Allocation of Handicap Strokes

Last week, as sometimes happens, my playing partners and I experienced a short delay while waiting to tee off on number 12. It was a beautiful morning and, as my mind started to wander, I began to contemplate the great mysteries of our time – like why does Donald Trump continue to have the support of 40 % of the voting public? And why is Number 12 the 18thhandicap hole at Niakwa?

The answer to the former is beyond my ken, but I have a few facts about the latter.Read More>>

Basis of Allocation

Golf Canada recommends using a comparativemethod to determine hole handicaps. The objective is to allocate strokes based on the likelihood of a stroke being needed by a high handicapper to obtain a half in match play against a low handicapper. According to the Handicap Manual “Difficulty in making par is not an effective indicator of the need for a stroke”.

Golf Canada hasn’t made this method mandatory and some courses still use the old method of allocating handicap stokes based on hole difficulty against par. Hence the confusion.

There are two methodologies used to determine the comparative need for strokes on each hole. The first is the “Comparison Method”. This involves collecting 200 hole by hole gross scores of high handicappers (unadjusted for Equitable Stroke Control) and comparing them to 200 scores of low handicappers (also unadjusted).  The average scores are then compared and the differences form the basis of stroke allocation.

The second method, which comes up with the same answer, but requires someone on the Handicap Committee who can do more than just basic arithmetic, is to do a linear regression analysis. This involves a bunch of summing and squaring and dividing and subtracting to get to the same place as the first method.

Other factors

The comparison method delivers the basis for stoke allocation, but other factors apply.

First, odd number strokes are assigned to the front nine and even numbered strokes are assigned to the back nine.  The idea is to “equalize the distribution of handicap strokes over the entire 18 holes and to make matches more equitable”.

Then, the Handicap Committee is tasked with using “good judgment” in deciding on which holes strokes are justified in order to provide fair results. Adjustments can be made if water hazards and other hole characteristics warrant.

Third, “allocating low numbered strokes to holes near the end of each nine should be avoided, so that players receiving strokes will have the opportunity to use these strokes before either 9 or 18 hole matches are decided”.

Finally, lower numbered strokes are not be allocated to the first or second holes in case a playoff is necessary.

So, there it is – Number 12 is not the easiest hole – the reason it’s the 18 handicap hole is because it’s the hole with the lowest score differential between low handicap players and high handicappers.


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