What is a Birdie in Golf? (and how often beginners and pros make them)

Last updated Aug 08, 2023

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Written by Zach

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New to golf and trying to figure out what all the golf scoring terms mean?

Let's talk about one of the most common golf scoring terms‚ÄĒthe "birdie".

Definition of a "birdie" in golf

Birdie in golf

A birdie in golf is a golf term to describe a score made on a golf hole where the golfer takes one stroke less than the designated par for the hole. This is often expressed as "one stroke under par" or more commonly, just "one under".

Here's how you'd hear this on a golf course:

I made a birdie on that hole

Or...

I was one under on that hole

Here is how many shots it takes to make a birdie on each type of golf hole.

  • Par 5 hole - On a par 5, a birdie is equal to four strokes.

  • Par 4 hole - On a par 4, a birdie is equal to three strokes.

  • Par 3 hole - On a par 3, a birdie is equal to two strokes.

Origin of the term "birdie"

According to the USGA (United States Golf Association), the term "birdie" originated in the United States in 1899.

The story goes like this‚ÄĒThere was a golf match played at Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey where one of the players, Ab Smith remarked:

That was a bird of a shot!

Back in that day, "bird" referred to anything great or excellent, so he was essentially remarking, "What an excellent shot".

Following this logic, an eagle was a more esteemed term than "birdie" while an albatross (double eagle) was even more esteemed than an eagle.

While I'm not so sure how true the Atlantic city country club story is, that's what we'll have to go with!

What is "the par" for a golf hole?

In golf, each individual golf hole has a designated "par" based on the hole's distance. This number assumes that a golfer will take two putts on the green, so in general...

  • If the green can be reached on your first shot, it will be a par 3 (1 stroke + 2 putts = 3)

  • If the green can be reached in 2 strokes, it is a par 4 (2 strokes + 2 putts = 4)

  • If the green can be reached in 3 strokes, it is a par 5 (3 strokes + 2 putts = 5).

These distances are different depending on what tee box you are playing from. Players who hit the golf ball shorter will play from the "forward tees" so they can reach the green in the designated number of strokes.

From the championship tees ("back tees"), here are some general distance estimates for each type of hole.

  • Par 3 - Generally, a par 3 is 100-180 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 4 - Generally, a par 4 is 360-410 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 5 - Generally, a par 5 is between 450-575 yards from the championship tees.

A golf course will add up all the "pars" for the holes to get the total course par. Generally, this will be either 70, 71, or 72. A golf course with a par of less than 70 are referred to as "Executive Course".

How do you write a birdie on a golf scorecard?

Birdie on scorecard

On a golf scorecard, if you make a birdie, you will put a circle around it to easily identify it.

As a side note, a double circle would be an eagle, a square is a bogey, and a double square is a double bogey. A par has no markings around it.

Scorecard annotations

A real example of a birdie in golf

Birdie putt

The easiest way to understand a birdie in golf is by example, so here is a video of me making a birdie in real life!

The hole I am playing is a par 4 hole, which means that a birdie is equal to 3 strokes.

In the video, you'll see me take one tee shot, one approach shot, and one putt, which is called a "birdie putt".

How common is a birdie for average golfers?

For the average golfer, a birdie is not common and is a great score. Remember, the fewer strokes, the better!

Most golfers shoot between 85-110. In this scoring range, it is common to have zero birdies the entire round. On occasion, an average golfer might make 1 or 2 birdies during a round.

As you improve your score to the range of 75-85, you will generally make 1-3 birdies per round.

And as you start shooting between 65-75, you will generally make 2-7 birdies per round.

How common is a birdie for a professional golfer?

An expert golfer will generally make 2-7 birdies in a single, 18-hole golf round. In four rounds (typical PGA Tour tournament length), the winner of a pro golf tournament will generally make between 20-30 total birdies.

If you can't make a lot of birdies, you can't make it on the tour.

What is a birdie streak?

Since the pros make consistent birdies, you may hear an announcer on TV say, "he's on a birdie streak, 6 in a row!". This is also called a "birdie run".

A birdie streak of two birdies in a row is common among pros, but anything greater than that is more rare.

When Jim Furyk shot a 58 at the Travelers Championship in 2016, he had multiple birdie streaks including 3 birdies in a row and 7 birdies in a row!

What is the easiest type of golf hole to make a birdie on?

While there is no single hole that is always easier, some holes tend to give more birdie opportunities than others, depending on the golfer's skill level.

  • Amateur golfers - generally, amateur golfers make most of their birdies on par 3 holesbecause this only requires 2 really good shots in a row to make a birdie.

  • Pro golfers - generally, the pros make most of their birdies on par 5 holes because they can hit the ball far, reach the green in 2 shots, and 2-putt for their birdie.

Are different golf courses harder to make birdies on?

Yes, golf courses will use all of the following techniques to make it harder for golfers to make a birdie. That said, most golf courses will have a mix of "easy" holes that golfers have a better chance of making birdie on.

  • Longer holes - the longer the hole, the harder it is to make birdie

  • Faster greens - faster greens make putting harder, and thus, make it harder to make that birdie putt!

  • Hazards - Water hazards, bunkers, and other challenging course features make it harder to birdie holes

Golf scoring terms

Below are other golf scoring terms related to a birdie in golf:

  • Hole-in-one - Also called an "ace", this is when you hit your tee shot in the hole and is most common on par 3s. On a par 3, a hole-in-one is also an "eagle". On a par 4, it is considered an "albatross" or "double eagle".

  • Condor - Also called a "triple eagle", this is the rarest golf score in golf because it requires you to get a hole-in-one on a par 5 hole. This has only happened a handful of times in history, and has never been caught on camera.

  • Albatross - Also called a "double eagle", an albatross is when you shoot 3 shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is impossible to make. On a par 4, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 5, this is when you hit your second shot in the hole.

  • Eagle - An eagle is when you shoot two shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 4, this is when you make a 2. On a par 5, this is when you make a 3.

  • Par - A par is when you take an equal number of strokes as designated by the "par" for the hole. On a par 3 this is a 3, par 4 a 4, and as you guessed, a par 5, this is a 5. This is often referred to as "even par", hence why you'll often see the symbol "E" as in the graphic above.

  • Bogey - A bogey is when you shoot 1 stroke over par. For example, on a par 5, this would be a score of 6.

  • Double bogey - A double bogey is when you shoot 2 strokes over par for the hole. For example, on a par 3, this would be a score of 5.

  • Triple bogey (and worse) - A triple bogey (and worse) is when you take 3 strokes over par or more. For example, on a par 4, a score of 7 is a triple bogey, a score of 8 is a quadruple bogey, a score of 9 is a quintuple bogey, and so on.

Curious about other golf terms? Here is my Ultimate List of Golf Terms page that breaks down every golf term, slang, phrase, and lingo

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About me

Zach Gollwitzer
Zach Gollwitzer

Hey, I‚Äėm Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission‚ÄĒI wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.

Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.