The Bogey in Golf - Definition, History and What It Means for Your Golf Score

Mario Golf's Depiction of a Bogey Reaction
Yoshi's reaction after earning a bogey in Mario Golf

What is a Bogey in golf?

Bogey is the golf term used to indicate a score of 1 over par, meaning that a player completed a golf hole with one stroke more than is expected of expert golfers. 

If your scorecard were a picture of your golf game, then a bogey would be the blemish that cannot go unnoticed. To put it simply, no one wants a bogey but they are, in some sense, unavoidable. So where did this term come from anyway? And, why does it matter at all? These are a few of the questions we aim to answer that will help to take the some of frustration out of your golf game.

Where the Term Bogey Came From

It is said that the term bogey comes from a song that dates to the 16th century. The Scots of those days would sing songs about a goblin or devil that people were afraid of. In the song, they referred to the sinister character as the ‘bogey man’. The original term for such a creature in those days was ‘bogle’. Interestingly enough, though, bogey was first used to standardize the number of shots it should take a good player to complete a hole. At the time, it was called the ground score: what we today call par. The term was first introduced by a Dr. Browne who was the secretary of the Great Yarmouth Club in the 19th century. Golfers would play their round measuring their scores against the ground score and compare it to playing against “Mister Bogey.”

The Bogey Golfer

The bogey is such an integral part of the game of golf that is designates a class of players. The definition of a bogey golfer is different for men than it is for women. According to the handicap manual by the USGA, a male bogey golfer is a player with an approximate course handicap of 20, hits an average tee shot of 200 yards or more, and has the ability to reach a 370-yard hole in two shots at sea level. I know! This describes the vast majority that dares to play the game. For females, the bogey golfer is one that has an approximate course handicap of 24, can hit an average tee shot of 180 yards, and is capable of reaching a 280-yard hole in 2 shots.

Bogey Rating

Similar to course and slope rating, handicapping organizations developed what’s known as a bogey rating. The bogey rating, as defined by the USGA, is a way of evaluating the difficulty of a course for the bogey golfer, given normal course and weather conditions. The bogey rating is largely based on yardage, effective course length, and any other obstacle that will affect the scoring ability of bogey golfers.

The Scores that Result in a Bogey

Bogey is not an absolute score, so your actual score will vary based on the hole you're playing. Since golf holes have different requirements for par, a bogey can be anything from a 4 to an 8. Yeah! that's no mistake, it is quite possible to get a bogey that results in a snowman on the scorecards. Bogey 7's and 8's, however, are very rare because there are few golf courses in the world that have a golf hole with a par requirement of 6 or 7. The scores that result in a bogey are as follows:

·       A score of 4 on a par 3
·       A score of 5 on a par 4
·       A score of 6 on a par 5
·       A score of 7 on a par 6
·       A score of 8 on a par 7

To indicate a bogey on your golf scorecard, put a square around the score that results in a bogey. This is the score-keeping format used when broadcasting golf tournaments. A bogey gets one square and anything worse than a bogey gets double-squared.

Bogeys Depicted by Squared Borders
Golf Scorecard with bogies denoted by squares

The Different Degrees of Bogies

A bogey is far from ideal, but one should always remember that it could be a lot worse. The way golf scoring goes, par is essentially your barometer for success. The longer it takes you, the less successful you become overall for the day. If a player takes more strokes than is required (par) to complete a hole, that score has a bogey-related scalar adverb, illustrated in the table below.

To Par
Golf Term
1 Over Par
2 Over Par
Double Bogey
3 Over Par
Triple Bogey
4 Over Par
Quadruple Bogey

Remember, if you end up with just a bogey, it’s not the end of the world because it could be as much as four times worse.

Summing It All Up

Now that we have a better understanding of this dreaded score, we can find a way to relax whenever we are facing a “bogey situation” because we know it could be so much worse. Remember, don’t always kick yourself when you get a bogey. Remember, no one is perfect and even the pros go out and make bogies. In fact, there will be countless times on the course when you will be more than happy to escape with a bogey and run. 

How do you handle your bogey situations? Leave a line in the comments to share some of your most dreadful or pleasant bogies. 

Happy golfing!


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