Some of the most enjoyable moments in golf are hearing the scores read out, with such evocative words as birdie, bogey, and par, words that have now worked their way into the general english language beyond the fairway. But the origin of them is every bit as interesting as hearing the words themselves.
Lets start with bogey. It is the term most convoluted in its origin, coming from the term Bogey Man, meaning a mythic or unseen person or entity. When Mr Hugh Rotherham, Secretary of the Coventry Golf Club, conceived the idea of standardising the number of shots at each hole that a good golfer should take, he called it the “ground score.”
In 1932, #TheOpen was held at the @Princesgolfclub for the first & last time. The legend, Gene Sarazen, set a scoring record for the Championship by shooting a 283. He used the newly invented sand wedge during his round. It was the 5th major win of his career. #golf #history pic.twitter.com/DGFlWNfIj0
The idea soon spread to Great Yarmouth Club and the ideal golfer, who provided this “ground score” was referred to as the Bogey Man, leading clubs around Britain to refer to this ground score as the “bogey” score.
With the turn of the 20th century, and the explosion of golf in the United States in particular, there were two parallel developments that added up to big change in the game. The first was an increasing professionalization of the players, no longer simply the wistful way for the chattering classes to while away an afternoon, increasingly players focused all of their energy into bettering their game at every turn.
And the second was that all-American trait of industrialization. With improvements being made in the manufacture of both clubs and balls, consistently lower scores could be achieved by this new breed of professional players.
As the @TheOpen approaches, we should remember the championship owes its start to Allan Robertson. He was considered the best player at the time of his death, so a national tournament was needed to decide who would be the next “Champion Golfer”. The rest is #history. #golf pic.twitter.com/T9cOgTubrW
As it became apparent that the “bogey” score was not accurate for the modern game, golf clubs in the US began to derive their ground score to be a stroke below the old standard. Borrowing a Latin word meaning “equal” or “like” from the stock exchange, where it had taken on the meaning of the face value of a share, American golf courses began to refer to their ground score as “par”, and then further put their British counterparts’ noses out of joint by calling one over par “bogey”.
As the 20th century rolled on, and by the time the dust had settled on two world wars, the old rivalry had been set aside and the American terms became accepted worldwide.
Birdie is another term that has a slightly unusual origin, stemming from an early 20th century American slang term for something that is excellent. If something was seen as an outstanding achievement, it was said to be “bird”. Another example of an Americanism being adopted by cross-pond press, a “birdie” soon came to mean a hole that was done one stroke under par.
Guarantees and getting banned from tour events have been a part of US golf history for a long time.#PGA#PGATour https://t.co/KyPcnZym8L
Following the winged theme, a hole that is played one better than a birdie should be an even bigger bird, and in the American mind, no bird stands more majestic than the eagle. Once the concept of the birdie had caught on, it was very little time indeed before the eagle became accepted terminology as well.
The Americans continued the concept with the double-eagle for a hole that was played three under par, but at this point the British countered back. While the three-under hole is still referred to as a “double-eagle” in the US, just about everywhere else in the world has adopted the British term for the feat, the Albatross. Bigger and even more rare than an eagle, it is a fitting name for one of the rarest feats in golf.
And perhaps the least seen of all shots, almost mythical in aspect, is the four-under-par, which is given the appropriate name of the Condor.
A condor is golf's rarest shot. This East Bay man may have just gotten the only 2-shot condor in United States golf history. https://t.co/30npXaL8yI #mercnews @NCGA1901 #PGA @lakechabotgolf pic.twitter.com/wDdu1LM7n2
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