Explaining the Stableford Point System

Scoreboard at The International Tournament, a Stableford points event
Scoreboards look different in Stableford competitions, because leaders are based on points rather than strokes. Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Stableford point system is an alternative way of scoring stroke play golf. A golf tournament or competition that uses Stableford points is one in which the object is to get the highest score. That's because in Stableford, golfers are awarded points based on their scores on each hole, and you want to finish with the highest point total.

The points awarded depend on how the golfer did compared to a fixed score that is set by tournament organizers, and that can be in relation to par (bogey, double bogey, par, etc.) or a number of strokes (4, 6, 8, whatever). The fixed score, most often, is par or net par.

The Stableford system was originally created by Frank Stableford, a member at Wallesley Country Club in England, in 1931.

Stableford Points are Set in the Rule Book

The USGA and R&A define Stableford points in this manner:

  • More than 1 over fixed score (or no score returned) - 0 points
  • One over fixed score - 1 point
  • Fixed score - 2 points
  • One under fixed score - 3 points
  • Two under fixed score - 4 points
  • Three under fixed score - 5 points
  • Four under fixed score - 6 points

So what is this "fixed score" business? Let's say that tournament organizers set the fixed score as par. You make a bogey at ​​​hole 2, you score 1 point. You make a birdie at No. 3, you get 3 points.​

Or maybe the tournament organizers decide the fixed score is 5. You make a 4 on the first hole, you earn 3 points; you make a 6 on the second hole, you earn 1 point.

Rules and Handicaps in Stableford Competitions

Rules related to Stableford competitions can be found in the official rules of golf under Rule 32.

Stableford competitions work equally well as gross or net competitions, although the use of full handicaps is necessary for a field that includes golfers of a wider range of abilities. Handicap strokes are allowed in Stableford competitions the same as any other stroke play competition, as they are allocated on the "handicap" row or line of the scorecard.

Stableford vs. Modified Stableford

Golfers might be more familiar with the term Modified Stableford, which refers to a Stableford competition in which the points or exact format differs from the Stableford system described in the rulebook. See Modified Stableford for more details.

And for further explanation, please see: How to Play Stableford or Modified Stableford Competitions.