February 21st, 2022

All You Need to Know About the Stableford Scoring System



If you are a golf enthusiast, you most likely know about the overwhelming number of scoring systems you can use when playing. While the main basic forms of playing golf are match play and stroke play, there are a lot of other golf tournament formats, such as the Stableford. You can play it individually or as a team, and it uses a points system in which the aim is to gain the highest score. The Stableford uses a points system set in the Rules of Golf, under rule 32, according to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which are the following:

  • more than one over fixed score: 0 points (Double Bogey or Worse)
  • one over fixed score: 1 point (Bogey)
  • fixed score: 2 points (Par)
  • one under fixed score: 3 points (Birdie)
  • two under fixed score: 4 points (Eagle)
  • three under fixed score: 5 points (Double Eagle)
  • four under fixed score: 6 points

The winner is the player or team with the highest score after 18 holes. While the Stableford is nowhere near as popular as match play, which is played in the Ryder Cup and the President Cup, it can be equally fun or even more! This is because it comes with a major change – the goal is no longer to maintain the lowest score possible but the highest. However, this does not mean that the goal is card doubles and triples. Instead, the Stableford is adapted to score birdies, eagles, pars, bogeys, and many more.

A Brief History of the Stableford Scoring System

Surprisingly, the Stableford dates back to over 100 years ago, as Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford invented it in the late 1800s. Because he always had the best interest of the average golf player in mind, the man is sometimes referred to as the “Patron Saint of Club Golfers”. Dr. Stableford had the idea of creating this system upon observing that golf players were giving up too quickly when they had unlucky starts. Consequently, he developed a scoring system to keep players going and finish the round.

However, it was only in 1932 that the Stableford was first put into tournament play at Wallasey Golf Club in England. Today, it is a quite popular golf scoring system that numerous tournaments across the United States use. One of these golf tournaments is the Barracuda Championship, the only PGA Tour that uses the Stableford – nevertheless, in a modified scoring format. This encourages aggressive play and competition more than other scoring systems, as the goal of the modified Stableford is also to achieve the highest score.

How to Play Golf Using the Stableford Scoring System

How points are given to each player or team was previously explained. Nonetheless, there is plenty to learn about Stableford in addition to this. For instance, every score to par is equivalent to several points predetermined for your group if you play as part of a team. This stimulates golf players to take more risks because the reward is greater, and the penalty for big numbers is not significant.

Your goal will be to get as many birdies or higher points and pars as possible to have the greatest number when the round ends. Lastly, in the traditional format of the Stableford, there are no negative holes, which means you can pick up anything after a double. It is important to know that there is a modified version of the Stableford, as we have mentioned before.

The Modified Stableford

Depending on your team, playing the modified version of the Stableford can make it easier or harder. The following is how the modified Stableford works in PGA Tours that punish a high number of strokes taken:

  • four strokes under: 6 points
  • three strokes under: 5 points
  • two strokes under: 4 points
  • one stroke under: 3 points
  • even par: 2 points
  • one stroke over (bogey): 1 point
  • two or more strokes (double bogey): 3 points

Since professional golf players are very good, they get penalized for anything over par. This is what the PGA Tour did when they used the modified Stableford in the Reno-Tahoe Open, which is now known as the Barracuda Championship. However, for amateur golf players, we suggest you use the normal or modified Stableford to incentivize pars but avoid scoring negatively with bogeys or even doubles.

What Is Stableford with Handicaps?

Like most systems, the Stableford has a shortcoming – handicaps. Dealing with handicaps can easily become messy, as, by the end of a round, the scorecard might look more like a balance sheet. Luckily, keeping the score can nowadays be done by using technology. There are numerous apps that can help golf players keep the score when playing by using the Stableford. Let us see how the Stableford works with a handicap stroke index for each player by supposing that you are a 10 handicap player using the modified version.

On the one through ten handicap holes, you would subtract one on the total score depending on your handicap. Therefore, if you make par on one of those holes, you make a birdie. Subsequently, you will use the net score to figure out the number of points scored on each hole, not the gross score. As usual, if you are playing without stroking on the hole, you will not get any subtraction of score. Furthermore, if you have a handicap greater than 18, you will get to subtract two strokes on certain holes.

The Takeaway

Even though the Stableford has been around for over a century, it is still one of the most enjoyable golf formats players can use, from beginners to professionals. If you cannot find a social outing that offers the Stableford experience, you can just create your own version with your family or friends and use a score-keeping app to make it easier. Not only will switching to playing the Stableford format challenge your skills as a golf player, but it will also change your routine if you are a regular player, which will add more fun and excitement to the game!