Stableford golf can be an enjoyable way for golfers of all levels to compete - if you get the rules
Stableford golf can be an enjoyable way for golfers of all levels to compete — if you get the rules Image Credit: Shutterstock

It never fails to amaze me how far more intelligent people than me who play golf (and that in itself may be a contradiction), are seemingly unable to understand the simplicity of the scoring system that is otherwise referred to as ‘Stableford.’

I detail below the basic rules and then all should be clear.

Just remember two basic points and you won’t go far wrong:

  1. It is the net score on each hole that counts.
  2. Pick the ball up if you can’t score a point on a hole and keep moving.

That should help the game move along and you might get finished in less than five hours and not incur either your partner’s wrath for being absent for half the weekend, or those players behind you waiting to play the same hole. If that doesn’t apply to you, then it is at least increasing your time in the clubhouse.

The Stableford system of scoring was apparently invented in 1931 by Dr Frank Stableford of the Wallasey & Royal Liverpool golf clubs and the first competition under Stableford rules was played on 16 May, 1932 at Wallasey.

Each golfer plays against the par of each hole and receives points according to how they score in relation to that particular hole.

The scoring system is as follows:

  • 2 or more strokes over par = 0 points
  • 1 over par = 1 point
  • Par = 2 points
  • 1 under par = 3 points
  • 2 under par = 4 points
  • 3 under par = 5 points

The score used to determine these points is the next score for each hole dependent on the player’s handicap. The normal allowance under Stableford rule is 7/8ths of the lowest club handicap, though it is common practice for players to receive their full handicap allowance.

The net score is calculated by taking strokes at the appropriate hole using the stroke index shown on the card.

So therefore, if hole No. 2 is a par 4 and is indexed at 3 (i.e. 3rd most difficult hole of the 18 on the course) then if your handicap is 3 or more you would enjoy the benefit of an extra stroke at this hole. (If your handicap was 21 or more, you would receive 2 extra shots — i.e. +3 over 18) Therefore, on this fictitious hole, lets assume you score a gross 5, your handicap is 17. This means that you have a net score of 4 (a par) and receive 2 points. If your playing partner had a gross 4 and their handicap was 2, then they had a net 4 also, for 2 points.

So the beauty of Stableford is that players of differing abilities can enjoy a competitive round of golf. (This assumes that the handicaps used in the first place are fair — we’ll discuss that in another post.)

Let’s not even get into the 3/4 handicap scenario for Stableford-based matchplay format. That would involve calculating your handicap from the lowest handicap player in your group and then 3/4 of the difference establishes your own handicap. After that, normal aforementioned Stableford rules apply. Whereas medal, or strokeplay (like you see on TV), requires you to complete every hole, Stableford is a score by each hole, so that if you take more than 2 over par next at the first, you can pick your ball up and go to the second hole and start again.

At the end of the 18 holes, the number of points gained by the player at each of the holes is added together to give a total points score. Many variations to this may exist, for example, a team of players might add their individual points together in order to compete with other teams.

Now, what’s so difficult about that?