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.