Golf Birdie Meaning and Definition

“Birdie” is one of the scoring terms you will often come across when playing golf. There are many words and terms you will hear out on the course, but birdie is one of the most exciting as it means you might be playing well!

Why are good shots in golf named after birds? How many shots does it represent? How do I make a birdie? We will cover these questions and many others in this article. Let's take a deep dive into the meaning and definition of the “birdie” term and maybe you can learn how to make one and lower your golf score too.

What is a "birdie" in golf?

If you've ever watched or played golf you will have heard the commentators or golfers talk about "birdie." No, they aren't talking about fluffy things with wings, they are using a real golfing term. According to, "A player makes a “birdie” when he uses one fewer strokes than the par of the hole."

Let's break this down using an example from the golf course. We are on a par 4 hole. The aim here is to get the ball into the cup in 4 shots, to make par. If you manage to get the ball into the hole in 3 shots, this would be 1 under par for that hole and called a birdie. If you were on a par 5 hole and took 4 strokes to hole out, this would also be a birdie. Am I making sense?

Why is the word “Birdie” used in golf? Where does it come from?

Despite the game being invented in Scotland, we have American golfers to thank for the word birdie being used in golf. It come from the American slang “bird” which is apparently used to described something that is great, cool or wonderful. To all the Americans out there, please can you confirm this is the case?

However like all things in the long history of golf, there are competing accounts of the exact origin of the phrase. The one story which has gained the most traction is from the Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey back in 1903. This event is referenced on the USGA website as the definitive first use of the term birdie, and is attributed to golfer AB Smith. The Atlantic City Country Club have a plaque on the apr 4 second hole to commemorate this moment.

By 1913, the term had crossed the Atlantic (from Atlantic City) to the British Isles by Bernard Darwin.

practice putting to make a birdie in golf

How can I make a birdie?

There is no feeling quite like making birdies on the golf course. Standing over a birdie putt, knowing that you managed to get the golf ball this close to the hole makes you proud, but it's also nerve wracking. I've been playing golf for 25 years and I've made birdies on many different golf courses. This is how you can make birdies too.

Get your golf ball in position

Most recreational golfers won't be making birdie from the rough, dense trees or water hazards. You need to choose your golf club wisely. A driver isn't always the best option. Finding the fairway with your tee shot is the first step to a golf score under par. 

Target shorter holes

On any given hole, the shorter your second shot is, the more likely it is that you will be closer to the hole with your approach. It makes scoring easier. A seasoned golfer will look at the score card and use strategic planning to target these holes as potential birdie holes. A par 3 will provide good birdie chances, but your first shot will have to be a good one! A par 4 less than 350 yards could provide opportunities, as could a par 5 under 450 yards. 

golfer hitting a tee shot to make a birdie in golf

Practice your putting

Most golfers won't be left with a tap in birdie putt. Most professional golfers make their birdies from long range and the secret is that they are really good at putting. Mastering the putter is something even beginners can get good at, so find a putting green and practice.

Be patient

An expert golfer will hope to make 1 or 2 birdies in a round of golf. This will be mixed in with pars, bogeys, double bogey and worse! If you are getting to the green one stroke less than par, then you're doing great. If your number of strokes is way above par, don't be hard on yourself. The game of golf is a really tough. On most holes you may not get the chance to make a birdie, so take your time, find the short grass and enjoy your time on the course. A good score will come.

Ask for advice

If you're struggling to get the ball in the hole, seek guidance from a PGA professional or even your playing partners. They will have also been on the hunt for lower scores and will be happy to help you improve your golf game. Watching someone scoring a birdie after you have given them a tip is a great feeling.

Final thoughts on birdie in golf

Golf terms can be confusing for beginners to understand, so I hope this article has made it clear what a birdie means in golf. 

Last Updated on February 10, 2023 by Matt