What is the deal with “country club” sports and their scoring terms? Tennis uses love, 15, 30, and 40 to simply count to 4. Don’t even get us started about “deuce” and “advantage”. Not to be outdone, golf terms are equally strange.
Instead of golfers telling you how many strokes it took them to finish the hole, they say things like par, bogey, double bogey, eagle, birdie, or albatross. This can be tricky for beginners, but before you know it you will speak fluent golf. Let’s be honest, it is easier to learn the language of golf than to learn how to hit a golf ball straight.
Today we are going to focus on the term birdie. What does it mean, how do you make one, and how does it compare to the other golf scoring terms?
What Is A Birdie In Golf?
Let’s start with the concept of par. Every golf hole is assigned a par and you can find this information on your scorecard. Par is your goal for that hole - the number of swings/strokes it should take you to get your golf ball into the hole.
When you play golf you will encounter par-3 holes, par-4 holes, and par-5 holes. There are a few par-6 holes, but these are very rare. The typical golf course has 4 par 3s, 4 par 5s, and 10 par 4s, but this can vary slightly from course to course.
A birdie is the golf scoring term for when you make one less than par. For example, you score a 3 on a par-4 hole. A birdie is always considered a good score - you will see professional golfers on the PGA Tour celebrate when they make a birdie.
How To Score A Birdie?
There are many different ways to score a birdie, but let’s start with the most common. You hit the green in regulation and 1-putt. Hitting a green in regulation means that you have a putt for a birdie (for example, your 2nd shot on a par-4 hole ends up on the green). Let’s talk about how this works on each type (par) of a hole.
On a par-3 hole your first shot lands on the green and you roll in the putt to score a 2! On a par-4 hole, you hit your drive into the fairway, you hit your second shot onto the green, and you make the putt for a 3. Finally, on a par-5 hole, you hit your drive and 2nd shot in play, your 3rd shot finds the green and you drain the birdie putt for a 4.
Of course, there are other ways to make a birdie. You could miss the green in regulation, but chip the ball into the hole from a sand trap. An expert golfer could reach a par-5 hole in 2 shots and simply 2-putt for a birdie.
Where did the term birdie originate? It comes from 19th-century American slang when “bird” was used to describe anything that was excellent. It started with golfers saying “That was a bird of a shot” and eventually transitioned to “Birdie”.
Your skill level will determine how many chances at birdie you will have during a round of golf.
How Do You Calculate A Birdie?
The calculation for a birdie is quite simple. It is one less than the par that is listed on the scorecard. You may not love math, but we are confident you can handle this subtraction.
It is common practice to circle a birdie when you write it down your scorecard. Most common golf wagers/bets include a bonus for birdies.
Tips For Scoring A Birdie
Expert players are going to make more birdies than average golfers, but there are some strategies you can use to improve your chances. If you are going on a birdie hunt, keep these tips in mind.
1. Keep Your Tee Shots In Play
On par-4 holes and par-5 holes your tee shot cannot guarantee you a birdie, but it can eliminate your chances. You aren’t going to score a birdie if you hit your golf ball deep in the woods, in a hazard, or out of bounds.
Focus on keeping your tee shots in play and try to find the fairway. You always want to give yourself a reasonable chance of hitting the green in regulation.
2. Hit More Greens, Get More Chances
Making birdies is a numbers game. The more birdie putts you have during a round of golf, the more birdies you will make. Yes, you can chip in for birdie, but this is much harder than making a putt.
We recommend you track how many greens you hit in regulation during each round (how often you have a birdie putt). Monitor this statistic over time and work on improving it. This is a great way to start shooting lower scores.
3. Spend Time On The Putting Green
There is a simple fact in the game of golf. Great putters make more birdies. Learning to make a consistent putting stroke will improve your odds of making birdies.
We like the 50/50 practice rule. Spend half of your practice time hitting your other golf clubs on the driving range and spend half of your time working on your putting.
4. Give Your Birdie Putts A Chance To Find The Hole
One of the most overused golf jokes is “95% of putts that are shot don’t go in” - to state the obvious, 100% of the putts that don’t reach the hole don’t go in.
Our advice is don’t be short! Try to hit all of your birdie putts 1-2 feet past the hole. It could go in, but if it doesn’t, you have an easy par putt. You want to make birdie, but you don’t want to 3-putt!
Birdie In Relation To Par
We have learned that birdie is one stroke less than par, but what happens if you make a 3 on a par-5 hole? This is called an eagle. The most exciting eagle is a hole-in-one on a par-3 hole.
Is there anything better than an eagle? The answer is yes, but it is extremely rare. An albatross is when you score 3 strokes less than the par. This could be a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole or a 2 on a par-5 hole. The vast majority of golfers will play their entire lives without ever making an albatross.
What if you score worse than par? This part of golf scoring terms is a bit simpler. If you score one more than the par (a 5 on a par-4 hole) it is called a bogey. Two worse than par, a double bogey. Three worse than par, a triple bogey. It can keep going, but we hope you don’t make too many hextuple bogeys!