Bogey Golfer (Explained)

If you’ve been searching for someone to elaborate on the definition of a “bogey golfer”, ladies and gentleman, look no further. Not to boast, but my resume consists of 20+ years playing executive level bogey golf. All kidding aside, let’s dive in and discuss what it means to be a “bogey golfer”.

The USGA simply defines a bogey golfer as “a player with a Handicap Index of approximately 20.0 for men and approximately 24.0 for women”. For perspective, a 20.0 handicap golfer will typically average a score of 26 shots over par on a course with average difficulty and a 24 handicap will typically average a score 30 shots over par. This according to a 2020 study from The Grint.

So the average score for a male bogey golfer is around 98 while the female bogey golfer is around 102. Most golfers assume the Handicap Index will be the same as their average number of shots over par per round. This is not the case. The best 8 scores (Scoring Differentials) out of the last 20 are used in the Handicap Index calculation. Think of the Handicap Index more as your scoring potential versus your scoring average.

Alternative Interpretation of Bogey Golfer

While I detailed above the USGA’s official definition of a bogey golfer in regards to the Handicap Index, most of the golfing world has a different interpretation. When the majority of golfers hear the phrase bogey golfer, the assumption is that of a golfer who averages a bogey per hole over the course of a round. So on a Par 72 golf course, a bogey golfer would shoot around a 90. This a much better player than the 20 handicap “bogey golfer” as defined by the USGA. On average, approximately 8-12 shots better per round.

When I mentioned my 20+ years of experience in the opening paragraph, I was referring to the bogey golfer who averages a bogey per hole. This is definitely the category I fall into. My current scoring average is 89.1. I played a round earlier this year where I made bogey on all 18 holes. That’s how committed to the cause I am.

This type of bogey golfer can achieve this level of golf in a variety of ways. Some aren’t great ball strikers and it may take them 3 shots to get near the green on a Par 4. This player usually has a great short game and will get up and down at a high percentage and rarely 3 putt. Then we have golfers like myself who are on or near the green in 2 on the majority of Par 4’s. This players short game is not good (to be kind) and they will rarely get up and down and 3 putt a TON.

Are Bogey Golfers Bad Players?

Absolutely not! According to the National Golf Foundation, only 26% of golfers shoot below 90 consistently while 45% of golfers average over 100 per 18 holes. This make the USGA’s 20 handicap bogey golfer averaging 98-102 better than roughly half of all golfers. The bogey golfer who averages a bogey per hole to shoot around 90 is in the top 25% of all golfers. By either account, the bogey golfer is an average to above average golfer when comparing to the rest of the golfing population.

Obviously, we all want to shoot better scores and room for improvement certainly exists for all of us on the “Bogey Train”. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective playing this game. Keep a positive attitude and remember when you’re having a bad day on the course, it could always be worse.

How to Get Off the “Bogey Train”?

Most golfers are all too familiar with the dreaded “Bogey Train”. For those of you unaware, it’s simply when a golfer starts a streak of making bogeys consecutively and can’t stop. The “Par Train” is nowhere to be found. The bogey train reminds me of the movie Snowpiercer. In the movie, the last remnants of humanity are all stuck aboard a train that travels around the globe repeatedly in a loop. The train can’t stop and the passengers can’t get off due to Ice Age like conditions. This sums up the bogey train!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a round earlier this year which epitomized the meaning of bogey train. 18 holes played…18 bogeys made. This was a first for me. What ailed me that day was the same problem that ails me during most rounds of golf. The short game…and in particular, the putter. And this leads me to my answer on how to get off the bogey train. Practice chipping and putting! Making a bogey can happen many different ways but the most common is related to short game. Poor chipping and putting can lead to a permanent ride on the bogey train. It’s what keeps me onboard and likely millions of other golfers.

This year, after playing golf over 20 years, I finally decided I need to work on my short game with an emphasis on my putting. I’ve always been the one who would go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls and never make any time for the putting green. When you putt as bad as I do, that’s a recipe for disaster. The putter is the most used club in the bag. That’s a fact we all know. Dedicate some time to becoming a better putter and watch some of those bogeys turn into pars. Improving the short game is the quickest way to get off the bogey train.

History Behind the Term “Bogey”

Believe it or not, a bogey was the original “par” score. According to folks over at Scottish Golf History, in 1890, Mr. Hugh Rotherham, Secretary of the Coventry Golf Club, had the idea of standardizing the number of shots a good player should take per hole. It wasn’t initially called a bogey but instead called the “ground score”. As the idea spread, the name bogey was eventually coined during a tournament at the Great Yarmouth Club in Norfolk, England. The name “bogey” is thought to have originated from none other than the mythical figure “Bogeyman”! Yes, the same bogeyman that our parents scared us with growing up.

Final Thoughts

Just remember, the term “Bogey Golfer” can have more than one meaning. The USGA defines it as a 20 handicapper (98 avg score) for men and a 24 handicapper (102 avg score) for women. The rest of the golfing world defines it as someone who averages a bogey per hole and shoots around 90.


Just a bogey golfer who plays off scratch in his mind. Golf is my passion, and the goal is to transfer that passion to each person who visits Rather Be Golfing.

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