Stableford Scoring: The Complete Guide to the Golf Scoring System

So, you want to start with golf and plan to join a club for your first sessions. Before that, one thing that you must understand is the scoring system. 

The scoring system in golf can be divided into individual play and team play. When it comes to individual play, the scoring systems used are stroke play, match play, and Stableford play.

What makes the Stableford scoring system different than the rest?

In traditional scoring methods, the players try to get the lowest score. However, in the Stableford scoring system, the aim is to score the highest. Quite simply, the scoring process is just like other games like football, baseball, and basketball.

Time to take a closer look at the Stableford system.

What is the Stableford Scoring System?

The Stableford system was first introduced in the latter half of the 18th century by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford. The aim was to put off golfers from giving up on a round after a few bad holes. It was first used in 1932 at Wallasey Golf Club in Wallasey, England, for competitive play.

Since the system allows a player to remain in the game even after one or two blow-up holes, it became extremely popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The main advantage of the system is, it speeds up the game.

That said, not many professional tournaments use this system. The first PGA Tour event that used the system was The International in Colorado. In the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2012, the modified Stableford scoring system was used.

Here’s how a player collects points in the Stableford system against the strokes taken.

• Four strokes under: 6 points

• Three strokes under: 5 points 

• Two strokes under: 4 points

• One stroke under: 3 points

• Level par: 2 points 

• One stroke over-:1 point 

• Two strokes or more over 0 points

When it comes to the Modified Stableford system, the point system is slightly different for using different point levels. The penalties are also higher for poor shots.

• Double Eagle/ Albatross: 8 points

• Eagle: 5 points

• Birdie: 2 points

• Par: 0 points

• Bogey: -1 point

• Double Bogey or more: -3 points

The Modified system creates a more risk-reward format that makes the game more exciting for the fans. It also encourages players to be more aggressive and make the best out of every hole. Since every putt is different, it adds a new dimension to the game for the players. Many players also consider it as a fun format that’s different and breaks the monotony of the game.

How does the Stableford Scoring System work?

In the Stableford system, there’s a fixed score that represents the “par.” The number of points awarded on each hole depends on the number of strokes that the player takes to reach the fixed score. Then the fixed score is adjusted against the handicap of the player.

If a player takes more strokes than the adjusted fixed score, they can move to the next hole by abandoning the current one. So, even after a few bad holes, a player can remain in the competition. The goal is to play aggressively and score more birdies and pars.

When the round ends, the sum of the number of points scored on each hole represents the final score. The player with the highest total wins a Stableford competition.

Note, the fixed or par score is adjusted based on the stroke indexes or SI of the holes. The hardest hole has the lowest stroke index of 1, while the easiest can have a stroke index of 18. The fixed score can also be set at the discretion of the Committee.

While the traditional Stableford scoring system uses a point-by-stroke approach, the Modified version adds a risk-reward element to it. Here, players get extra points for lower scores and smaller penalties for higher scores.

Here’s a quick look at Stableford versus the Modified Stableford format.

Score in relation to the fixed target scoreStablefordModified Stableford
3 under fixed score+5+8
2 under fixed score+4+5
1 under fixed score+3+2
Fixed score+20
1 over the fixed score+1-1
More than 1 over the fixed score0-3

For example, consider Player A and B using the Modified Stableford scoring system. When player A makes three consecutive pars to start the round, he collects 0 points. On the other hand, player B makes one par, one bogey, and one birdie. This allows player B to get a 1-0 lead, even though both players are even-par when it comes to stroke play.

Another difference between the two systems is in the standard of the players. The traditional Stableford is good for normal or casual golfers as it doesn’t penalize the players with negative points. But the Modified Stableford is good for pros who find the harsh penalties and greater rewards more challenging.

However, the Stableford scoring system is not without its drawbacks.

Unlike the pros, casual golfers will need to use their handicaps to collect points while playing Stableford. However, a 20-handicapper won’t be making enough birdies in a round to earn the points. That makes it challenging to make Stableford equitable for players of all levels.

So, rather than using handicaps, a player can be awarded point totals based on their skill levels. But that makes scorekeeping a difficult task. Also, matching the point totals to the handicap levels isn’t easy.

Calculating the points while dealing with handicaps can be messy while using Stableford. The good news is, there are a few apps that can update the score automatically and help you to keep track.

Should you try the Stableford System?

Once you know the basics of the Stableford scoring system, you should definitely try it out.

While the conservative style of play is more common among players, the Stableford system can help them to play with a more aggressive style.

The Stableford scoring system has been a popular choice for more than a century and adds a lot of fun to the game. Even if you can’t find a tournament following this system, you can always team up with your golf buddies for a fun session.

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