ADJUSTING HOLE SCORES
The game of golf is based on the premise that a golfer will play as well as he can every time he plays. Under The USGA Handicap System he is required to record a hole score for a hole he has not finished, not played, or not played under the Rules of Golf, and to adjust any hole score when it is higher than the maximum number he is allowed to post.
4-1. Unfinished Holes and Conceded Strokes
If a player starts but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke, he shall record for handicap purposes the score he most likely would have made. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in his best judgment, the number of strokes that the player would need to complete the hole from that position more than half the time.
This number may not exceed the player's Equitable Stroke Control limit, defined in Section 4-3. This most likely score should be preceded by an "X".
There is no limit to the number of unfinished holes a player may have in a round provided that failure to finish is not for the purpose of handicap manipulation.
Example 1: A and B are partners in a four-ball stroke-play competition. On a hole on which neither player receives a handicap stroke, A lies two, 18 feet from the hole. B lies two, 25 feet from the hole. B holes his putt for a three. A picks up his ball because he cannot better B's score. A records X-4 on the score card because 4 is his most likely score.
Example 2: A and B are playing a match. On a hole on which neither player receives a handicap stroke, A has holed out in 4; B has a 30-foot putt for a 5. B has lost the hole, and picks up. He records X-6 on the score card because 6 is his most likely score.
Example 3: A and B are playing a match. On a hole on which Player A receives a handicap stroke, A is one foot from the hole, lying 5. B is 10 feet from the hole, lying 3. B putts and misses. They both concede a half. Player A records X-6 and Player B records X-5 because those are the scores they most likely would have made.
4-2. Holes Not Played or Not Played Under the Rules of Golf
If a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under the principles of the Rules of Golf (except for preferred lies), his score for that hole for handicap purposes shall be par plus any handicap strokes he is entitled to receive on the hole. When recording this hole score, precede the score with an "X".
Example: A player with a Course Handicap of 10 receives a handicap stroke on the first 10 allocated handicap-stroke holes. If he does not play the sixth allocated stroke hole because of construction on the green, he shall record a score of par plus one for handicap purposes. (See Section 5-2b.)
Note: A score shall not be posted if the majority of the holes are not played under the principles of the Rules of Golf.
4-3. Equitable Stroke Control
Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the downward adjustment of individual hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential scoring ability. ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on the player's Course Handicap. ESC is used only when a player's actual or most likely score exceeds his maximum number based on the table below. There is no limit to the number of holes on which a player may adjust his score. For nine-hole ESC, see Section 10-5c.
EQUITABLE STROKE CONTROL
Course Handicap Maximum Number On Any Hole
9 or less Double Bogey*
10 through 19 7
20 through 29 8
30 through 39 9
40 or more 10
*Note: The Double Bogey ESC procedure listed in the first row for 9 or less Course Handicaps is optional in 1998, but becomes mandatory January 1, 1999.
Example: A player with a Course Handicap of 13 has a maximum number of 7 for any hole regardless of par. A player with a Course Handicap of 42 has a maximum number of 10 for any hole.
A player without an established USGA Handicap Index shall use the maximum Handicap Index of 36.4 for men, or 40.4 for women, converted to a Course Handicap to determine his maximum number.
When conditions of a competition reduce a player's USGA Handicap Index or Course Handicap, he uses the Course Handicap derived from his actual USGA Handicap Index for ESC purposes, rather than the reduced Handicap
Index that he uses for the competition.
Example 1: A player with a Handicap Index of 35.4 and a Course Handicap of 39 might enter a competition in which the conditions of the competition establish a maximum Handicap Index limit of 25.0, which would give him a Course Handicap of 28. When applying ESC he uses the Course Handicap of 39.
Example 2: A player with a Course Handicap of 30 might play in a four-ball stroke-play competition in which he is allowed only 90% of his handicap, which is 27 strokes. When applying ESC, he uses the Course Handicap of 30.
When conditions of a competition increase a player's Course Handicap, the player uses the Course Handicap derived from his actual USGA Handicap Index for ESC purposes.
Example 3: A player with an Handicap Index of 25.4 and a Course Handicap of 28 might enter a competition in which players are competing from different tees with Course Ratings of 71.2 and 73.0 (73.0 -71.2 = 1.8 or 2 strokes). If the player plays the course with the Course Rating of 73.0, then he should receive two additional strokes (difference between the two Course Ratings), which would give him a Course Handicap of 30. However, when applying ESC he uses a Course Handicap of 28.
A Handicap Index determined from scores to which ESC has not been applied may not be termed a USGA Handicap Index.
Under no circumstances shall the procedures of this section be used by a player to manipulate his Handicap Index. If a player uses this section for such purposes, his Handicap Index shall be adjusted or revoked by the Handicap Committee under Section 8-4.
Copied from the USGA HANDICAP SYSTEM MANUAL