What Is a Bogey Golfer?

bogey golfer hitting tee shot
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"Bogey golfer," as used by most golfers, means a golfer whose average score is around a bogey per hole. But the term also has a formal definition as part of the USGA Handicap System. We'll take a look at both meanings here.

(A bogey is a golf score of 1-over par on an individual hole. If the hole's par rating is 4 and a golfer scores 5 on the hole, that golfer has made a bogey.)

'Bogey Golfer' in Common Usage

In common usage, "bogey golfer" means a golfer who averages about one bogey per hole, or 1-over par per hole. Do that on a par-72 golf course and the bogey golfer's average score is around 90.

If you're a bogey golfer, you might not be happy averaging around 90 for each round of golf. You might wish you were shooting better scores. And you can work towards improving your game and improving your score.

But keep in mind that being a bogey golfer actually means you are doing better than most other recreational golfers out there. According to various studies, the majority of people who take up the game of golf never break 100, and only a small percentage of those who play golf ever score lower than 90.

So if you're averaging a score of 90, well, you're actually doing pretty good! Especially if, like most amateurs, you don't do a lot of practicing.

'Bogey Golfer' in the USGA Handicap System

But "bogey golfer" also has a more specialized meaning as an important term in the USGA's golf course rating systems for handicaps.

In rating the difficulty of golf courses through course rating and slope rating, the USGA defines a bogey golfer this way:

"A player with a USGA Handicap Index of 17.5 to 22.4 strokes for men and 21.5 to 26.4 for women. Under normal situations the male bogey golfer can hit his tee shot 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two shots. Likewise, the female bogey golfer can hit her tee shot 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two shots. Players who have a Handicap Index between the parameters above but are unusually long or short off the tee are not considered to be a bogey golfer for course rating purposes."

How does this definition of "bogey golfer" come into play for course/slope ratings? Those ratings are made by a rating team, a group of USGA-certified individuals who visit a golf course and examine what it requires of golfers playing it.

The rating team takes into account how scratch golfers will play the course (scratch golfers average par scores), but also how bogey golfers will play it. One way to think of slope rating is an expression of the degree of difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer relative to a scratch golfer. Bogey golfers typically hit drives shorter than scratch golfers, for example, and so have longer approach shots into the greens. (Which makes clear the importance of playing from the proper set of tees.)

For more details on this usage of the term "bogey golfer," see "How are course rating and slope rating determined?"