Bogeys, Birdies, and Eagles, Oh My!

Ever wonder why golf lingo appears to be so random? Well, maybe this will help:

Bogey: Scottish golfers, as far back as the 1500s, used to use this word as the standard score per hole. The Scots saw themselves as playing against an imaginary "bogey", or ghost (like the "boogie man"). The Scot would try to get the balls in the holes in less strokes than the bogey.

Par: In 1898, the rubber-centered golf ball was invented and could travel much farther than the old ball. Par, meaning "a common level" or "equality", was the word chosen to be the standard score when using the new balls. Par happened to be, on average, one stroke lower per hole than the bogey. Eventually the older balls were phased out and "bogey" became commonly known as one stroke over par.

Birdie and Eagle: Both of these words were slang terms for "excellent" in the late 19th century. When golf really became popular in the US in the 1920s, Birdie became known as "1 stroke under par" and Eagle became "2 strokes under par". Or, as I like to think of them, "excellent" and "most excellent", respectively.

There, now you'll know why you call it a bogey when you score 4 strokes on a 3-par hole on your next golf/mini-golf/disc golf outing. And that's pretty birdie if you ask me. :)

(Thanks to to author/word enthusiast Bill Bryson for the info! Click here to browse his book, The Mother Tongue, to learn more fun facts about English.)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I've actually wondered about that before! You rock!