What is the Stableford point system?

Stableford point system

golf scorecard

Golf scorecard

The stableford scoring system is a way of scoring in golf where a player scores points based on his stroke-play score for each hole. The goal is to score as many points as possible. The player with the most points wins.

The points are earned according to the following scale.


Double bogey or higher: 0

bogey: 1

Par: 2

Birdie: 3

Eagle: 4

Double eagle (albatros): 5

The US PGA Tour event, The International (canceled in 2007 after 21 years) used a modified stableford system.


• Double Eagle: 8 points

• Eagle: 5 points

• Birdie: 2 points

• Par: 0 points

• Bogey: -1 point

• Double Bogey or Worse: -3 points


Stableford System and Handicap Play

A very important aspect of the Stableford System is that the traditional handicap system in golf can be easily applied so that players of different abilities can play against eachother as equals.

This is done by taking a player’s handicap and spreading it out across all the holes. This is done according to the handicapping of each hole as shown in the diagram below.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Ex. 1) A player holds a handicap of 18. He has 18 strokes to be distributed. He will get one stroke on every hole. In essence, he can subtract one stroke from his score on each hole. A bogey for him on any hole turns into a par. In stableford, he will thus score 2 points for every bogey he makes.

A scratch golfer (0 handicap) must score a par in order to score 2 points in Stableford.

Let’s say the scratch golfer has 18 pars. He earns 36 Stableford points. If the 18 handicap player has 18 bogeys (18 over par), he too will score 36 points in Stableford. In this case, there would be a tie between the two players.  This is quite normal, as the scratch golfer would “give” the 18 handicap player 18 strokes in a handicapped stroke-play match.

Ex. 2) A player has a handicap of 24. He will automatically have one stroke on every hole. He will have a second stroke on the 6 most difficult holes. On those more difficult holes, a double bogey will score him 2 points in Stableford, as he will subtract 2 strokes from his stroke-play score on each of those holes. He will also scored two points in Stableford for every bogey on the other “easier” hole.

It is easy to imagine a scenario between this player and a scratch golfer as we did in example 1.

Ex. 3) A player carries a handicap of 4. He will receive only 1 point on the four most difficult holes. As a 4 handicap player, he is expected to be able to score a par “without help” on the 14 easiest holes.

Once again, it is easy to illustrate a match between this player and others.

The interesting thing about the Stableford point system is that it very closely reflects stroke-play scoring in golf.  By knowing a player’s handicap and how many points he scores in Stableford, we can essentially know what he shot in stroke play, AND more importantly, what he shot relative to his handicap. The “magic number” in Stableford is 36. In essence, 36 points in Stableford means that a player had 18 pars (18 x 2 points for a par). Knowing that the par for each hole is adjusted according to a player’s handicap, 36 points also means that a player shot his handicap.

Remember that in Stableford the better one plays, the MORE points he scores. So if a player scores more than 36 points, he has played better than his handicap. If he scores less than 36 points, he has played worse than his handicap.

Extra credit:

For anyone who has studied the details of the modern handicap system, you may notice that the Stableford system reflects the idea of equitable stroke control. The equitable stroke control system is set up so that a player cannot score more than two strokes over his handicap on any given hole. Inversely calculated, those two strokes are the two points for a par in the Stableford system.

From Carnac to Grand ‘Ol Jack

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus farewell at the old course at St. Andrews

Jack Nicklaus has been (and most likely will always be, with everything that has happened to you-know-who) considered the greatest golfer of all time.

The world of golf needs to start getting behind the “Greatest of All Time” in his efforts to build the game. We must start listening to his ideas. Are 12-hole courses the way of the future? Are bigger holes the solution? Noone really knows, but how often has Carnac been wrong in the past!  If he isn’t spot on with his ideas, we need to come up with some and we should probably have him involved in any think tank that we organize.
Here are my thoughts:

Responding to the 3 main reasons that people don’t pick up the game or drop out:

1) too expensive
2) too much time
3) too difficult

Too expensive
We cannont deny that golf is an expensive game to play. From green fees, equipment, lessons, travel and all that involves golf, it is an expensive game. Does it have to be as expensive as it is? NO. There are ways that we can make golf cheaper.

I think what influences the cost the most is the styke of courses that have been built in the past 15 years. It is time that we move away from the trend of “championship” courses and start building course that have a low initial investment and can be alot cheaper to maintain. One thing that has hurt the game the most is the success of the PGA Tour. Golf has been around alot longer than the PGA Tour and yet every new golfer is programmed to believe that the PGA represents the essence of the game.

In fact, nothing is farther from the truth!

The PGA Tour (and other international tours) makes up a very small fraction of golf. The very origins of the game can be traced to the most common of all trades: shepherds. (Don’t get spiritual on me now!) The fact that golf offers something to everyone from kings to shepherds is what makes it unique. Unfortunately in today’s corporate driven golf industry, the shepherds can no longer enjoy the game that they created!

Solution: we need to make courses that take little initial investment (no more watering the rough!) and designed in such way to cut down on yearly maintenance. Of course, this would mean no housing development around every hole. I would eliminate cart paths. Cart paths cost a fortune. I would not run irrigation through the fairways. Does anyone remember grass that turns brown in the summer and green again in the fall? Anyone remember the “Duel in the Sun”? We had better get used to it anyway. Water will become one of our most valuable natural resources and we won’t have the right to waste it on golf.

Courses like this will actually make golf more fun and interesting. Most courses that we play these days play exactly the same year-round. BORING! Good golfers know how to play all the shots in all conditions.

Too much time
Solution: The time problem can be solved in two words: Nine holes. It is time that the USGA and the PGA place an emphasis on 9-hole rounds. This has been a subject for many years now and noone seems to move on it. Many people have 2-1/2 hours to spare. Fewer and fewer people have 5-6 hours to spare. Of course, the championship-style courses contribute greatly to the 5-6 hour rounds that most of us experience on a regular basis.

Too difficult
Solution: Golf is difficult. Unfortunately there is no way getting around that. However, we can make an effort, again by the courses that we build, to make it as “little difficult” as possible.  220-yd forced carries over knee high grass or any other unnecessary hazard should be the first to go. I remember Hogan saying that rough is the first thing that keeps people from getting better at golf. He attributed his driving ability to playing in Texas with wind and no rough. Free the person from fear and he can learn the game more easily.

We could also encourage rules for beginners that include picking up after a certain number of shots and by encouraging mentor programs where experienced golfers volunteer to play with new golfers to show them the ropes. This of course would add to the enjoyment of all by allowing people to communicate with eachother.

Now these ideas are not exactly what Jack did this past Labor Day weekend. But my ideas entail the creation of new golf courses. Jack experimented with some great ideas to deal with the problem using existing courses. 12 holes is a great idea. That is more than enough golf for someone just getting started.  Most beginners that I take to the course can barely last the 9 holes that I suggest.

In any case, now is the time to find the answers. I personally trust Carnac, as he knows the answers without even knowing the questions!