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Scoring Systems

A wise player ought to accept his throws and score them, not bewail his luck.
  -   Sophocles (496-406 BC)
Clubs and Balls

Teeing Ground
Order of play
Falling off tee

Playing the Ball
Wrong, Substitute
Lifting, dropping
Moved, deflected

Provisional, Lost, Out of bounds

Putting Green
Marking, lifting

Water hazards
Lateral water hazards

Abnormal Conditions
Casual water
Hole, cast, or runway

Loose impediments

Rule 1
Rule 3-3
Old Course, St Andrews
Wartime local rules
Best ever golf poem

The points scoring system originated by Dr Frank Stableford (1870-1959) was first used on 16 May 1932 at Wallasey Golf Club, Cheshire.

The original Stableford scoring system was played off scratch:
Dr Frank Stableford
Bogey*  -  2 pts
1 over    -  1 pt
1 under  -  3 pts
2 under  -  4 pts
3 under  -  5 pts

*Bogey was the term used in those days rather than par

At the end of the round, the player added his full handicap to the points scored to get his total points.

This particular method was quickly recognised as giving the high handicapper a distinct advantage, for instance if the weather was so bad that no-one scored any points, the highest handicapper in the field would win. In subsequent events, strokes were taken at the relevant holes.

Dr Stableford had devised a prototype system while a member at the Glamorganshire Golf Club, Penarth, for use in Sept 1898.
The scoring was for a bogey competition (the Rules then were virtually identical to today's).

" Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost by one stroke only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it is won by one stroke, the player scores three; and if by two strokes, the player scores four. To the score thus made, one third of the player's medal handicap is added."    
(South Wales Daily News, 30 Sept., 1898)
Ever wonder why Stableford competitions often use 7/8 of handicap?   In the early days, the maximum man's handicap was 21.  Dr Stableford believed that no-one should have more than one stroke per hole in his system; this adjustment allowed no more than 18 strokes per round.

The Stableford system was included in the end pages of Rules books from 1952, and in 1968 received official recognition as a form of play by being moved to the main body of the Rules.

Up till 1933 the definitions included a method of reckoning in match play.  Here's how it works:
You tee off, you're playing 'the odd', i.e.. playing one more stroke than I.  I tee off, I am playing 'the like'.   We reach our balls in the fairway - or rather, upon the fair green - where we have played an equal number of strokes.  You will still hear players in the UK using the expression 'like as we lie' when they have played an equal number of strokes.

Your drive was longer than mine so I'm away, I am now playing the odd - it's a fantastic shot, of course!  You now play the like, a topped shot dribbling a short distance. Now, you have to play the odd, another bad stroke, going nowhere.

Your next shot is no better, you have played 'two more'.  Finally you get a good one away, onto the green and into the hole for 'three more'.  Now it's my turn, I play 'one off three', but it's a duff, so I play again, onto the green in 'one off two'.  My putt now is the 'like', so it's for a half.

The neat thing about this way of counting is that it was not necessary to keep track of the number of individual strokes to know the state of the hole at any point.  But, in 1912 an addition to the rules stated that a player was entitled to ascertain how many strokes his opponent had played.   Can we assume that the number of strokes relative to the player was sufficient rather than an absolute number?

Bogey and Par
Par as a golfing term dates from the last quarter of the 19th century, and came into regular use in the early 1900s, more so in the USA than in the UK. Par was regarded as a perfect score made by a first-class player, without flukes and without error - and taking two putts on each green.

Bogey is a little harder to define. It was based on the best average scores of first-class players over a particular course, and as such was more individual, but standards would differ from course to course. Par, on the other hand, was based purely on hole length.
The bogey score therefore was a little higher than par, somewhere around 5-6 strokes. As par became more recognised as a standard, the term bogey came to mean one stroke over par.
The consistent definition of par was also an asset in allocating handicaps to visiting players.

Golf handicaps started to be widely used around the same time as par, although stroke allowances, for the purpose of wagering, had been around long before.

Alongside the explosive growth in the number of golf clubs in the last decade of the 1800s, calls were made for a central handicapping authority. In 1881 the method of averaging 3 rounds then deducting scratch score was introduced.
Administration of handicaps started in the early 1900s; the first official list in the USA dates from 1911. The concept of course rating grew along with handicapping, and the US rating system and the UK's Standard scratch score for a particular course came into being about 1925.

Bisques is an old method of handicapping. The player who receives strokes normally has those strokes allocated according to the stroke indices of the holes. Playing with bisques, the player gets a smaller allocation, normally half the handicap difference, which can be used at any time that he chooses, even after the play of a hole has been finished. Judicial use of them was an important element of the match.
Bisques were never ratified by the golfing authorities.

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