What Is Gross Vs Net Golf Score (How To Calculate Yours)

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What Does Gross Score in Golf Mean?

In a game of golf, two kinds of scores are generally calculated; the net score and the gross score.

Though it is not compulsory for both these scores to be computed, most of the tournaments recommend calculating each value.

What does gross score mean in golf? Gross score means the total number of strokes it takes to complete a hole. For example, if you take 4 strokes to complete a hole, then your gross score for that particular hole is 4.

So where do penalty shots come in? Penalty shots will be added to your gross score total. For example, you used 4 strokes to hole a ball, and you also have a 1 stroke penalty, your gross score would be 5.

Your final gross score is the total gross score calculated for each of the holes. For example, if you have a gross score of 5 for a hole and a score of 4 for another hole, the total adds up to 9 for these 2 holes. This calculation will be done for all the holes.

Quite simply, the total number of strokes that you play, plus the total penalty accrued is the gross score of a player.


What does Net Score in Golf Mean?

Now that you know what gross score means in golf, you will be wondering about the usage of net scores. I will explain the importance of understanding your net score.

So what exactly does net score in golf mean? Net score is calculated by taking the gross total of strokes in a round and then deducting the handicap strokes incurred.

Knowing your net score is important as all players in golf do not play at the same level. Some have a weaker skill set, while others have a stronger skill set. To even out the playing field, the concept of handicap was started.

Ranking a winner by net score evens out the playing field and makes it possible for even the weaker players to win a game.

As mentioned, the net score is essentially the gross score minus the handicap.

There are 2 major formats of games followed in golf, namely the stroke play and match play. Depending on the format of the game being played, the calculation of the net score also varies.

Match play – In a match play format, every player will aim to win the particular hole. The game will be played on a hole by hole basis. In this case, the net score will be calculated for each hole.

Stroke play – In stroke play format of the game, every player will aim to win the total game as a whole. Winning individual is not as important as just winning the overall game. The total net score is not used in this format hence your individual net score for each hole does not matter.


Gross Vs Net Score in Golf

So, what exactly is the difference between gross and net score in golf? It’s not compulsory for you to compute both net scores and gross scores in matches. There are matches where only gross scores are used to identify the winner. Some of the main differences between net scores and gross scores are highlighted below.

  • Gross scores are the total number of strikes taken to complete a hole. Net scores are calculated obtained subtracting the handicap values.

  • When players have different skill levels, the gross score cannot be used as a measure of their competency. In this case, using net scores is a fairer way to measure player’s scores.

  • Gross scores should only be used when all players are playing at a similar experience level in the match. If there is a clear weaker player involved in a match, using a net score is necessary to give that individual a fair chance of winning.

  • Net scores can be computed for each hole as well as for the entire game. This depends on whether the game is a stroke play or a match play. Gross scores are generally computed for the whole game. Remember that penalty strokes do get added to the gross score.

  • The net score is calculated from using the gross score. The handicap of each player is calculated, and this value is used to arrive at the final net score.

What is Considered a Low Gross Golf Score?

Gross scores are the exact number of strokes used by a golfer for a game. Net scores, on the other hand, take into account the skill and competency level of the player as it uses handicap values.

A handicap value is the numerical measure of the player’s actual ability. There is no particular value of a low or high gross score.

In the final calculation, of the scores, what matters is the combination of your handicap and the gross scores.

Since the calculations are done on a relative basis, there are no absolute figures available that talk about low gross scores. If you wish to improve your scores and ratings, you will need to work on your handicap values.

I recommend reading my other article on average golf scores to see where your own score compares to the average golfer.


How to Calculate your Net Score?

This is how to calculate your net score while playing golf.  You’ll need to count the total number of strokes played, and also calculate your handicap score. This handicap value is then subtracted from the overall gross score.

For example, if your handicap is 14 and you manage to finish the game with 90 strokes, then your gross score would be 90 while your net score would be 90-14, which is 76.

So, what happens in the case of match play? How do you calculate the net score for these games?  During match play games, the difference between the handicap values of the two players is taken, and this value is considered as the final handicap for the game.

This means that the weaker player would get to play that many amounts of strokes in the course. If one player has a handicap of 5 and the other has a handicap of 8, then the final handicap is 3. The 8-handicapper would get 3 strokes while the 5-handicapper would get no strokes.

If the difference between the handicap value is more than 20, then there will be extra strokes on some of the holes. The extra strokes are generally used in the order of the holes. If there are 3 strokes, then these would be used in holes 1, 2 and 3 respectively.


How to Read and Mark A Golf Scorecard?

Though the scorecard looks very confusing, it is indeed very simple to read. This is how you read and mark your golf scorecard.

  • The scorecard will have rows marked as holes. This will be marked with the number of holes present in the course. Some courses will have 9 holes, while others will be 18 holes.

  • In 18-hole courses, there will be a break in the scorecard after 9 holes. The column after the first 9 courses will be called out and the column after the second 9 holes will be called in. This indicates that after the first 9 courses, you’re moving out of the clubhouse. On the other hand you would be moving into the clubhouse after the second 9 holes.

  • There will be a row marked as handicap values. This row does not indicate your handicap values but rather shows the difficulty level of the holes. 1 is marked as the most challenging hole while the hole marked with an 18 will be the easiest.

  • The colored row will indicate the toughness of the course. Black and gold are used only by professionals, while green is the easiest.

  • The row containing par will have values rating the course difficulty. These values are used for computing the final scores of the players.


Steps To Mark Your Golf Scorecard

  • The first step is to note down the names or initials of all the players on to the scorecard.

  • Write down the number of strokes required by each person for a particular hole. Penalties for a particular hole can also be added in this section.

  • Tally up the number of strokes for each set of 9 holes. For the first 9 holes, you will mark the total in the OUT. For the second batch of 9 holes, you will have to mark the total in the IN column.

  • Now compare this with the total par values. Note down the difference between the total par and the overall score for each player. If using handicaps, calculate the handicaps, and adjust the scores accordingly.

  • Sign the sheet with the name and initials along with the date to make your scorecard valid.



Playing golf is interesting due to the various levels of intricacies involved. The scores in golf can be worked out based on gross values or net values. Taking the total number of strokes is called gross score while deducting the handicap values from the golf scores is how you calculate the net score.

Tournaments and big matches generally consider the net scores; while gross score system may be used in friendly matches.

Proper ranking and rating of the golfers can only be done if the net scores are considered. Weaker players only stand the chance of winning a game if the handicap values are considered.

Golfers of widely varying skill levels are able to play in a single tournament due to the fact that the net scores are considered.

Irrespective of whether gross scores or net scores are computed, you can improve your rating by working on your level of competency. Practicing better techniques can help you score better in any match.

I always recommend that golfers focus more on accuracy instead of increasing their distances. You’ll always take far less strokes to finish your round if you improve your shot accuracy.

Do You Know Your Handicap Score? Click Here to Find Out


Ernie loves documenting interesting facts about golf.

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