What is a Stroke in Golf? Explained for Beginners

By Chris Moore •  Updated on 02/15/22

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:

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:

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:

Final thoughts

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.

Chris Moore

Hi, I'm Chris Moore and I'm the guy behind As an avid golfer since 2010, I decided to create this blog to share everything I've learned over the years. Whether it's golf equipment, swing tips, or anything in-between, I want to make sure you have everything you need to become a better golfer.