Stableford scoring is a popular alternative to traditional stroke play in golf. It was first devised by Dr. Frank Stableford in 1898, to mitigate the impact of disastrous holes on a player’s score. This format encourages a positive and risk-taking approach, making it fun for golfers of all skill levels.

Teeing off at North Cliff Golf Club in Scarborough

The Mechanics of Stableford Scoring

In the Stableford system, points are awarded based on the number of strokes taken at each hole, rather than counting every stroke made during the round. The goal is to score the highest number of points.

The scoring system works as follows:

  • 1 point for a bogey (one over par)
  • 2 points for a par (exact number of strokes that should be taken)
  • 3 points for a birdie (one under par)
  • 4 points for an eagle (two under par)
  • 5 points for an albatross (three under par)

No points are awarded for a double bogey or worse. This means that a player having a bad hole can simply pick up the ball and move on, limiting the potential damage to their overall score.

Calculating Strokes with Handicaps and Stroke Index

In Stableford play, players’ handicaps come into effect to level the playing field. A player’s handicap is a numerical measure of their potential playing ability based on their past performances.

To determine how many strokes a player gets on a given hole, you need to look at the hole’s stroke index, which ranks the holes on a course from most difficult (1) to least difficult (18). For a golfer with a handicap of 18 or less, they receive an extra stroke on holes equal to or less than their handicap.

For example, if a golfer has a handicap of 10, they would get an extra stroke on the holes with a stroke index of 1-10. If they were playing to their handicap, they would aim to get a bogey on these holes and a par on the others. This would result in them scoring 36 points, as a par scores 2 points and a bogey scores 1 point.

For golfers with a handicap higher than 18, they would receive one stroke per hole plus additional strokes on holes with stroke indices within the number their handicap exceeds 18. For instance, a golfer with a handicap of 24 would get one stroke on each hole plus an additional stroke on holes with stroke indices from 1-6.

Stableford’s Legacy

Stableford scoring is a game-changer, turning golf into a point-earning quest rather than an exercise in damage limitation. It makes golf a more positive and encouraging experience, especially for less experienced players or those having an off day. It’s been a staple in golfing tournaments for over a century, fostering fun, camaraderie, and inclusivity.


  • Peter Myers

    PGA Golf Professional since 1997 Director of entertainment at Dunes Golf Centre in Fraserburgh Passionate about creating opportunities for everyone to play and enjoy golf Proud Yorkshireman Loves Leeds United and enjoys a BrewDog or two

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