“Par for the course” is an idiom that many use, even if it has nothing to do with golf. But par is a term most associated with golf and its scoring system. 

The word “par” came about when AH Doleman, a golf writer, asked a pair of professional golfers what the winning score of a tournament was. The duo of David Strath and James Anderson claimed 49 was the target for “The Belt,” a 12-hole tournament that began in 1861. 

Hence, any stroke above 49 would be over par, while those below would be below par. This same line of thinking was in mind when Hugh Rotherham had the idea of a “ground score” for each hole. 

But why are golf score terms all birds? 


Bogey is like Lord Voldemort of the golf course since it’s the worst thing that can happen, albeit the most common among amateur golfers. 

A bogey is not much different from “he who shall not be named,” considering a bogey is a Scottish goblin. “Bogle” is the technical term of the goblin, but nevertheless. A bogey is one over par on a hole; double, triple, and quadruple bogeys require an additional shot. 


Now let’s discuss the scores that will put some pep in your step, with the first being the ever-so-critical birdie. A birdie is playing a hole at one under par, requiring every shot to be precise. 

The term derives from the slang term “bird,” meaning anything extraordinary. AB Smith was the first to utter the term at The Atlantic City Club after “a bird of a shot” in 1903. A plaque at the country club memorializes the historic event.


As the scores improve on each hole, so does the majesty of the birds involved, with a score of two under par being an eagle. AB Smith and his playing partners also get the nod for coining the term eagle. 

It makes sense that an American would think of an eagle, considering it’s the country’s national bird. The most common eagles are getting a three on a par-5, but powerful players like Bryson DeChambeau have achieved eagles on par-4s by reaching the green on their first shot. 

A feat that we thought only Happy Gilmore could accomplish. 


One of the rarest birds in the world is an oceanic bird, the albatross. Albatrosses have magnificent wingspans that can reach upwards of 10 feet and rarely make their way to land unless they want to breed. 

Therefore, an albatross is a name given to a double eagle, signifying the rarity of this immaculate score. 

Getting a two on a par-5 is the finest achievement one can do on the course, even rarer than a hole-in-one. Unlike eagles, albatross is a British term, which may be why you’ll hear both terms when referencing the score. 


Now you can set aside any confusion on why golf score terms are birds. Hopefully, your scorecard has birds up and down the lot, especially if you can avoid those Scottish goblins.


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