There is quite a
history behind the golfing terms bogey, par, birdie, eagle and albatross. The
modern meaning is basically the American use of these words.
"Bogey" was the first stroke system,
developed in England at the end of the 19th Century. The full
history is given in Robert
Browning's History of Golf 1955.
In 1890 Mr Hugh Rotherham Secretary of the
Coventry Golf Club conceived the idea of standardising the number of shots
at each hole that a good golfer should take, which he called the 'ground
score.' Dr Browne, Secretary of the Great Yarmouth Club, adopted the idea,
and, with the assent of the club's golfers, this style of competition was
introduced there for use in match play. During one competition Mr CA
Wellman (possibly Major Charles Wellman) exclaimed to Dr Browne that, "This
player of yours is a regular Bogey man". This was probably a reference to
the eponymous subject of an Edwardian music hall song "Hush! Hush! Hush!
Here Comes the Bogey Man", which was popular at that time. So at Yarmouth
and elsewhere the ground score became known as the Bogey score.
Great Yarmouth and Caister Golf Club where the term Bogey was
A 'bogle' was a Scottish goblin as far back as
the 16th Century and a Bogey-man was a widely used term for a goblin or
devil. Golfers of the time considered they were
playing a Mister Bogey when measuring themselves against the bogey score.
In 1892, Colonel Seely-Vidal, the Hon Secretary
of the United Services Club at Gosport, also worked out the 'Bogey' for his
course. The United Club was a services club and all the members had a
military rank. They could not measure themselves against a 'Mister' Bogey
or have him as a member, so 'he' was
given the honorary rank of Colonel.
Thus the term 'Colonel Bogey' was born. Bogey
competitions are still played at many clubs.
Later Bogey was used as the
term of one above Par (See history of Par below).
Par is derived from the stock exchange term that
a stock may be above or below its normal or 'par' figure. In 1870, Mr AH Doleman, a golf
writer, asked the golf professionals David Strath and James Anderson, what
score would win 'The Belt', then the winning trophy for 'The Open', at
Prestwick, where it was first held annually
from 1861 to 1870.
Strath and Anderson
said that perfect play should produce a score of 49 for Prestwick's twelve
holes. Mr Doleman called this Par for Prestwick and subsequently Young Tom
Morris won with a score of two strokes 'over Par' for the three rounds of 36
Tom Morris Jnr Youngest Open Winner
Although the first noted use of the word "Par" in
golf was in Britain and predates that of Bogey,
today's rating system does not and the Par
standard was not further developed until later. It
was the American Women's golf association, who,
from 1893, began to develop a national
handicapping system for women. It was largely in place by the end of the
Century. The Men's association, founded in 1894, followed suit a few year's
In 1911, the United States Golf Association (Men)
of the day laid down the following very modern distances for determining
|Up to 225
|225 to 425
|426 to 600
|Over 601 yards
As golf developed, scores were coming down, but
many old British courses did not adjust their courses or their Bogey scores,
which meant good golfers and all the professionals were achieving lower than
a Bogey score. This meant the US had an up-to-date
national standard of distances for holes, while the British Bogey
ratings were determined by each club and were no longer
appropriate for professionals. The Americans began referring to one over Par as a Bogey,
much to the British chagrin.
By 1914, British golf magazines were agitating
for a ratings system similar to the US. However the Great War 1914-18
intervened and it was not until 1925 that a Golf Unions' Joint Advisory
Committee of the British Isles was formed to assign Standard Scratch Scores
(SSS), to golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland. Today, this committee
is known as the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU). It
is the Golf Unions of each country (and not the Royal and Ancient) who
determine Pars and Handicapping.
In common with others,
the Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms (1993) believes that "Birdie",
meaning a score of one stroke under Par on a given hole comes from the 19th
century American slang term "bird", meaning anything excellent.
The Country Club in Atlantic City lay claim to
the first use, as mentioned on the USGA website. In 1962 the US greenkeepers'
magazine reported a conversation with Ab Smith. He recounted that, in 1898/9,
he and his
P Smith, and
their friend, George A Crump, who later built Pine Valley, were playing the par-four second
hole at Atlantic City, when Ab Smith's second shot went within inches of the hole.
Smith said "That was a bird of shot" and claimed he
should get double money if he won with one under par, which was agreed.
He duly holed his putt to win with one under par and the three of them thereafter referred to
such a score as a "birdie". The Atlantic
City Club date
the event to 1903.
claim is an exaggeration or
not, the word
Birdie is certainly derived from the American vox pop
term 'a bird of a score' and hence a Birdie.
Atlantic City CC, where, it is claimed, Birdie was first used
"Eagle", a score of two under par for a given
hole, was clearly the extension of the theme of birds for good scores from a
"Birdie" (see above). It would be natural for American golfers to think of the Eagle,
which is their national symbol. A score of two under Par is, in some ways, a
'big birdie' and an Eagle is a big bird. Ab Smith said
that his group referred to two under as an 'eagle'.
From there, the 'bird' theme continued. Three
under Par is a very rare score and an Albatross is a very rare bird,
and now three under Par is generally referred to an "Albatross".
However nobody knows exactly when the term was
coined and it appears to be quite recent.
At late as the 8th April 1935, a day after
making an albatross on the par-5 15th hole
at Augusta in the Masters, Gene Sarazen referred to his shot as a
Ab Smith said his group used the phrase 'double eagle' for three under.
Double and Triple Bogeys
So far no particular terms
for 2 or 3 or more over Par
have become standard. They are just double and
triple Bogeys. Some
golfers use the term Buzzard for a double Bogey and some use terms from bingo
for particular numbers. For example, an eight is a 'Snowman'
because of their common shape. In a Stableford, a null score (two over net
Par) is sometimes called a 'Blob', because of
similarities. Depending upon how good you are, anything over 7, 8 or 9 will
be a 'Blow-up' or a 'Disaster'. However, none of
these have yet become recognised terms.
It seems clear that
golfing terms came into popular use in much the same way new words
are being invented and used on the Internet.
If they sound good, people start using them. What we do not hear about
are the terms that never made it because they did not catch on. Only the
future will tell which of the terms we invent will still be being used in a
hundred years time.
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