What does bogey mean in golf?

Confusingly, it has two different golfing meanings, one arising from the other

What does bogey mean in golf?

Confusingly, the word bogey has two different golfing meanings, the more modern one arising from the older one. But both meanings are still used

The answer to ‘what does bogey mean in golf’ depends upon the context. It also depends upon what period of history you are talking about.

The original meaning of bogey was that it was the score that a very good golfer should aim to make. This was distinct from par, a term which was also around, but which referred to the ’perfect’ score on a hole.

The concept of bogey was invented in the 1890s although it was then known as the ‘ground score’ not ‘bogey’.

Par was the more popular measurement in the US, whereas bogey was in vogue in the UK.

For example, when Dr Frank  Stableford, devised what we now know as the Stableford scoring system, points were awarded against bogey, not par. Thus to get 2pts on a hole you had to match bogey not par under Dr Stableford’s original system

Par as a golfing term dates came into regular use in the early 1900s. Par also assigns a target score to each hole, but par was calculated more scientifically, by dividing up holes by their length.

Bogey was harder to define, as it relied upon an assessment of difficulty by the club themselves, and so its implementation, and the standard required, could vary between clubs.

As scores came down, the better golfers would sometimes aim for par rather than bogey. Bogey scores for the hardest holes were often a shot higher than par. A few of the more traditional golf clubs to this day still have a bogey score and a par score on their scorecard, and the total bogey score will normally be around 5-6 shots higher than the par one.

Although the par and bogey scores of each hole were normally the same, sometimes the bogey score would be one over par. From this came the modern definition that bogey is a score of one over par on a hole.

But the older definition of bogey, as a target score, still lives on in bogey competitions.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Roderick is the author of the critically acclaimed comic golf novel, Summer At Tangents. Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.