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HNA Newsletter - September 2016

This month we look at the allocation of handicap strokes on the course and how many people mistakenly think it should be done on the basis that the hardest hole should be stroke one and the easiest hole stroke 18.

 Allocation of Handicap Strokes

The strokes on the holes have, of course, no impact on individual Stableford scores and are mainly there for matchplay games. If you consider that just about every game of golf played in South Africa has a “private game” between the players, where players get these strokes is important. Most games have a fairly small difference in the handicaps and so the strokes tend to come on the low stroke holes.

According to section 10 of the South African Handicap Manual, the stroke 1 hole is the hole where the higher handicap player is most likely to need a stroke for an equaliser. In other words, if a low-handicap golfer is just as likely to make bogey as a high-handicapper, a stroke isn't needed.

Clubs should follow the guidelines copied below, and also not have low strokes near the beginning or end of the nine.

Section 10
10.1 Principles; Possible Value to Recipient

A handicap stroke is, by nature, an equaliser and should be available on a hole where it is most likely to be needed.

In allocating the order of handicap strokes to the 18 holes of a golf course, consideration should be given to the likelihood of the strokes being of use as equalisers to the players receiving them.

To accomplish this, the following is recommended:

a) Odd Strokes to First Nine
Assign the odd numbered strokes to the holes on the first nine and the even-numbered strokes to the holes on the second nine. This equalises as nearly as possible the distribution of handicap strokes over the entire 18 holes, making matches more equitable and helping in the playing off of matches ending in ties. In cases where the second nine is decidedly more difficult than the first nine, consideration may be given to allocating odd numbered strokes to the second nine.

b) Basis of allocation
Allocate the first stroke to the hole on the first nine on which the higher- handicapped player most needs a stroke as an equaliser and the second stroke to the hole on the second nine on which the higher-handicapped player most needs a stroke as an equaliser. Continue alternating in this manner for the full 18 holes.

It is felt that the higher-handicapped player most needs strokes as equalisers on difficult par-5 holes, followed in sequence by difficult par-4s, other par-5s, other par-4s and finally par-3s. An exceptionally difficult par-3 might warrant being allocated a stroke before an exceptionally easy par-4 or par-5.

c) Importance of Early Strokes
When allocating the first handicap stroke, consideration should be given to its probable usefulness in matches between players of practically equal ability, such as those involving scratch and 1-handicap players, 10- and 11-handicap players, or 29- and 30-handicap players. It is in such matches that the first handicap stroke will be of the greatest importance as an equalizer to the player receiving it. In allocating the second handicap stroke, matches between players having a slightly greater difference in handicaps should be given the most consideration, such as those between players having scratch and 2- handicaps, 10- and 12- handicaps or 28- and 30-handicaps. This process should be continued until all strokes have been assigned.

d) Low Strokes not Near End
Without seriously violating the foregoing principles, allocation of the lower-numbered strokes to holes near the end of each nine should be avoided, as players on the receiving end would like to use their strokes before matches are lost.

e) Low Strokes not at Beginning
Conversely, it is desirable to avoid allocating the lower-numbered strokes to the first hole or two in the event of a sudden-death play-off in a handicap match.

10.3 Nine-Hole Courses
These principles apply equally to a 9-hole course played.

10.4 Discretion of Committee
The recommended procedure for allocating handicap strokes is not mandatory since it has a minimal effect on the size of the handicap itself. Because no formula can be established to cover conditions on every golf course, good judgement is of prime importance. The golf committee should review the course hole by hole bearing in mind the basic principle of equalising the abilities of golfers in different handicap brackets. Common sense will dictate how closely the recommendations should be followed.

It is permissible for committees to use rounds played to calculate the relative difficulty of every hole. The recommended procedure is to use at least 500 rounds with players of varying ability. Ideally, scores for players with handicaps in excess of 18, should not be used. The relative difficulty of each hole is the average score, accurate to 3 decimal places, less the par allocation for that hole.

Quote of the Month

“Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.” ~ Arnold Palmer

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