What Is A Birdie In Golf? (Surprising History)

A birdie in golf is when a golfer scores one under par on any given hole. So if the hole is a par four, to score a birdie you would need to finish the hole in three strokes.

In golf, unlike other sports, a negative score is a good thing. This means that instead of taking the average number of shots per hole, we are taking less and are therefore doing better. We know looking through that rangefinder how hard it can seem to make that shot in only 3 strokes, but we oh does it feel so good.

Golf terms can be tricky but here we’ll break down the basics of birdies. We will talk about specifics and explain what a birdie in golf is.

Birdie Specifics

golf ball about to score a birdie

A birdie in golf is a term for a score that is one-under-par. These meanings might be unknown to you so let’s first discuss what par is.

Par is the number of shots or strokes on a hole. There are many different lengths of holes, some as small as par-3, or three shots needed. Others are larger and take more strokes like the rare par-6.

See More: Golf Ball Positions For Every Club (With Chart)

One-under means it took us one less shot than recommended. Being under or over is pretty straightforward as over denotes the extra shots taken after par has been reached. 

Birdie Basics

Here are the specific numbers to achieve the score of a birdie, or negative 1, on a hole.

  • Two shots or strokes on a par-3 hole
  • Three shots or strokes on a par-4 hole
  • Four shots or strokes on a par-5 hole
  • Five shots or strokes on a par-6 hole

To sum up, anytime we take one less shot than is recommended, or par, on a hole, you have scored a birdie. Hence the -1 score!

Score Keeping

what is a birdie in golf?

It gets a little tricky to keep score if you are not familiar with the game. Whether we are playing half a course, which is 9 holes, or the full 18-hole course, keeping a score is necessary to see where our skill level falls.

Some of the best players consistently score birdies or better, which is why they are so elusive. We can also have an overall score for an entire course, especially if we have played it enough times.

A simple example here would be to only look at a 9-hole game. Below is a numbered list of 9 holes and a score for each hole.

  1. Par 4 – It takes you 4 strokes/shots – Your score is 0
  2. Par 3 – It takes you 4 strokes/shots – Your score is +1
  3. Par 5 – It takes you 4 strokes/shots – You are back to 0
  4. Par 3 – It takes you 2 strokes/shots – Your score is -1
  5. Par 4 – It takes you 4 strokes/shots – Your score is STILL -1
  6. Par 5 – It takes you 6 strokes/shots – You’re back to 0
  7. Par 4 – It takes you 4 strokes/shots – You’re still at 0
  8. Par 3 – You get a hole-in-one – You’re now at -2
  9. Par 5 – It takes you 6 strokes/shots – Your final score is -1

This example means that we finished our round of 9 holes with the score of birdie, or 1-under.

This is the professional way to keep score however scorecards provided by the golf course or on a mobile app are very useful. We just keep track of how many strokes it took us on each hole and then add it up at the end.

If it is less than the par number, we’re doing great! If not, we just have to work on our game.

Birdie In Golf Origins and Triumphs

The term birdie in golf was first used at the Atlantic City country club in 1903 on the twelfth hole of the old course. This famous term was quickly adopted and the term for -2 or two-under-par continued the avian theme and is called an Eagle.

Some of the most famous PGA tour wins have been with birdies. Tiger Woods has won the most PGA Tours and World Championships of any golfer. On average, Tiger Woods will get 5-birdies per round, which is an impressive number.

Even golf legend Arnold Palmer had trouble consistently scoring birdies even on his favorite courses such as Augusta in Georgia. However, his most famous win was back in 1958 at the Masters Tournament where he won with a stunning 5 birdies! This established his position as one of the leading stars in golf. 

The birdie is so elusive – it is a hard shot to get consistently as there are always mitigating factors like wind, the cut of the grass, and personal factors such as stress or distraction. Even professionals have bad days so it is always good to hone our skills and our mind to block out distractions. 

Is A Birdie In Golf A Good Thing?

In golf, unlike other sports, a negative score is a good thing. This means that instead of taking the average number of shots per hole, we are taking less and are therefore doing better.

In short, a birdie is a very good score for an amateur or a professional. Consistently shooting at one under is a feat that only the most dedicated professionals and trainers can achieve.

Below are the common term and stroke numbers of the worst to best scores.

  • Triple Bogey: +3 or 3 shots OVER par
  • Double Bogey: +2 or 2 shots OVER par
  • Bogey: +1 or 1 shot OVER par
  • Par: Exactly the recommended number of shots
  • Birdie: -1 or 1 shot UNDER par
  • Eagle: -2 or 2 shots UNDER par
  • Double Eagle OR Albatross: -3 or 3 shots UNDER par (very rare)
  • Ace: Hole-in-one shot 

All these rules and terms can be a bit daunting for a first-time player but once we understand how the score is kept and the terms that are associated with it, we can be confident in our game.

A birdie is an elusive but above-average score. If we are consistently hitting at 1-under, we may want to consider a more challenging course to play on or an amateur tournament.

Birdies are a golfer’s best friend and when we play, don’t forget to watch out for birdies both on the course and off as sometimes geese and waterfowl like to make their homes on golf courses.

Leave a Comment