Stableford is a scoring system used in the sport of golf. Rather than counting the total number of strokes taken, as in stroke play, it involves scoring points based on the number of strokes taken at each hole. Unlike traditional scoring methods, where the aim is to have the lowest score, under Stableford rules, the objective is to have the highest score.
The Stableford system was developed by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford (1870–1959), to deter golfers from giving up on their round after just one or two bad holes. It was first used informally at the Glamorganshire Golf Club, Penarth, Wales, in 1898, and first used in competition at Wallasey Golf Club in Wallasey, England, in 1932.
Stableford can have the added benefit of speeding up the pace of play, as once it is no longer possible to score a point, players do not have to complete the hole but can simply pick up their ball and proceed to the next hole. It is a popular form of the game, especially at club level and particularly in the United Kingdom, as it is still possible to record a competitive score despite having the occasional bad hole.
The number of points awarded on each hole is determined based on comparison of the number of strokes taken to a fixed score, usually par. This fixed score is then adjusted in relation to the player's handicap. Once players have taken two strokes more than the adjusted fixed score, they may abandon the hole and move on to the next, as it is then not possible to score any points on that hole. Because of this, it is still possible to be competitive even allowing for a few bad holes. At the end of the round, the number of points scored on each hole is totaled to give a final score. The winner of a Stableford competition is the player with the highest point total. Final scores may be modified for all players using the Competition Stableford Adjustment system.
In the United Kingdom, the fixed score would be adjusted as per the stroke indexes (SI) of the holes, starting at the lowest stroke index 1 hole, through to the highest, stroke index 18. For example, a 12 handicap golfer would increase the fixed score on holes indexed 1 through 12, a 24 handicap player would increase the score by two on holes indexed 1 through 6 and by one for the rest, and a plus handicap player would reduce the fixed scores starting at the stroke index 18 hole.