Stableford is a popular scoring system in golf which awards points based upon the score at each hole after adjusting for the player's handicap

Golf Stableford Format Explained

Stableford is a very common scoring system in golf whereby points are awarded on each hole according to how the player does against their own handicap.

This scoring system is widespread in competitive social golf, such as on society days, but many clubs also have regular Stableford competitions as well as medal ones.

The system – albeit in modified form – has also been used on the PGA Tour for The International at Castle Pines which ran for 21 years up until 2006.

The scoring system is named after Dr Stableford – and hence why it takes a capital S. He invented this concept of scoring, although the scoring system itself is different from the one that Dr Stableford explained and instigated at his clubs.

The Stableford scoring system is popular as it speeds up play.

It allows you to not to have to play out each hole – no need for a long embarrassing trudges back to the tee to play three off the tee when a drive is unexpectedly lost. No grinding it out to record an 8 or 9 on the scorecard as can be the case in medal play.

The idea is very simple. Make par on a hole, based upon your handicap, and you get 2pts. A handicap-adjusted score of one over par is 1pt, 1 under par is 3pts, 2 under par is 4pts and so on.

(The most you can score on any one hole would be 10pts, but that would require making a hole in one on a par five on which you were receiving two extra strokes.)

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In order to work out which holes you get the extra holes you need to look at the stroke index.

Thus a handicap 12 player gets an extra shot on stroke indexes 1 to 12; a 28 handicapper would get two extra shots on holes with a stroke index 1-10 and an extra shot on those with a stroke index 11-18.

Thus is a hole is par 4, stoke index 10. For our 12 handicapper it would be, in effect, a par 5; for our 28 handicapper a par 6. (And for anyone with a handicap of 9 or less it would be a par 4.)

So if the both our players holed out in 5 shots, the 12 handicap would score 2pts and the 28-handicapper, 3pts – or “five for two” and “five for three”.

Some prefer to work out the points by adjusting the par of the hole, as explained above and work out the score based on the gross score on the hole.

Others prefer to calculate the Stableford points on the net score, and compare this with the course par of the hole.

But in terms of recording scores in the scorecard, the gross number of shots on the hole must be recorded. Most markers will also record the Stableford score, but all the marker is required to do, and the player, is record their gross score.

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