Frank, we’ve all been there.)

Although first used informally at The Glamorganshire in 1898, the points system was eventually developed and used in official competition on May 16, 1932 at Wallasey.

Dr Stableford has since been dubbed the Patron Saint of Club Golfers, credited for creating a system which allows every player to compete on equal grounds. A century on, Stableford scoring is now prevalent all over the world, particularly in the UK where it remains the preferred scoring system for most club competitions, social matches, and charity events.

How do the points work?

Each player plays against the par on every hole, scoring points based on their number of strokes in relation to par. Points are scored in the following way:

  • Albatross (3-under-par) = 5 points
  • Eagle (2-under-par) = 4 points
  • Birdie (1-under-par) = 3 points
  • Par (level) = 2 points
  • Bogey (1-over-par) = 1 points
  • Double Bogey or worse (2-over-par or more) = 0 points (also known as a blob)

Points are then adjusted based on a player’s handicap and the hole’s Stroke Index.

As with regular stroke play, points are totalled up at the end of the round. The player with the most points overall is the winner.

How do I adjust my handicap?

The number of points scored is determined after the handicap adjustment.

As a basic example, a player with a 14 handicap playing in a casual Stableford will get 14 additional shots, allocated on each of the Stroke Index holes 1-14 – so don’t forget to grab a scorecard!

If the Stroke Index 1 hole is a par-5 and the players records a par, after the handicap adjustment this will go down as a birdie and 3 points.

If a player’s handicap is greater than 18, certain holes afford them 2 shots. For example, a 20 handicapper gets 2 extra shots on Stroke Index holes 1 and 2. Record a par here and you’re looking at an eagle and four points.

What’s a good score in Stableford?

Players should be aiming for a minimum of 36 points – so 2 points a hole over 18 holes – though, as many seasoned golfers will attest, anything above 32 points is always a respectable score.

Topping the 40-point mark means you’ve had a phenomenal round. Well played!

What is Modified Stableford?

As the name suggests, a modified, slightly more challenging version of Stableford scoring also exists. The modified Stableford rewards good play to a greater extent, offering more points for scores under par.

Unlike traditional Stableford scoring, Modified Stableford punishes players more severely for poor play by taking points away if they score over par. Modified Stableford scores as followed:

  • Albatross (3-under-par) = 8 points
  • Eagle (2-under-par) = 5 points
  • Birdie (1-under-par) = 2 points
  • Par (level) = 0 points
  • Bogey (1-over-par) = -1 point
  • Double Bogey or worse (2-over-par or more) = -3 points

The PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship uses this points system.

Pros and Cons

Stableford golf speeds up the pace of play. The format allows players to pick up if they are having a bad hole, taking the pressure away from having to constantly hole out. Stableford scoring also eliminates any potentially embarrassing scores. No more grinding it out in the bushes to save a 10.

Many golfers believe it favours higher handicappers because you can have two or three blobs in a round and still come out on top.

Others may argue some of the skill and element of jeopardy is lost in Stableford golf. While indeed fun, it is ultimately still less of a test compared to medal golf.

There is also the argument that the format also puts lower handicappers at a disadvantage, as they aren’t afforded the same buffer as high handicappers when it comes to shots given.

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