What is a Bogey in Golf?

Golf is a rewarding hobby that can provide a lifetime of fond memories to those that get bitten by the golf bug. The problem? It’s a hard game to start. Progress is slow, hours of practice are long and often times, frustrating, and for the first months or even years, your biggest ambition is most likely going to be to make contact with the ball on a regular basis.

There are also a lot of words to learn.

Yeah, golf has its own vocabulary, and for those just starting out, learning what everything means can often be difficult and frustrating. Don’t worry, we are here to help. Read on to learn what is a bogey in golf.

what is a bogey in golf

Ok, so what is it?

The short of it is that bogey refers to your score in relation to what the designer of the course you are playing on thinks you should make for a given hole. If you make a bogey, it means your score is one higher than what the course designer thought you should have been able to make.

For instance, if you make a four on a par three you have bogeyed that hole. The same is true if you have made a five on a par four or a six on a par five. For that reason, you will often hear people say something to the effect of “I was one over on that hole,” just as often as they will say “I had a bogey.”

The Problem:

If you didn’t even know that there was a problem, I’m sorry to have to be the one to break the bad news to you. There is a problem with the golf scoring system and unfortunately, if you are new enough to the game not to know what the word “bogey” means, it affects you a lot.

The problem lies in scoring expectation. In the last section, I mentioned that bogey means your score meant that you were one over par on a hole, and that par was the score the course designer assumed you should be able to achieve on a given hole, but did you stop to wonder how they came to that conclusion? If you don’t already know, here is how they figure it out.

Say they have designed a five hundred yard hole. They look at that hole and they decide that it should take a player three strokes to get on, and two putts to get the ball in the hole. Five strokes total, making this hole a par five.

The problem is that the vast majority of players are unable to accomplish this.

Par is the score the game’s elite expect to make but it is also the standard that every single golfer is held to. The stigma then becomes that bogey is a bad score when in reality for most players bogey golf is something to be proud (or at least not ashamed) of.

From a certain stand point, it makes sense scoring the game this way. It keeps golfers striving to get better, and rewards elite players for their hard work. Still for those just starting out, it can be quite frustrating.

The Solution:

What is a bogey in golf game

If you are a bogey golfer that wants to play competitively against your par golfer friends there is a way that it can be done fairly and within the rules of golf. It’s called the handicap system and it is perhaps the only olive branch that the game extends towards its fledgling players.

For the purposes of this article explaining the handicap system in its entirety is a little too complicated. Instead here is what you need to know:

The USGA’s handicap system averages out your score based on what you’ve carded over the past ten or so rounds then assigns you a handicap number that is in line with your abilities. If you generally shoot fifteen over par, your handicap will be (more or less) a fifteen. Rather than striving to shoot par like the game’s best you can then focus your efforts shooting fifteen over or better and eventually lowering your handicap.

This is a positive thing both because it holds you to the standard of your own abilities and because it will help allow you to compete fairly against your more skilled friends.

How does that work? It’s pretty simple actually. If you are a fifteen handicap and you play a competitive match against your friend who is a scratch golfer (meaning they almost always shoot par) you will be given fifteen strokes throughout the course of the round. In other words, if you make a six on a par five it won’t necessarily count as a bogey because you were playing consistently with your ability.

While making an adjusted par based on the handicap system isn’t as satisfying as shooting a lower score based on your own merits it can help curve some of the frustration newer players feel as they watch their score cards get ruined by a string of bogies.


Contrary to popular belief a bogey really is not a terrible score. While you should always strive for par or better, if you find yourself making bogeys it means your game is very close to being in a great place.

As you start out, try not to worry so much about the score. I know that that can be difficult, especially when every cart in the world comes with a scorecard, but my personal belief is that focusing more on the game than your score leads a lot more fun.

If you tend to be competitive and would never dream of forgoing the score card that is ok too. Just remember to manage your expectations. There is nothing wrong with making bogey, or at least that is what I tell myself.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, concerns or comments please let us know in the comments section below.

Paul Durante

My name is Paul, and I truly love the game of golf. I’ve been playing for many years now, but still regularly discover new things about the sport. I believe that blogs like this can go a long way in helping people understand this game’s rich history and rules, and I am very proud to have the opportunity to contribute.

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