What Is A Birdie In Golf? [Term Meaning & Is It A Good Score?]

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Golfing terms can get pretty convoluted and confusing if you are a newbie, especially when keeping the score in a game of golf.  Among others, “birdie” is one such term.

So what is a birdie in golf? How did it get such a name? What is the number of strokes you need to play to score a birdie? And finally, is a “birdie” something you should target while playing golf with your playing partners?

These are some of the most common questions in an amateur golf course, and most golfers struggle to understand and memorize these terms in their first few games as golfers. In this article, we will explain all these questions and then some more.

What Is a Birdie in Golf?

A birdie is a score of one-under par for any particular hole during a round of golf. However, to understand the term birdie, we first need to understand what par is. Any given hole in golf courses will have a par number assigned to it. But, in a golf game, scoring a par means taking as many shots to put the golf ball in as par number. 

For example, in a par-3 hole, if you take exactly three strokes from the teeing ground to put the golf ball in the hole, you will get a par score.

So to score a birdie, you need to use one stroke less than the par of that individual golf hole. It is the simplest method to make an aspiring player understand this golf term. In other words, for a specific golf hole, scoring one under par will be a birdie.

By this point, you should understand that birdie does not mean finishing a hole or round in a single number of strokes. Instead, each hole a golfer needs to play in a game of golf will have a specific par number and thus will require the golfers to score the hole in one less hit than that number to score a birdie.

For a specific example, in a round, to get birdies in par-4 and par-3 holes, a golfer needs to play three and two strokes, respectively.

Another term that comes up is the birdie putt. A birdie putt refers to a putt that, if scored, the player will score a birdie.

Why Is It Called a Birdie?

Common golf terms have a knack for having fascinating origins. “Birdie” is no different. While many golf scores or scoring terms come from Great Britain, the source of the word comes from the American Slang ‘bird’. 

“Bird” was prevalent slang in the early 1900s, and the term would mean great or wonderful. But how did it exactly come to golf?

The origin of birdies can be traced back to the Atlantic city country club of New Jersey. In the late 1800s, Atlantic City used to be a famous resort with all the luxuries of that time on offer.

The club was an immediate success, and rich and famous people came to the club for casual or competitive games all the time. Historians agree that it is in one of these games at the club, money was waged, and the term birdie was born.

Now the next part of the story has some historians in dispute, but the summary of the story is in a high profile game, player Ab Smith hit the ball in the green just a few inches away from the hole, right in place for a putt and self-proclaimed his stroke as “a bird of a shot.” (Mike Fay Golf)

Later he suggested that in the future if someone wins a hole with one golf shot under par, they would win double the money for that round.

Since then, to commemorate this particular event, “birdies” as a term was adopted, and eventually, with enough golfers calling it a birdie when they scored one under par, the name stuck.

Other Golf Scoring Terms

To understand how a birdie in golf fares with other good scores and to keep consistently scoring birdies, let’s take a look at a few other scores in golf:

Bogey

A bogey is simply one stroke more than the par.

For example, if a golfer takes 4 shots on a par-3 hole, it is a bogey. Similarly, double bogey, a triple bogey, a quadruple bogey, and even quintuple bogey exist, and these happen when the golfer takes two shots, three shots, four shots, and five shots over par.

We explore bogeys as a golf term in more detail here.

Eagle

An Eagle is when a golfer takes two fewer hits than the par to complete the hole. For example, if a golfer makes the hole in their second shot in a par-4 hole, it is called an eagle. A double eagle is a thing, too, and that happens when the golfer takes 3 strokes less than the par to reach the green and put the ball in the hole.

We cover Eagles and their meaning in our complete guide here.

Ace

If the golfer manages to reach the hole with their first shot or tee shot, it will be called an Ace or a Hole one. So, to clarify, an ace does not have any putt shots, or the golfer does not reach the green.

With all that in mind, the method to get a birdie should be pretty straightforward. Just finish the round with your second shot if it is a par-3 hole, and you would be good to go, and a birdie is an excellent score.

How To Score A Birdie

Here are a few tips on how to easily get a birdie:

  • Your tee shot is crucial, and you need to set yourself up properly with straight-on-target hits.
  • Find the right club for you that has the right combination of power and precision.
  • Knowing your way around the green is just as important, so use an appropriate putter.
  • Practice. Lots and lots of practice

FAQ’s

Is It Possible to Score Better Than a Birdie?

Yes, it absolutely is. Ace and Eagle are both better than a birdie. However, they are much less common. A hole in one or an eagle are rare even on the PGA Tour.

How Many Birdies Do Pros Get During a Round?

The PGA TOUR average for birdies in a round was 3.92 in 2022. This is relative because professional golfers on the PGA Tour play on the most difficult golf courses in the world and would likely be much less for an average golfer on the same golf courses. The best players currently playing make an average number of 5 birdies per round, while a regular pro will be somewhere around 3.5. While that might seem impossible to you, you need to remember that we are talking about pro players with decades of training and some of the leading golfers in the world.

Rounding up

Birdies have a rich history from the origin, and for a new player even more than one birdie in a round will bring an amazing feeling. But for that, you need to practice on your golf swing and have the best golf gear to help you succeed out on the golf course. 

It is important to remember that you shouldn’t go out and expect to make a birdie on a golf course starting out as you shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of a birdie, and know your game and your capabilities well enough. If you do this then you will be in a good place to build on and improve your golf game.

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