In golf, a stroke is any type of swing that’s intended to strike the golf ball. It’s the unit used to advance your golf ball throughout the course and keep track of your score throughout the round.
What’s defines a stroke in golf?
As stated in the USGA rules, a stroke is simply defined as “the forward movement of your club made to strike the ball.”
Prior to the rule change in early 2019, it had a different, more complex definition:
A stroke was defined as “the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.”
The role of a stroke in golf scoring
Since golfers use strokes to advance around the golf course, that’s how their score is counted. But, how those strokes impact the score depends on what type of golf format is being played:
- Stroke play: The winner is the golfer who has the least amount of strokes after the round.
- Match play: The winner of each hole is the golfer who used the fewest strokes on that hole; the winner of the match is the golfer who wins the most holes after the round.
- Stableford: The number of strokes a golfer uses on each hole is converted into points earned, with fewer strokes resulting in more points. The winner is whoever has the most points after the round.
When is a swing not counted as a stroke?
There are only a couple of instances where a swing will not count as a stroke:
- A swing of a club that is voluntarily stopped prior to making contact with the ball.
- A practice swing that is completed with no intention of hitting the ball
But if you swing the club forward with the intention of hitting the ball, it counts as a stroke even if the ball is missed.
Other uses of strokes in golf
There are a couple of other golf scoring terms that include the word “stroke,” here are the two primary terms:
- Penalty stroke: Additional strokes added to your score due to a golfer violating the rules of golf.
- Handicap stroke: Strokes subtracted from your score due to specific circumstances under the USGA Handicapping system.
After reading this post, you should know the ins and outs of what a stroke is and how to keep your score so you can go play and start tracking your scores.
Without knowing what counts and what doesn’t, your scores may not be accurate which will only hurt you in the end.