Scorecard and Pencil or Smart Phone App?

06 January 2023
5 min. read
The Social Golfer
There are many ways to record your scores these days and while the ‘traditionalist’ might argue that a Scorecard and Pencil is the best way, do the younger golfers e.g. Millennials agree?
The traditional scorecard and pencil. (Photo courtesy of The Social Golfer)

How Do You Record Your Golf Scores…

With the rise of smartphones and GPS golf devices in the last ten years, it could be argued there is no reason for anyone to still be using a scorecard and pencil but it would seem the under 30’s don’t agree.  So, is this due to a generational divide or will the younger golfer see the sport as a chance to get offline for a few hours as they age? 

We asked Kevin Booth, 2022 Cairns Cup European Captain and part of The Social Golfer to argue the case for both methods of recording scores.

Scorecard and Pencil Vs Apps

Let’s start by stating here and now, I am a golfer in his mature years and while I do own the latest iPhone 14, and can use a laptop, I am not convinced I could truly explain what an ‘app’ is, but let’s not let that stop me considering all the options available to golfers.

Clearly, Apps are an established part of daily digital life now and many golfers have taken to registering their score directly onto a mobile phone or via a dedicated Scoring device provided by competition organisers.

When I began playing golf, I was always taught that when you are playing around either casual or in competition you swap cards with your playing partners before you play. It’s then your responsibility to record the score of the player who’s card you have and keep your score as well; this is so that at the end of the round you can validate the correct score by cross referencing the card you’ve scored and the other player’s card. Both the player and scorer then sign to say it’s a correct record. 

The score is then entered into whatever software the club uses to run handicaps and the card is handed in so that the secretary can cross-check if there are any disputes. Even if you’re playing a casual round, a hard copy is a good idea for your personal records, you can then transfer the score to any one of the many Apps available online.

Checking the live leaderboard after marking your score on the VPAR app.

The advantages to this tried and tested way of scoring are:

  1. There is a hard copy for reference and the scores are independently verified
  2. There is proof of scores should networks and technology fail at a later stage
  3. You can easily make other notes on a scorecard e.g., Fairways hit, Putts, Bunkers etc.
  4. The Club scorecard is often and should be the most up-to-date distances etc, Apps are not as they are made by a third party
  5. I am there to play golf and I don’t want my phone on as it’s a distraction
  6. No need to have a full battery to make it through your round

Meanwhile the advantage of using a Scoring App are:

  1. A traditional scorecard can be damaged in adverse weather conditions as they are often hard to keep
  2. A traditional scorecard can be lost during your round and this has probably happened to all of us once
  3. Your scores are added up automatically, so no need to consider how many Stableford points you receive on each hole
  4. An app can add fun and jeopardy to a golf event of charity golf day, as some offer a live scoreboard facility to see how your team are in the standings
  5. Apps can often come with distance GPS, so no need to use a rangefinder
  6. They are a great time saver

Scorecard and Pencil or Smart Phone App – My Conclusion

I may be in the Autumn of my golfing career, but I see so many potential problems with putting your scores directly into an App unless you’re using a third party handset. Why? Because if you are using a personal mobile phone and recording your own score only, while your 3 playing partners are also marking their own scores during a round, the chance that their scores will tally with each other on the 18th green is out to question. In addition, can mistakes be checked and verified easily?

I guess this is where we return to the old mantra ‘golf is a game of integrity and honesty’ comes in but not having your scores verified, especially in competition, can leave the final result in jeopardy. 

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying either way is right or wrong, the world is changing, and people are now relying on technology more and more but not everyone wants to use mobile phones or handsets when playing golf, or do they?

However, almost everyone can use pen and paper. I like websites and Apps that allow you to maintain a handicap and playing history, but I couldn’t do it while playing. I am there to play golf and the last thing I want is to be distracted by a text or any other notification message.

As such, I do think the under 30’s will move to a card and pencil system as they age, and want to enjoy downtime from the family or indeed just want to take their game more seriously without additional distractions. 

And while I am no Nostradamus, I believe as they have more time to enjoy the game and the inclination to see the world around them while it is happening in front of them, rather than living life in the metaverse. (Yep, I know what that is!) 

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