What Is a Birdie in Golf?

Whether you are a seasoned golfer who has been enjoying golf for years or are new to this game, a birdie in any round of golf is definitely special. Consequently, every player strives to make more birdies when playing.

If you have watched or attended a PGA tournament, you can see that the pros make birdies seems so easy. They always leave opportunities for every round for birdie. Read on to get more information about the meaning and history of the golf term ‘’birdie.”

What Is A Birdie?

What Is a Birdie in Golf

When it comes to golf, one of the common scoring terms used by many golfers is ‘birdie.’ A birdie occurs when a golfer scores a single stroke below the par for any particular golf hole. Conversely, par is just the expected number of strokes that a professional golfer takes to complete a specific hole. Every hole in the golf course has a par rating and these ratings are par-3, par-4, and par-5. This simply means that a golfer requires three strokes, four strokes, or five strokes to play these holes.

The scores required for birdies will look as follows:

  • A 2 on a par 3
  • A 3 on a par 4
  • A 4 on a par 5
  • Five shots on a par-6 (although Par-6’s are quite rare they do exist)

The par is usually set for every hole and it typically adds up to about 72 over the whole course of 18 holes. Generally, golf courses have 4 par 4s, 10 par 4s, and 4 par 5s. The easiest hole to make a birdie are the par 5s.

As you can see, a birdie is definitely a very good score on a golf hole. It is a score that mid-handicappers do not score often and is a rare occurrence for the high handicappers. For every recreational golfer, making a birdie is surely something to be proud of.

The History Behind The Term Birdie

History Behind The Term Birdie

‘’Birdie’’ is one of the oldest innovations in the golf game that has its origin in America. The term comes from an old American slag ‘bird’, which was a term used to describe something excellent or outstanding. This was the 19th century way of referring to something that looked or felt cool.

According to the H.B. Martin’s “Fifty Years of American Golf”, in 1899 in Atlantic City, two blood brothers AB and William P Smith were enjoying a round of golf with George Crump. Ab Smith then hit a peach of a second club shot to about six inches of the hole and is quoted saying; that was a bird of a short, I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in under par he should receive double compensation.” His friend and his brother then agreed and AB Smith wentt to hole the putt and all the future one-under-par scores were known as a “bird”. The game was played in the Atlantic City Country Club and they have a plaque that commemorates this event.

The transformation of the term ‘bird’ into ‘birdie’ is alleged to have happened in the early 1900s at a golf course by a group of golf players in New Jersey. This became the norm ever since. Although there are differing views regarding whether or not the term originated earlier than 1899, there is no substantial evidence to back the theory. Most golfing historians are swayed by the Smith brothers’ story about creating “birdie” while playing. The term did not take long to become the norm in different places around the world.

Birdie Is Also Referred to As

There are other ways that golfers can confirm they have made a birdie on a hole. These include:

  • bird
  • 1-under par
  • 1-under
  • circle on the scorecard

Birdies are Difficult to Score

Although Birdies is one of the most common scoring terms that is used in a game of golf, scoring a birdie is not easy. A birdie is a very good score. However, it is a score that is achieved by very few mid-handicappers and even fewer high handicappers. Therefore, even if you achieve one score, it is worth celebrating.

According to PGA stats, the average number of birdies that are scored by top pro golfers for each round of golf is five. This is a confirmation that scoring birdies is hard to achieve. Most of the birdies scored by players are usually scored on par-5.

With the long-distance that many professional golfers hit the ball nowadays, they can get onto a par-5 with ease in just two shots. This gives them two more shots for them to record a birdie on their playing scorecard. The highest number of birdies scored in one round is 13. This golfing record is also shared by Chip Beck 1991 and Adam Hadwin in 2017 who achieved 59 scores each.

The number of consecutively scored birdies in a single row during one round of golf is 9. This is a world record that has only be achieved by nine professional players as of January 2020.

Challenges That Most Golfers Face When Making Birdies

Opportunities

For you to make more birdies, you need to give yourself more chances. This is achieved by hitting additional greens in regulation. Most amateur golfers may not even hit 50% of greens in regulation and this eliminates your chances of scoring birdies by 50%. You should start by getting your tee shots in the fairway and give yourself opportunities to hit the green in regulation.

Putting

Even if you manage to hit the green in regulation, the make percentages are still against you when it comes to scoring birdies. For instance, the average make percentage on PGA tours from 8 ft is just 50%. If this distance is doubled to 16ft, the make percentage drops to 20%. The percentages will even be much lower for amateur golfers who do not put as well as the professionals.

This simply means that birdies are challenging to make and even golfers who stick to a wedge to 8 ft, most skilled amateur putters may only achieve that putt 50% of the time. The best way for golfers to score birdies is on par 5’s for longer hitters and can move around the green in 2 and maybe chip it inside 4 ft.

Distance

The greatest challenge that hinders most golfers from scoring birdies is distance. If you could have more distance then you will perform better on the par 5s and will have shorter clubs into the par 4s and par 3s. The average amateur golfer just swings about 95 to 100 miles per hour. This means that by increasing swing speed you may just increase your distance and score a birdie.

In Conclusion

If you have been asking yourself what is a birdie in golf, am sure you now have the answer to your question. Understanding that even the golf pros score very few birdies should make you realize that this sport is difficult regardless of your skill level.  Scoring birdies are not required for you to break scores of 80, 90, and even 100. Although birdies are special, they should not be expected and this should always be in mind whenever you blunder on that birdie putt.

Every golfer should reconsider their mind and their goal should be making the best score possible on each hole. This means that you should allow birdies scores to occur naturally rather than forcing them. You need to come to each hole with a desire to make par instead of forcing birdies.

Playing a round of golf with an unrealistic believes of making more birdies just like the pro, will lead to an unhappy and unpleasant gaming experience. Enjoy the game and the experience and let the birdies scores occur naturally.

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Christian Adams

I love playing golf for various reasons. I am not a professional golfer, but I love playing the game for what it makes me feel. Golf is all about patience, discipline, and letting go. One primary reason I love the game so much is that it teaches me not to compete with anyone.

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