Understanding Why Golf Uses Bird Names: A Detailed Guide

Why bird names for scoring terms in golf? Bird names like birdie and eagle were introduced to make the scoring system more memorable and enjoyable. They add character and personality to the game, making it engaging for players and spectators alike.

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Key Takeaways

  • Golf scoring uses bird names such as birdie and eagle to represent scores below par, making it more memorable and engaging for players and spectators.
  • The origins of bird names in golf can be traced back to the early 1900s at the Atlantic City Country Club, and they have since become an integral part of golf’s language worldwide.
  • Understanding golf scoring terms is essential for players to track their progress, communicate effectively with other golfers, and develop strategies for their shots.
  • Bird names in golf, like birdie and eagle, evoke positive emotions and feelings of accomplishment, motivating players to strive for better scores and enhance their overall experience.
  • Beyond just emotional impact, scoring terms like birdie and eagle also play a significant role in preserving the history and tradition of the game, reflecting specific moments in golf’s past.


Golf is a complex game that requires mental and physical strength. It encompasses strategies, discipline, and precision.

Like any other sport, golf has its own language that only dedicated players and enthusiasts can understand—the golf vernacular. One of the most fascinating aspects of golfing jargon is the scoring language.

In golf, scores are kept in relation to par, which is the number of strokes it takes an expert golfer to complete the hole. For instance, if a hole has a par-three rating (meaning it should take three strokes for an expert golfer to complete it), then getting a score of four would mean that you played one over par (1-over).

The origins of these scoring names can be traced back to Atlantic City Country Club in 1903, when players started using these terms instead of numbers to refer to their scores. The terms have since gained popularity worldwide and have become part of everyday discussions among golfers.

One thing that undoubtedly makes the golf language quite interesting is its use of bird names for scoring terms such as eagle and birdie. An eagle refers to completing a hole in two shots less than par (2-under par).

"An eagle refers to completing a hole in two shots less than par (2-under par). Birdie was coined around 1899 by an American golf magazine editor who heard players use "bird" as slang for anything good or excellent."

This term was first used by an American golfer named Ab Smith in 1914, when he referred to his shot as “a grand shot” after failing to find an appropriate word for such a rare feat. Birdie was coined around 1899 by an American golf magazine editor who heard players use “bird” as slang for anything good or excellent.

Hence, birdie refers to completing a hole one stroke under par (1-under), i.e., one better than expected, and quickly became part of golf’s mainstream parlance. One step higher than an eagle on the difficulty scale is an albatross, or double eagle, which means completing a hole three shots less than par (3-under).

It’s one of the rarest shots in professional-level play. So, why bird names for scoring terms?

Well, one theory is that bird names help make the scoring system more memorable and enjoyable. It’s easier for players to remember a specific bird name associated with a particular score than just a numerical value.

Additionally, they add character and personality to the game, making it more engaging for players and spectators alike. Overall, golf scoring terms are an essential part of the game’s language.

They help golfers track their progress and understand their performance. Using bird names in scoring terms is just one example of how golf has evolved into a fascinating sport with its unique language and culture.

Check out this video below from Deemples Golf‘s Youtube channel explaining some basic golf terms for beginners:

Other Golf Scoring Terms

Golf is among the most popular sports across the globe and has an interesting history with a unique golf language. The use of bird names to describe golf scores is one of the most fascinating facts about golf. The origins of such golf terms are steeped in history, and understanding them adds a layer of depth to the game.

The history of golf terms dates back to the 16th century, when Mary Queen of Scots was known for playing “golf”, which was referred to as a common activity in Scotland at that time. However, it wasn’t until much later that these terms became commonly used in golf.

Until then, there were no standardized scoring systems or terminologies in place. Over time, these various types of jargon began developing into a codified system that would eventually become the common language used on the links worldwide.

Although there are several versions of how bird names became part of the English language, it is believed that American golf adopted this avian theme in the late 1800s. One theory suggests that using bird names was initially introduced by an American golfer named Ab Smith during a tournament in Atlantic City when he referred to a score of three-under-par as an “eagle”. Albatross followed suit shortly after, describing scores as three-under par but more difficult than an eagle.

Lets not forget the term also know as Ostrich in golf. Ostrich refers to the exceedingly rare achievement of scoring five strokes under par on a single hole. This can be a hole-in-one on a par-six or an albatross on a par-five. It’s a testament to exceptional skill and precision, contributing to the fascinating lexicon and intrigue of the game as well as adding to the “avian theme” of bird names in golf.

"According to one theory, American golfer Ab Smith introduced the avian theme in the late 1800s during a tournament in Atlantic City, calling a score of three-under-par an 'eagle.' Another version attributes it to British soldiers who used 'birdie' as slang for anything good."

Another version attributes it to British soldiers stationed overseas during World War II who used “birdie” as slang for anything good.

According to this theory, once back home, they decided it could be applied perfectly well on the green too, hence its use today as one under par. Interestingly enough, another grand aspect contributing to how these bird names came into existence is said to have come from Atlantic City Country Club’s superintendent because he said ‘Birdie’ for all good shots and ‘Eagle’ for those exceptional shots, which added excellent descriptions and enthusiasm when referring to one’s score.

Regardless of how they originated and evolved over time, these golf terms are now an integral part of the golfing vernacular. They have become such a common golf language, that even non-golfers may recognize them.

Knowing the story behind these terms can add to one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the game. Bird names in golf scoring are a unique aspect of the sport’s history.

These scoring terms have not only added color to the game but also made it easier to keep track of scores effectively. Understanding these fascinating facts and origins can enhance one’s enjoyment of golf and help deepen their appreciation for this enduring pastime.

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Eagle flying in blue skies

Understanding Golf Scoring Terms

When it comes to understanding golf scoring terms, it can be quite intimidating for beginners. The sport has its own lexicon and trendy lingo that are unique to golfers. For those new to the game, understanding what bird names like birdie, eagle, or double eagle mean can be confusing.

However, once you have a handle on the terminology, it makes watching and playing golf that much more enjoyable. At its core, golf scoring is straightforward.

Each hole on a course has a designated number of strokes, called par, that an expert golfer should take to complete the hole. Most holes are assigned either a par three, four, or five, depending on the length and difficulty of the hole.

If you complete the hole in fewer strokes than par, you score under par; if you take more strokes than par to finish the hole, you score over par. One of the most common golfing terms is “birdie.” A birdie refers to completing a hole one stroke under par.

Check out this video below from Mr.Animate‘s Youtube channel explaining the rules of golf and how to play:

For example, if you play a par four hole in three strokes, that’s one stroke under par, so it’s considered a birdie! Then there’s an eagle; this means scoring two shots under par for any given hole, such as taking just three shots on a par-5 hole!

A double eagle, also known as an albatross, is when a golfer completes the hole at three shots under par. The origins of using bird names in golf are not clear cut but there are some fascinating facts about it nonetheless!

When it comes to understanding golf scoring terms, it can be intimidating for beginners. However, once you grasp the lexicon, it makes watching and playing golf more enjoyable."

One theory suggests that Atlantic City Country Club coined these bird names back in 1903; they used them as wagering terms during their games, which became very popular throughout time and became part of common golf vernacular everywhere! Knowing your way around all these words can make following along with live broadcasts or reading up on your favorite golfer’s performance much easier and more enjoyable for fans new and old alike. And while it may seem like just a bit of fun language, the impact of scoring on the game is significant. 

Understanding and utilizing golf scoring terms can help you track your progress as a golfer and even develop a strategy for how to approach your next shot. In addition to bird names, there are other golf scoring terms worth knowing. For example,hole-in-one refers to sinking the ball in the cup in just one stroke from the tee box on any given hole—considered by most golfers as an ultimate achievement!

Meanwhile, “parrots” refer to completing two consecutive holes at exact par, and bogeys refer to finishing a hole one over par. Whether you’re new to golf or have been playing for years, understanding golf scoring terms can greatly enhance your appreciation of the sport.

While bird names might be fun words used in golfing circles, they have real meaning that can help you track your performance and make strategic decisions about how to play your next round. Don’t let these seemingly complicated terminologies intimidate you; they’re just part of what makes golf so special!

Eagle flying in blue skies

Why Bird Names?

When it comes to scoring in golf, there are various types of terms that are used to describe a player’s score. However, one of the most notable terms used in golf is bird names. This avian theme is seen throughout golfing culture and is used to represent different scores on a hole.

The origins of bird names in golf can be traced back to the Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey during the early 1900s. It was here that bird-related terms such as “birdie” and “eagle” were first coined.

These terms quickly became popular among golfers, and over time, additional bird names were added. One reason why bird names are used in golf might be due to their positive connotations.

A “birdie” represents a score that is one stroke under par for a given hole, while an eaglerepresents two strokes under par. These words evoke feelings of success and accomplishment that can motivate players to strive for better scores.

Another reason why bird names are popular might be due to their rarity. Achieving a hole-in-one is considered one of the rarest shots in golf, and there is even a special name for this feat: an “ace”. Similarly, getting a score that is three strokes under par, which is known as an “albatross”, or four strokes under par, known as a “condor”, is an extremely rare occurrence.

Despite their origins at the Atlantic City Country Club, many believe that some of these bird names were actually named after notable golfers. For example, it’s said that the term “birdie” was coined after American golfer Ab Smith hit his approach shot into the hole on what he called “a bird of prey”, which happened close enough to give him an easy second putt.

Overall, bird names add an element of fun and creativity to the game of golf. They provide players with unique words to describe their performance on the course and create a shared language among golfers.

Whether it’s achieving a birdie, an eagle, or even the rarest shots like an albatross or condor, these bird names give players something to strive for in their next round. As Australian golfer Greg Norman once said, “The next one is the most important shot in golf”.

Check out this video below from PGA TOUR‘s official Youtube channel of a bird stealing a golf ball that’s in play:

Other Golf Scoring Terms

Aside from birdie, eagle, and albatross, there are other golf scoring terms that you should know. These terms are also part of the common golf vernacular that every golfer should be aware of. One of the most famous non-avian golf terms is “ace,” which is another name for a hole-in-one.

A hole-in-one is every golfer’s dream shot, where the ball goes directly into the cup with only one stroke. This term originated in the United States in 1918 and quickly became part of the American golf lexicon. It’s a grand achievement that any golfer can be proud of accomplishing. 

Another term that you might hear on the golf course is “double eagle.” This term refers to finishing a hole three strokes under par. It’s a rare feat that happens only on very long holes with difficult hazards to navigate. Not many have achieved this accomplishment, but it’s still part of the jargon that many golfers use.

If you’re new to playing golf, you might hear other terms like “bogey” or “par.” A bogey is when you score one stroke over par on a hole, while par refers to the expected number of strokes needed to complete each hole based on its length and difficulty level. Both terms are essential for keeping track of your score during a round of golf.

Another interesting avian-themed scoring term is turkey, which refers to three consecutive birdies in one round. It’s not as common as birdies or eagles, but it’s still an achievement worth noting. The term comes from American golf history, where they used to give turkeys as prizes for achieving this feat. 

Last but not least, we have “parrots,” which is slang for two consecutive birdies in one round as opposed to the three required for turkey – it’s much less common than turkey due to its difficulty. It’s a fun term to use, and it adds to the variety of golf terms in the lexicon. Knowing the various types of golf vernacular is essential for enjoying and understanding the game fully.

With these terms, you’ll be able to keep track of your score and communicate with other golfers easily. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or just starting, understanding golf scoring terms will enhance your experience on the course.


The Impact of Scoring on the Game

Scoring in golf is at the heart of the game. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, understanding how scoring works is essential to your enjoyment of the game. But beyond just keeping track of your score, scoring terms can also have a significant impact on how you approach each shot. 

Here’s why.

The first thing to understand about golf scoring is that it’s not just about adding up the strokes you’ve taken on each hole. It’s also about comparing your score to a predetermined standard known as par.

Par is the number of shots a skilled golfer should be able to take to complete the hole in question. So if a hole is listed as a par 4, that means an accomplished golfer should be able to get the ball into the cup in four strokes. Knowing this standard can have a huge impact on how players approach each shot. If they’re already sitting at 1-under and facing a tricky par-5, they may choose to lay up and play it safe rather than go for broke and risk losing their lead.

Conversely, if they’re several strokes over par and running out of holes, they may need to take more risks if they hope to catch up. But beyond just par, golf scoring terms can also have emotional meaning for players.

Think about it: sinking a hole-in-one feels incredible, no matter what level of golfer you are! The same goes for achieving an eagle (finishing two shots under par) or even just getting through nine holes (read here how long 9 holes of golf take), without losing any balls.

"Scoring in golf is more than just adding up strokes; it involves comparing your score to the par of each hole. This influences players' strategies and decision-making. Achieving an eagle, birdie, or hole-in-one brings immense joy to golfers and adds excitement to the game. These scoring terms have become an integral part of American golf culture, preserving the sport's history and tradition."

Because these terms are so ingrained in the golf vernacular, they’ve become part of golf culture too; even non-golfers know what it means when someone talks about “getting a birdie” on their last round! And while some may criticize this trendy lingo as meaningless jargon, there’s no denying that it adds an extra layer of excitement and drama to every match.

It’s worth noting that the impact of golf scoring names goes beyond just the emotional rush of achieving a great score. They also play an important role in preserving the history and tradition of the game.

The fact that we still use terms like birdie, eagle, and albatross today is a testament to how deeply rooted these names are in golf’s past. In fact, some of these terms can be traced back to specific moments in golf history.

For example, “birdie” is rumored to have been coined by a golfer named Ab Smith in the late 19th century. He reportedly described a particularly majestic approach shot as being “like a bird” – hence the name!

So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out with your first set of clubs, it’s clear that understanding golf scoring names is essential to fully appreciate this grand game. So get out there and start chasing those birdies!

Two yellow birds


As we’ve discussed, the origins of golf’s bird names are somewhat murky. However, what is clear is that these terms have become firmly entrenched in the golfing vernacular

It’s hard to imagine calling a 1-under “a hole played in one stroke under par” or an eagle “a score of two strokes under par.” These words have become a part of the grand golf language, adding a certain majesty to the game.

While bird names are some of the most common golf vernacular, there are plenty of other terms and phrases used by golfers around the world. Some, like “double bogey”, refer to shots played over par, while others are more specific to particular shots.

Albatross’s are an incredibly rare shot that happens when a player completes a hole three strokes under par. But beyond just being fun terminology for players to use on the course, scoring terms also have an impact on how we think about and approach the game.

Par is considered a baseline for good play – if you can consistently make par on every hole, you’re likely to be a pretty decent golfer. But when you start thinking about going 1- or 2-under on each hole – or even hitting an elusive albatross or eagle – suddenly your mindset starts to shift.

In some ways, these terms offer us new ways of measuring success on the course beyond just achieving par. They challenge us to strive for something more grand than simply playing decently well every time we tee off.

And when we do achieve those rare shots – whether it’s sinking a long putt for birdie or chipping in for eagle – it can be an incredibly satisfying feeling. So while we may not know exactly where these naming conventions come from, it’s clear that they’ve become an integral part of golf culture today.

They help us understand our successes and failures on the course, and they’re just plain fun to say. So the next time you hit a great shot, go ahead and give yourself a little shout – whether it’s “Birdie!” or “Holy cow, that was amazing!” – and revel in the grand tradition of golf’s unique scoring language.


It is believed that the origin of this lexicon can be traced back to the American Golf Association’s Atlantic City Country Club tournament in 1903. The usage of bird names became trendy lingo among golfers, and it has stuck ever since. It is now common golf vernacular to refer to scoring terms using words like “birdie” and “eagle.”

A “birdie” means completing a hole at one stroke under par, whereas an “eagle” means achieving two strokes less than par on a single hole. A “double eagle,” also known as an “albatross,” is even more impressive as it involves three strokes less than par on a single hole. Each bird name has its own significance and has become ingrained in the golf language worldwide.

Scoring is an integral part of any golfer’s game. It provides a measure of their skill level and allows them to track their progress over time. Using specific words like “birdie” or “double bogey” creates clarity around what score was achieved; providing terminology helps players communicate with each other about their performance on the course.

In addition to bird-named scores, there are also other commonly used terms such as “par,” which refers to the number of strokes that an expert golfer should take for any given hole; “bogey,” which means taking one stroke over par; and “double bogey” for two strokes over par. These terms help make sense of the scoring system for beginner golfers as well.

For example, what if they score 3-under par on a single hole? In such cases, golfers typically use the numerical score to describe their achievement. Although not as catchy as bird-named scores, it is still an accurate way of describing one’s performance on the course. Golf terminology has evolved over time and will continue to do so in the future, but we can be sure that bird names will remain an integral part of golf’s association with scoring.

Birdie and eagle likely get their names from the graceful, powerful flight of those birds, parallel to scoring well below par on a hole through outstanding play.

Albatross was probably chosen to represent the rarity of going three under par on a hole, like the rare albatross sea bird itself.

Eagle means scoring two strokes under par on a single hole, which is considered an excellent achievement in golf.

Yes, albatrosses have been accomplished periodically in golf history by pros like Gene Sarazen at the 1935 Masters Tournament, but they are very rare.

A hole-in-one, scoring just one stroke on a par 3 hole, is sometimes also referred to as an ace, in reference to the perfect shot.

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