What Is a 'Natural Birdie' or 'Natural Par' in Golf?

Golfers sometimes refer to making a "natural birdie" on a hole, or a "natural par." But just what are those scores? In this usage, "natural" is just another way of saying "gross." A natural birdie is the same thing as a gross birdie; a natural par is the same thing as a gross par.

Of course, that brings up the question for beginners or casual fans: What is a gross birdie or par?

These terms have to do with handicaps. If a golfer carries a handicap index, then that golfer gets to reduce his or her score by a certain number of strokes. So you have the gross score, which is the actual number of strokes a golfer plays, and you have the net score, which is the golfer's score minus any handicap strokes.

So making a "natural birdie" means that your actual number of strokes played on a given hole resulted in a birdie. Making a "natural par" means your actual number of strokes played on a hole resulted in a par.

Throwing "natural" in there is sort of a golfer's way of bragging to his or her golfing buddies: "Yep, I made a natural birdie" translates to "I made a real birdie, an actual birdie, no handicap strokes involved."

You can substitute "natural" for "gross" in any type of score, but it is most often used with birdie and par. You can claim a natural eagle (and you should if you make one!) or say you had a natural bogey, other any other golf score.

To break it down even more, here are the scoring examples using actual numbers of strokes:

You've made a natural birdie when you:

  • Use 2 strokes to finish a par-3 hole;
  • Use 3 strokes to finish a par-4 hole;
  • Use 4 strokes to finish a par-5 hole.

You've made a natural par when you:

  • Use 3 strokes to finish a par-3 hole;
  • Use 4 strokes to finish a par-4 hole;
  • Use 5 strokes to finish a par-5 hole.

Related definitions:

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