It's the term the professionals dread. But a bogey wasn't always what you now think it is - and what's it got to do with Great Yarmouth & Caister?

It is the oldest club in Norfolk – founded way back in 1882 – and plays a course that winds its way at several points through the nearby racecourse. But what Great Yarmouth & Caister is really renowned for is being the home of the term bogey in golf.


Ever played in a bogey competition? It’s great fun, although something of a head-scratcher if you’re not used to it.

It harks back to the days when all serious golf was fought out over matchplay. What a bogey competition does is take that central element – winning and losing holes – and mould it into a strokeplay competition.

You are rewarded based on how you do against the course, rather than an individual player. So what’s this got to do with Great Yarmouth & Caister?

In 1890, a member at Coventry Golf Club had the bright idea of playing a match, under a handicap, against the number of shots it was thought a scratch golfer would rack up if they played a perfect game.

This became known as the ground score. The idea was proposed to Dr Thomas Browne, who founded Yarmouth, at the club’s autumn gathering and was then introduced.

Yarmouth’s website continues: “These competitions were played throughout the winter, at the same time a music hall song ‘Hush! Here comes the Bogey man’ was gaining in popularity.”

A key part of the song was the lyric: “I’m the Bogey Man, catch me if you can.”

So when one competition participant said to Browne ‘This player of yours is a regular Bogey man’, the bogey score was born.

Golfers began to equate the idea of matching or beating a hole’s ground score with chasing the bogey man and, soon after, Colonel Bogey came into being – the imaginary character that would personify that score.

It was now the staple term to describe golf’s scoring system. So when did it become something we’d all rather avoid?

In 1911, the USGA began using par as the standard to rate courses and holes and they defined the term as the score an expert player could achieve.

As time passed, the bogey score started to be listed as being a stroke higher than par. And that’s exactly how it stands today.