Eagle vs. Birdie in Golf: What's the Difference?

Here at GolfCompendium.com, we don't just write for serious golfers and golf history buffs. We also write for beginners and those who are new to golf fandom. And two words that newbies are going to hear a lot are "birdie" and "eagle." These are golf scoring terms, and they are both good: Golfers want lots of birdies and eagles. But what is the difference between the two?

The difference boils down to this: An eagle is one better than a birdie. Now let's explain.

Each hole on a golf course has a number that represents its "par." A golf hole's par is the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to need (on average) to play that hole. So on a par-4 hole, for example, four strokes is expected to be the average score of the best golfers on that hole.

Birdie and eagle are terms golfers use for scores that are lower than par on a given hole. Let's say a golfer plays a par-5 hole not in five strokes, but in four strokes. That's great! That golfer just made a birdie — birdie is the term golfers use for a score one below par on a hole.

But what if the golfer plays that par-5 hole in even fewer strokes? If a golfer plays a par-5 hole in just three strokes, that is an "eagle" — an even better score than a birdie. One stroke better, in fact.

  • On a par-3 hole, a birdie is two strokes, an eagle is one stroke (which would actually be called a hole-in-one or ace in this case).
  • On a par-4 hole, a birdie is three strokes and an eagle is two strokes.
  • On a par-5 hole, a birdie is four strokes and an eagle is three strokes.
  • On a par-6 hole, a birdie is five strokes and an eagle is four strokes.
And that's the difference between birdie an eagle. Both are great scores, but when comparing eagle vs. birdie, "eagle" is one stroke lower than "birdie."

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