What is a Bogey in Golf? (and why it's not always bad)

Last updated Aug 08, 2023

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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 "bogey".

Definition of a "bogey" in golf

Bogey in golf

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

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

Dang, I made another bogey

Or...

I made bogey on that hole

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

  • Par 5 hole - On a par 5, a bogey is equal to six strokes.

  • Par 4 hole - On a par 4, a bogey is equal to five strokes.

  • Par 3 hole - On a par 3, a bogey is equal to four strokes.

Origin of the term "bogey"

The emergence of the term "bogey" in golf has a fascinating backstory, rooted in military and colloquial language. Its beginnings trace back to World War I when British military pilots employed the term as slang to denote an unidentified or potentially hostile aircraft or target. This colloquialism evolved into a general reference for any unknown entity.

In the golfing realm, "bogey" found its place to signify a score that exceeded par by one stroke on a given hole. The connection lies in the concept of an "unknown" or "unidentified" score over par, reminiscent of its military slang origins. This unconventional score denotation was first recorded in 1890 in England, marking the inception of "bogey" in golfing discourse.

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 bogey on a golf scorecard?

Scorecard annotations

On a golf scorecard, if you make a bogey, you will put a square 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.

A real example of a bogey in golf

The easiest way to understand a bogey in golf is by example, so here is a video of me making a bogey in real life. As a scratch golfer, bogeys are generally a bad score for me, but for higher handicap golfers, bogeys are more common.

The hole I am playing is a par 4 hole, which means that a bogey is equal to 5 strokes.

In the video, notice how on my second shot, also called my "approach shot", I miss the green. For expert golfers, "missing the green in regulation" is generally when you will see bogeys happen. In this case, I "missed the green" and then failed to "get up and down". This just means that I was unable to make my putt after the chip shot, and therefore, I had a bogey putt and made bogey.

How common is a bogey for average golfers?

For the average golfer, a bogey is a very common score. Depending on your skill level, it can be a great score.

Most golfers shoot between 85-110. In this scoring range, a bogey is a good score.

As you improve your score to the range of 75-85, bogeys are okay, but you will generally not be happy with them.

And as you start shooting between 65-75, you will avoid bogeys at all costs. They are bad for your round.

How common is a bogey for a professional golfer?

Bogeys are very common for professional golfers, but you will rarely see the pros make more than one bogey in a row, and you will rarely see the pros have more than a handful of bogeys in a single round.

On tour, bogeys are bad.

Is a bogey a bad score for all golfers?

While tour players hate bogeys, a bogey is not always a bad score.

Even PGA Tour players can make a "good bogey".

Typically, a "good bogey" on tour would refer to a situation where the golfer has hit their tee shot into water or out of bounds and has to take a penalty stroke. At this point, it becomes near impossible to make a par, so the next best score the pro can shoot for is a bogey.

In these cases, a bogey would be a great score considering the circumstances. Oftentimes, after a pro hits it in the water and still manages to make a bogey, you might hear an announcer say, "well that was good damage control".

This just means, "it could have been a lot worse".

What is "bogey golf"?

A common phrase you might hear is "bogey golf", which refers to a golfer who is skilled, but not an expert.

Typically, a "bogey golfer" will shoot between 85 and 95 and will consider a bogey as a "good" score.

We call it "bogey golf" because rather than measuring yourself against the "par" of the course, you measure yourself against your ability to make bogeys.

In the USGA Handicap system, the "slope rating" is a measurement of how difficult a golf course will be for a "bogey golfer".

What comes after a bogey?

After a bogey is a double bogey, triple bogey, quadruple bogey, quintuple bogey, and... You get the idea.

Unlike scores below par that all have unique names (birdie, eagle, albatross, condor), subsequent scores above par are all types of bogeys.

Golf scoring terms

Below are other golf scoring terms related to a bogey 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.

  • Birdie - A birdie is when you shoot one shot under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a 2. On a par 4, this is when you make a 3. On a par 5, this is when you make a 4.

  • 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.

  • 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.