Gross vs Net Score in Golf

In golf, you’ll find that there are gross scores and net scores. So what’s the difference between these two? In this guide, we’ll break down the gross score first and then get into the net score next to share how, why, and when each is used.

What is Gross Score in Golf?

Gross score is pretty simple. You add up your total number of strokes during a golf round, including penalty strokes to get a grand total number of strokes it took over 18 holes.

You’ll want to record your gross score into the GHIN system at your local golf club so the system can calculate a golf handicap. The system will automatically adjust your score based on the course rating and slope.

Remember, your golf handicap is not your average golf score, it’s an expected golf score based on looking at your scoring history and the difficulty levels of the golf courses you’ve played.

Resource: How to Break 80 in Golf (Training Program)

What is Net Score in Golf?

Net score is different since it takes into account your handicap. You will take your gross score at the end of the round and subtract your handicap from that to calculate your net score.

For example, if you end up with a gross score of 93 strokes and you have a 16 handicap, then your net score would be a 77.

Net score is important since it allows two golfers of different skill levels to play against each other using handicaps. The golf who shoots the lower net score would win the match.

For example, one golfer could score a 78 gross and after subtracting their 4 handicap, they’d shoot a 74 net score. The other golfer might be a lot worse of a player scoring a 98 gross but after subtracting their 27 handicap they would score a 71 net score which would win the match against the better player (74 net vs 71 net).

Gross and Net Scores in Golf Tournaments

Some golf tournaments like to set up their format to play with handicaps to separate players into different flights or divisions based on golfers skill levels using handicaps.

These tournaments will give out awards to the lowest gross score and lowest net score so that different players can win in each division.

If a golf tournament doesn’t use handicaps, then it’s a gross score tournament, like the PGA Tour for example.

Some competition formats will have you use handicaps hole by hole to adjust your score so that you have a gross score and net score for each hole played. This will help golfers determine the winner of each hole like in a match play tournament format.

Resource: How to Break 80 in Golf (Training Program)

Net Score Points Games

Other golf games played by golfers will award points based on what golfer’s score each hole and in handicap games these points are based on the golfer’s net score each hole.

For example, a birdie might be worth 3 points and a par might be worth 2 points so anytime a golfer gets a net score of par, they’d score 2 points for the team. Their gross score might have been a bogey but after getting a handicap stroke on the hole, it adjusts the net score to a par, allowing them to help their team score points.

This is common in the game called Stableford, that many golf courses allow members to play in for money / gambling.

How to Make Your Scorecard

Now that you are aware of what a gross score is and a net score in golf, let’s talk about how to setup your scorecard to keep track of both scores during your golf round.

To start off, I like to use the first line to write my gross score after each hole.

Then line 2 or 3 I will use for writing in the net score so I can keep track of both scores on separate lines.

In order to know which holes to adjust the gross score for handicap strokes, you’ll want to look at the handicap section of the scorecard where they number the 18 holes from hardest (1) to easiest (18).

If you’re a 14 handicap, for example, then you’ll get a stroke on the 14 hardest holes on the golf course. You can place a little dot in the top corner of the box of these 14 holes so you remember these are the holes to adjust your gross score for handicap.

On holes that you don’t receive a handicap stroke, you’ll mark down the same gross and net scores since the gross score won’t be getting adjusted by a stroke for handicap.

Resource: How to Break 80 in Golf (Training Program)

Is Match Play a Gross or Net Score Competition?

Match Play format is where you try to win each hole by having the better score than your opponent. When you win a hole, you go 1-up in the match. The goal is to win more holes than your opponent to win the match. It’s different than winning based on gross strokes for the entire 18 holes.

Match play can be played both as a gross score game or a net score game. If you’re playing net score, then you’ll adjust the gross score for handicap strokes given or received each hole and then compare the two players net scores to determine who won the hole and get a point for the match play.

Overall, this is your guide to what is a gross score and net score in the game of golf. We covered how to calculate each and the different uses of gross and net scores for different styles of golf competition and games. Thanks for reading! Check out our resources below.

Golf Practice System for Lower Scores

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