What 'In' and 'Out' Mean When They Appear on Golf Scorecard

A golf scorecard with out appearing after Hole 9 and in after Hole 18.

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On many golf scorecards, the words "in" and "out" appear alongside the par total for the front nine and back nine, respectively. And some newcomers to golf might not understand the reason they are there. So let's find out what "in" and "out" mean when they appear on a scorecard.

'In' and 'Out' on Scorecards Derive from Original Terms for the Nines

What the terms in and out mean is fairly self-evident, if you stop to think about it for minute: they refer to the golf course's front and back nines, respectively. Out refers to the front nine (the first nine holes of the golf course) and in refers to the back nine (the last nine holes of the course). Even without understanding the origins of the terms, we can understand this by noting that the terms appear next to the par totals for each of those nine holes.

The space on the scorecard where the golfer writes down her front-nine total is typically accompanied by the word "out," while the space for the back-nine total is associated with the word "in."

Why those terms are used, however, dates to the beginnings of golf. Far back in the mists of Scotland, golf courses weren't so much built as they were found. Golfers began playing the game on the natural linksland alongside the Scottish coast. Patterns of play formed, and a well-worn golf course would emerge.

Such early links all took the same form. From the starting point (eventually, today, meaning the clubhouse or pro shop), those golfers would play out in a straight line, the holes strung together one after the other. When they reached the midway point of the golf course, they turned around and started playing in the opposite direction until making it back to the starting point.

In other words, they played out, then they played back in. The first set of holes came to be called the "outward" holes; the second set, the "inward" holes. Eventually, golf courses settled on 18 holes in length; hence, the "outward nine" and "inward nine" came to comprise the 18-hole course.

Few golf courses are constructed these days in the out-and-in pattern of early links courses. But the terms "out" and "in" have stuck for the front and back nines.