The game of golf is rich with unique terminologies essential to understanding and enjoying the game. One such term is ‘bogey,’ a word often heard across golf courses worldwide. This article delves into answering the question: what is a bogey in golf?

The Language of Golf

Golf language is intrinsic to the sport. Understanding golf terms can enhance one’s ability to participate in fully and appreciate the game. Golfers refer to specific actions, results, and items in the game, such as the golf ball, the golf hole, or terms like ‘scratch golfer’ or ‘triple bogey.’ Understanding these terms is a crucial step toward playing golf.

The term ‘bogey’ is an important part of the golf lexicon. The word ‘bogey’ in golf is significant in determining the performance of golfers, from novices to experts. It is not just a simple golf term; it carries weight regarding a player’s skill level and the game’s competitive nature.

What is a Bogey in Golf? – Defining the Term

A bogey in golf refers to a score of one stroke over the par for a given hole. If the par of a hole is four strokes and a golfer finishes the hole in five strokes, that is considered a bogey. But bogeys aren’t the only term used to describe over-par scores. For instance, two strokes over par is a double bogey, three over is a triple bogey, four over is a quadruple bogey, and so on.

The term ‘bogey’ originated in Britain and made its way to the United States in the late 19th century. The word ‘bogey’ originated from a popular song called “The Bogey Man.” Golfers began using this term to describe an imaginary player or ‘bogeyman’ that they aimed to beat, essentially setting a ground score.

Beyond Bogey – Understanding Other Golf Scores

While this article has primarily focused on what a bogey in golf is, understanding other golf scores can also be beneficial. In golf, scores worse than a bogey, such as a double bogey (two strokes over par), triple bogey (three strokes over par), quadruple bogey (four strokes over par), and quintuple bogey (five strokes over par), are not uncommon, especially among beginner and average golfers.

However, there are also favorable scoring terms. For instance, a birdie score is one stroke under par, an eagle is two strokes under par, and the rare and exciting albatross is three strokes under par. And let’s not forget the ultimate achievement in golf, the hole-in-one, where the golfer manages to get their ball into the hole with their first shot from the tee!

Like a bogey, these scores hold significance in the game of golf, and understanding them can help a golfer gauge their progress and set goals for their golf journey.

Understanding the Golf Course – Where Bogeys Happen

A golf course is a complex playfield with holes, each with a teeing ground, a fairway, and a putting green. Each hole is given a par, indicating the number of strokes an expert golfer must take to complete that hole.

Different parts of a golf course can significantly impact the likelihood of scoring a bogey. Tricky pot bunkers or challenging green layouts can make it difficult for golfers to achieve par or better. For example, playing golf at a traditional links golf course, known for its challenging terrain and weather conditions, might result in more bogeys for the average golfer.

The Bogey Golfer – A Closer Look

A ‘bogey golfer’ is a term used to describe a player who, on average, scores a bogey on almost half their holes. This term is used in the USGA handicap system to calculate slope ratings, indicating the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers compared to scratch golfers (those expected to play at even par).

While a bogey golfer might not match up to a professional golfer’s skill level, they still play a significant role in the golf world. Most golfers worldwide are closer to being bogey golfers than scratch golfers. So, don’t be discouraged if you’re scoring bogeys. You’re in good company!

From Bogey to Better – The Journey of Improvement

The journey from scoring regular bogeys to achieving better scores is not easy. It requires practice, patience, and a thorough understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses. The golf score of a good golfer is not just a result of natural talent but a testimony of hard work and constant learning.

The slope rating of a golf course, as defined by the USGA handicap system, can guide golfers aiming for improvement. It measures the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer versus a scratch golfer. By understanding the slope ratings, golfers can better strategize their games and gradually improve their scores.

Moreover, golf is not just about how many strokes one takes to complete a hole or a course; it’s about how one learns from each stroke. A golfer who frequently scores a bogey should not be disheartened. Instead, they should analyze their game, identify the areas that require improvement, and work on those aspects.

How to Avoid a Bogey – Strategies and Techniques

Many factors can lead to a bogey: a poorly placed first shot, difficulty on the green, or simply miscalculating the effective playing length of a hole. Understanding these common pitfalls can help golfers develop strategies to avoid them and aim for better scores.

For instance, focusing on improving the first shot or ‘drive’ can significantly impact the hole’s overall difficulty. Expert golfers like Rory McIlroy can often drive the ball so far down the fairway that they require fewer strokes to reach the green.

Another way to avoid bogeys is to master putting. It’s often said that “drives are for show, but putts are for dough.” Becoming a good putter can drastically improve your golf score, turning potential bogeys into pars or birdies!

Navigating Different Golf Courses – The Bogey Perspective

Different golf courses present unique challenges when it comes to avoiding bogeys. For instance, a course with many water hazards and narrow fairways may require more precision, while a course with large greens might emphasize the golfer’s short game.

Knowing how to adapt to different courses is critical. A golf expert may approach each course differently, adjusting their strategy based on the course’s features and their strengths. For example, on a course with wide fairways, a golfer with a strong drive might be more aggressive, while on a course with small greens, they might focus more on precision and control.

Recreational Golfers and the Bogey – A Common Encounter

Bogeys are common among recreational golfers, more so than professional or scratch golfers. That’s not necessarily bad, as golf is about enjoyment and gradual improvement for many recreational players.

However, recreational golfers can learn from their bogeys and work to improve their games. Many find participating in local bogey competitions a fun way to practice and improve, turning the challenge of avoiding a bogey into a game.

Bogeys and Golf Tournaments – Turning the Tables

Interestingly, bogeys can have a significant impact on professional golf tournaments. There have been instances where a single bogey dramatically affected the outcome of a tournament. For example, in match-play tournaments, the player with the lower score on each individual hole wins that hole. So a bogey can be the difference between winning and losing.

There’s a lesson here for all golfers: every stroke counts, and minimizing bogeys can improve overall score and performance.

Famous Bogeys in Golf History

Even professional golfers, who possess exceptional skill levels, sometimes end up with bogey scores. One such incident is the famous bogey made by Rory McIlroy at the 2011 Masters Tournament. McIlroy was leading the pack going into the final round, but a series of mistakes, including a bogey and a quadruple bogey, led to a collapse in his game.

This incident teaches all golfers that everyone has bad days, and even professionals are not immune to the occasional bogey. It also reiterates that a bogey is not the end of the world. It’s part of the game and serves as a constant reminder of the challenges and unpredictability that make golf such an intriguing sport.

The Mental Aspect of a Bogey – Coping with Performance

Scoring a bogey, especially on a hole where you expected to do well, can be a mental setback. However, maintaining a positive attitude even after scoring a bogey is crucial.

Developing mental resilience is as important as honing physical skills. Just remember that even expert golfers score bogeys sometimes. The key is to learn from each bogey and use it as motivation to improve.

The Bogey and the Spirit of Golf

Ultimately, golf is more than just scoring fewer strokes than your opponent. It’s about sportsmanship, perseverance, and the constant pursuit of improvement. Every term in golf, from a bogey to a hole-in-one, encapsulates part of the spirit of the game.

A bogey is not just a score; it’s a symbol of challenge and potential growth. It’s part of the journey that every golfer, from the novice to the expert, experiences. Remember, the objective is not to avoid every bogey but to learn from them, grow as a player, and appreciate the complexity and beauty of the game of golf.


Understanding the concept of a bogey in golf is crucial, whether you’re a beginner just starting to play golf or a seasoned player aiming for improvement. Every aspect of the game offers a chance to learn and grow from the golf course to the individual golf hole.

As you continue your golf journey, remember: a bogey isn’t necessarily bad. It’s an opportunity to learn, improve, and ultimately enjoy the game even more.


  • USGA Handicap System Manual
  • Golf Digest: The History of the Term Bogey
  • The R&A: Rules of Golf
  • Professional Golf Association (PGA) Player Profiles: Rory McIlroy

Chris is an accomplished health and fitness writer with a strong passion for helping others optimize their physical and mental well-being. With a degree in Exercise Science and a diverse background in the wellness industry, Chris brings a depth of knowledge to his writing that is both comprehensive and compelling.

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