How to Read the Leaderboard in Golf

By Dan Harriman

Golf is game of numbers. Lots of numbers. This becomes evident when looking at a golf tournament leaderboard. There are all kinds of information posted on a leaderboard, informing the audience exactly of what is happening on the golf course at any given moment. Not all leaderboards look the same, and some include statistics that others do not. But all of them will give you the most crucial information. Here is how to make sense of it all.

The first two lines of numbers on a leaderboard represent holes and pars. The first line refers to the hole and the second line refers to the par. The numbers run across the leaderboard from left to right.

There are 18 holes on a standard golf course. Therefore, there are 18 corresponding par numbers. A par number is the standard number of golf strokes it takes to complete one hole, and can range from three to five.

The left margin of a leaderboard lists the leaders of the tournament in order from top to bottom. Typically, only the last name of a player is listed.

Displayed to the right of each player's name are numbers that coincide with the hole and par columns. By the end of a tournament, a player will have a number listed in every hole/par column. These numbers reflect a player's overall score. That is, the score does not reflect what a player received for an individual hole, but his cumulative score for the tournament.

If, for instance, a player's score shows a red seven under hole number four, that means he has shot a score of seven under par up to that point in the tournament. Seven under par means the player has taken seven shots less than the overall standard for the course.

Going forward, if the player's score for hole number five is a red eight, that means the player has scored a birdie on that hole. A birdie reduces a score by one stroke.

If the player's score for hole number six is a red seven, that means the player has scored a bogey on that hole. A bogey increases a score by one stroke.

If the player's score for hole number seven is a red seven again, that means the player has scored a par on that hole. A par is standard and, therefore, neither increases nor decreases the overall score.

Black numbers represent scores that are above par. For instance, a black five means a player has taken five extra shots than the standard allows.

An "E" represents an even score, meaning a player has taken exactly as many shots as required by par.

The right margin of the leaderboard shows the "Total" column. The numbers in this column represent the total amount of strokes each player on the leaderboard has taken. This includes the strokes taken in previous rounds. Most professional tournaments consist of four rounds played over four days.

To determine a winner, find the lowest score on the leaderboard in the hole number 18 column. If there are two or more scores tied for the lowest at the conclusion of a tournament, a playoff will determine a winner.

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