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How To Play Stableford Format in Golf

If you watch golf being played on any course, you’ll see people playing a wide variety of scoring systems or golf formats including stroke play, match play, scramble, and many more. But of all the variations of golf scoring, one has become well overlooked in recent years, especially in the younger generations and that is the Stableford scoring system. 

If you’re looking for a match that encourages risky shots, doesn’t penalize your score for having a bad hole, and keeps all players involved for 18 holes, tune in and discover why you should consider playing a Stableford!

How To Play Stableford Format in Golf

History of Stableford

This scoring system was created in Wales by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford and was first used in an unsanctioned match in 1898. Since its creation, the Stableford has rapidly gained popularity as a golf scoring format across the world and has even been used in tournaments on the professional level.

How it Works

A Stableford is set up to award players a preset amount of points for each individual’s scores on each individual hole. The goal for a Stableford is different from most rounds of golf because the winner at the end will be the player with the highest accumulated points. Golf scorecard

That being said, the player who wins the match does not necessarily have to be the one with the lowest total score at the end of the round. 

In this format, a player could score a ten on a hole that causes them to have the highest total golf score in the group but still win the match with the most points. 

In order to understand a Stableford fully, we need to discuss the set amount of points that you gain for a given score. (See the chart below for standard Stableford)

Standard Stableford

Points Strokes
0 2 Over
1 1 Over
2 Even
3 1 Under
4 2 Under
5 3 Under
6 4 Under

Professional Stableford

Due to the nature of Stableford and its lack of penalty for a high score, this format is not used in professional golf tournaments and is more suitable on the country club or amateur level.

However, you will see it on the PGA Tour each year during the Barracuda Championship. This is an exciting tournament to watch because the players are more likely to hit a risky shot for the increase in points. 

Why Stableford Should Be Considered

1. Eliminates Penalty of a High Score

One of the biggest reasons that it’s more often used in the amateur game is that the purpose of this scoring format is to keep every player in the match throughout the round, even if they have a blow-up hole by eliminating the high stroke penalty a hole like that incurs. 

This is achieved by awarding each player a set amount of points for specific scores on every hole until a set score is reached. Once that high score is reached, the player will not receive any points for that hole. 

Eliminating the penalty and discouraging feeling of a triple bogey or worse keeps the player motivated to keep their focus. They can have confidence in the fact that they’re not out of it because of one bad hole

2. Encourages Players to Take Risks

A player doesn’t have as much on the line for a bad shot or a dropped ball and they are awarded points for scoring low which means they are encouraged to take riskier shots. This makes the round more exciting because you never know when they might pull one off. 

3. Less Time Spent on Bad Holes

Stableford format will also speed tournament rounds because players can simply pick up their ball and head to the next once they have reached a score that doesn’t make any points. (2+ over par in classic Stableford)

4. Modified Stableford

The original chart shown above is the layout of the standard Stableford where an even score and two points are awarded for scoring a par on the hole and so forth.Look from behind a man shut a golf ball on back foot

This is the obvious answer to that scoring system but I mention it because you can play a Modified Stableford where the awarded points for each score can change. As an example, a player could be rewarded 5 points for making an Eagle if you choose. 

Along with the option to change the value for each score, you can also modify a Stableford by keeping the point ratio but changing the amount over par. If you refer to your first chart, an example of that would be awarded 1 point for a double bogey and on from there.

Since this is such a simple format, you can use any value and amount of points you think is best for your group. An easily customizable game is always a good option because it gives the golfer the freedom to get creative and make the match fun. The chart below explains a popular Modified Stableford format that has been used for a PGA Tour event.

Modified Stableford Example
Points Strokes
+8 3 Under (Albatross)
+5 2 Under (Eagle)
+2 1 Under (Birdie)
0 Even (Par)
-1 1 Over (Bogey)
-3 2+ Over (Double Bogey)

Stableford and Handicaps

A handicap in golf is a way for players to compete against one another no matter what skill level each one might be. Your handicap is calculated by your total scores and a handicap number is assigned to all players. This number is how you compare yourself to others before the round and will determine the number of shots you give or receive. 

Similar to other rounds of golf where you include a handicap, you will be giving or taking a set amount of shots based on the handicap of that player. If two scratch golfers play with two 18 handicap players, the 18 handicap players will receive a shot per hole from the scratch golfer. By that, I mean one shot is deducted from their score on each hole. 

If you make a par in a standard Stableford on a hole that you are receiving a stroke, you actually made a Birdie and would gain four points. 

Bottom Line – Get Out and Try It!

Now that you have discovered the unique aspects, the benefits, and the how-to’s of the Stableford scoring system, you should consider giving it a try next time you hit the links with your buddies. 

You can play the original format or the modified version from the charts above or you can make up your own variation. No matter how you decide to go about it, it will be a fun change and an enjoyable round! Visit the Golf Accessories Reviews homepage for more expert information! 

Bill is an expert in all things golf. With over 40 years of experience, he is an excellent golfer (playing to a handicap of 8) highly skilled in golf equipment, swing mechanics and instruction methodologies. Bill is a regular contributor imparting his knowledge and expertise to the readers at Golf Accessories Reviews.

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