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Why do golfers keep their own scores?

Updated on February 17, 2011

In almost every sport you can think of, there are officials who do the scoring. Why is this not the case for golf?

In golf, scorers must keep their own scores, and must keep the scores of the other players playing with them. If they make a mistake, even if it is to no-one's advantage, or to their own disadvantage, they get penalised.

So why do they have this burden? Why do officials not keep score, as in every other sport, and let the golfers concentrate on the golf?

And why are the penalties so harsh for honest mistakes?   Golfers have forfeited matches through accidentally swapping the scores on two consecutive holes.  Clearly they forgot to fill in the score on the first hole, and then filled both in when they completed the next hole, but accidentally swapped them over.  It made no difference to the overall score (in this case it is the total number of shots taken on the whole round that decides who wins and loses), so it is clearly an honest mistake, but the penalty is severe.

Who can tell me where the tradition came from of keeping your own scores, rather than an official keeping them for you, and why it has never been changed?    I can see that for club golf, the size of the course makes it unfeasable to have enough officials around to do the scoring, but for national competitions, could it not be changed?

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