The origins of the terms ‘bogey’ and ‘par’

Golf terminology has obscure roots, but here are the most agreed upon origins for ‘bogey’ and ‘par’.

I almost didn’t believe this when I heard it recently. I like to think I’m reasonably well informed on the game of golf and its origins, but this one had bypassed me completely. Please don’t think for one second I am assuming you are also as naive. but here’s the low-down on ‘Bogey’ and ‘Par’.

According to wikipedia, par is a relatively easy one to comprehend. It derives its name from Latin, where ‘par’ means equal. The origins of the term bogey are a little more obtuse though.
Supposedly, a British army bandmaster named Lieutenant Ricketts penned the tune the Colonel Bogey March, which was inspired by a bloke who used to whistle a two-note phrase rather than yelling ‘Fore!’. Somewhere along the line, golfers in the 19th century would often play against an imaginary opponent who became known as Colonel Bogey.
How it became known as one over par I’m not so sure, but it probably makes sense for an imaginary opponent to be one over par every hole, rather than making par.

3 thoughts on “The origins of the terms ‘bogey’ and ‘par’

  • Haha – love it – I can still remember the Colonel Bogey March being played at home when I was young!

    As for origins of golfing terms, is there any truth to the story that GOLF actually is an acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden?

  • What about birdie, eagle and albatros?


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