What is a Birdie and How to Score One in Your Next Game of GolfPublished on 03/14/2023 · 8 min readBirdies are the goal of every golfer and Golf expert Adam Ditcher shares how to make them more frequently so you can score better on your next round of golf.
Photo by Adam Ditcher
Birdies—they’re the goal of every golfer, every time, every hole that they play on the course. Want to play better golf? Make more birdies. Have a really bad hole or get stuck on the bogey train? Birdies can take a round that looks lost and salvage it. Tired of grinding out pars? Birdies are the key to a less stressful round, and every person in the world of golf is always asking how to make more of them.
Every golfer loves the feeling of making a birdie. Ask any lower handicap about what happened during a bad round, and they’ll likely mention something about not making enough birdies. Many new golfers or higher handicap players will always be aware of the last time they made a birdie or a better score on a hole. So, what is a birdie? How can you (or I, for that matter) make more in your next round? Is there a way to consistently make more birdies? Let’s get into some details.
What Is a Birdie?
A birdie is the name for a score that is one stroke under par. So if you’re looking to make one, you need a score of 2 on a par 3, 3 on a par 4, or a score of 4 on a par 5. There are better scores that you can get on a hole, eagles and the elusive albatross come to mind, as well as the tricky hole-in-one (which varies in its score under par depending on if you get one on a par 3 or par 4). However, all these scores are difficult to attain at all in a round, so you’re not as easily able to avidly work on a strategy to maximize more of them every time you tee it up at your local golf club. So, we will be focusing on ways to improve your chances of making a birdie in your next round, and working on these fundamentals will give you a better opportunity to get a score better than a birdie as well.
So how can you, I, tour players, beginners, and anyone else who loves to play this game try to make more birdies and shoot a lower score? There are a few things that can be done. The first thing is to learn more about and focus on the type of game that you play. My very first birdie growing up came on a par 3. I was below a bunker and chipped in. I still remember that day years later. These days, I can’t remember the last time that I made a birdie on a par 3. And that’s due to changes in the way that I play the game of golf and how my game has evolved over the years. This knowledge of my game’s strengths and weaknesses helps me to know what holes I have a better chance of making a birdie on.
The average golf course has a par for 18 holes between 70-72. This can vary, but generally, the difference between 70 and 72 being par on a golf course depends on how many par 3s and par 5s there are on a given course. Most courses with par 72 over 18 holes have four par 3s, four par 5s, and fourteen par 4s to make up the holes within the course. Variations in par generally come from either having fewer par 5s or more par 3s within 18 holes, although some courses have higher pars due to there being more par 5s. So why does this matter for your chances of making birdies?
For golfers who are newer to the game or do not hit the ball a long way off the tee, the best place to focus on making more birdies is on par 3s. On a par 4 or par 5, there is a large emphasis on the tee shot, and without both distance and accuracy off the tee, the odds of making a birdie are greatly reduced. However, every player starts a par 3 with a direct look at the green and can use whatever club off the tee fits the length of the hole. There is no worry about driver accuracy nor does the player have to concern themselves with positioning their first or second shot into the ideal location for their approach shot. In addition, although there are some exceptions to courses with very long par 3s, many par 3s are under 200 yards, so even if a player has to use a driver off the tee, they still can have an opportunity to hit a green in regulation.
If this sounds like your game, really focus on your par 3 scoring when you get to those holes during your round. Approach shots are always key in making birdies, but especially on par 3s. Focus on your hybrid and iron accuracy, as well as your putting. This could be repeated during every single portion of this article, but putting is essential for making any birdie for any player!
On the opposite end, players who hit the ball a long distance are going to want to focus on their par 5 scoring to maximize how many birdies they’re making in a round. If you have ever watched coverage of PGA Tour tournaments, there often is a lot of focus on how well a player performs on the par 5s on the course. This is because of the length that tour players hit the ball, as often they’re able to get their golf ball either on the green or within chipping distance of the green after only two shots on a par 5. This allows them to make an up-and-down for birdie instead of the typical up-and-down, which is generally to save par. A couple of key factors discussed on the coverage include being on the right side of the fairway, making solid contact with the golf ball, having a smooth swing and transition, and minimizing the number of difficult shots on each hole to make scoring easier, which is often a result of driving accuracy.
You don’t have to be a tour pro to take advantage of par 5s. Even for amateur players on par 5s, driving distance and accuracy is a must, so really focus on your performance with your driver to maximize your chances of making birdie on a par 5. Unfortunately, that is only step one. Just like on par 3s, you need to focus on your approach, and often when going for a par 5 in two, your approach is going to be with a 3-wood, 5-wood, hybrid club, or long iron. These longer clubs are generally more difficult to hit accurately than your shorter clubs, like a 9-iron or pitching wedge. So really emphasize your accuracy with these clubs to help get around the green in two on par 5s. Having an eagle putt and just needing two putts for a birdie is generally considered one of the easiest ways to make a birdie, although it can be underwhelming if you come very close to making your eagle putt and miss. Luckily, there are no photos on a scorecard, and a tap-in birdie is always welcome in my book.
One final area to focus on, although likely more difficult to score on than the par 5s for longer hitters, is on short par 4s. Some courses have par 4s that are short enough that longer hitters off the tee can hit driver, or occasionally less than driver, and put their tee shot on or around the green on these shorter par 4s. Every player’s distance off the tee varies, but generally, I think of these par 4s as being around or below 300 yards in distance. Even if you aren’t a long hitter, these short par 4s are still a great place to try to increase your birdie counts in your round, as having a shorter, more accurate iron in your hands for your approach will generally help your scoring. Focus on the proximity to the hole of your approach shots—every golfer benefits from shorter birdie putts.
Overall, birdies are a collective result of multiple parts of your game. Different holes require different skill sets for capitalizing on the hole and making a birdie. One final recommendation that can help in all of these varied scenarios is to improve on your chipping. In full disclosure, I had been struggling to make birdies in the early parts of golf season (winter rust is a real challenge every year) and actually managed to make two of them, including a chip in, during this last 18-hole round! I hope that you find that these areas of focus help guide you towards making more birdies, and if you need some assistance upgrading your clubs or learning more about what type of game you play, come speak with me or a fellow Golf expert here on Curated. We’ll be sure to point you in the right direction with some other great tips, and hopefully help lead you to better results and making more birdies!