What Is A Birdie In Golf?

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If you’ve recently picked up golf, or if you are interested in the sport in general, it is useful to become familiar with the different golfing terms. You may even have noticed from carrying out basic research that there are a lot of bird themed phrases, such as albatross, and birdie. But, what do these phrases mean?

Putting out on the green with the flag in the hole

In this article, we will be focusing specifically on what a birdie in golf is. We will be talking you through everything you need to know, from the history of the word, to what you need to look out for when a birdie is called. 

What is a birdie?

When talking about a birdie in golf, this links directly to how many shots a golfer has taken. If a golfer has scored a birdie, this means that they have scored one under par on that particular hole.

One under par means that the golfer has holed the ball in one less stroke than the par for the hole.

The par of each hole is worked out before a golfer plays, and is predetermined to help a golfer know how many shots they should be aiming for. While completing a hole in par is fantastic, many golfers will aim to be under par, especially if they are playing competitively. After all, the fewer shots you take, the better your overall score will be.  

When it comes to scoring a birdie, it is worth noting that the number needed will change depending on the golf course and hole you are playing on. This is because the amount of shots needed to score par is relative to the specific hole. Not all holes are the same length, and the par score will reflect this.

So for example, if the amount of shots needed to reach par for one hole is 4, then a golfer will need a score of 3 in order to receive a birdie as per the table below:

Par for the holeStrokes to make a birdie

When you work out the amount of strokes needed like this, figuring out how many shots are needed for a birdie is simple. 

Once the phrase birdie was established within the sport, more names were given to the different amount of strokes taken to hole out. While birdie does not derive from an actual bird, the terms eagle, and albatross were still incorporated into the sport.

What is a net birdie in golf?

A net birdie when a golfer scores one under par on a hole with the aid of their handicap.

Whilst all golfers would love to shoot a number of birdies per round like the pros, the reality is that many golfers will never make it to that level.

That’s why golfers have handicaps.

Handicaps help golfers shoot closer to par (and thus be able to compete against golfers of differnet abilities). If someone has a handicap of 18 this means they take one stroke off their score per hole.

So if an 18 handicapper completes a par 4 in four strokes, they have techincally scored par for the hole. But once they take their handicap into consideration, they remove one stroke, scoring a net 3 – or a net birdie.

Where did the term “birdie” originate?

Now that you know what a birdie means in golf, you may be wondering where the term came from. After all, it does seem like a rather random golfing term. There are a few different suggestions of where the term “birdie” actually comes from. 

However, there is one suggestion that is most prominent, and this dates back to 1903 in New Jersey. The term was said to have been created in Atlantic City Country Club. There’s even a stone and plaque to commemorate the creation of the term at the golf course. 

The phrase itself derives from the term bird, but not like the bird that flies in the air, the American slang, which means brilliant, or excellent.

The phrase was first used to describe excellent shots, and eventually became the official name for a finishing a hole in one under par. 

How to score a birdie

As we have already covered, getting a par in golf is fantastic. However, famously, golf is not a game of perfect and all levels of golfers will make mistakes (bogeys or worse) out on the course. Making birdies becomes a way of making up for your (inevitable) mistakes, so form a key part of making a good score.

In this section, we will be talking you through some useful hints and tips you can use to help you achieve a birdie.


The first, and most important point, is to practice! Golf is not easy. And a recent studies show that even scratch golfers only make 2.4 birdies per round on average.

When you compare the data for the average handicap golfer in the UK (which is around 16-20), the number of birdies per round drops to just 0.3. That means the average golfer will only make a birdie once every 3-4 rounds! You can see the full study here by MyGolfSpy.

So, if you want make more birdies, the key is to keep practicing and trying to improve your game. 


It’s no surprise, but the closer the ball lands to the hole in a good position, the fewer strokes you’ll probably need to finish the hole.

Maximising the distance you hit the ball will play into your hands. From the tee, you may be able to clear hazards that were previously in play, and on your approaches, you’ll likely be hitting less club which will improve your accuracy. Both in turn will help you make more birdies!

It also helps if you can reach a par 5 in two strokes instead of 3 meaning you’ll have two putts for a birdie instead of par.


They say drive for show, putt for dough!

Whilst power and extra distance will give you more biride opportunities, you can’t actually make one unless you hole the putts! Putting is a huge part of the game.

The short game (which includes putting and chipping) is probably the area where the average golfer can likley save the most shots per round. There’s no excuse either as putting is something that’s easily practiced at home.


We hope that you have found this article interesting and useful. As you can see, the phrase birdie is not directly linked to birds, which is quite interesting! If you are looking to achieve a birdie during your next round of golf, we would recommend following our useful tips!