Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Limit on strokes per hole

Linda, I know the USGA rules don't deal with a limit on strokes per hole, but a number of leagues I am in do.  Either by league rules or course rules they have a limit to speed up play.
I wonder if you could address the equitable way to deal with this.
In a league where 2 points are given for the low net player, it doesn't seem fair that a player who had to pick up could still end up winning or tying for the 2 points. (Match play is easier, you just lose the hole).
This happened to me in a playoff for the league championship, when I had to take a maximum and pick up on one hole. I won by one stroke for low net, but I didn't think I should have. But our rules didn't make any exception for winning even though I surely would have had more strokes. I think that picking up should have disqualified me from winning any points. We do mark a 10X on our card to distinguish a 10 max from a regular 10.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with this issue that I am sure comes up in many other leagues?

Also, when leagues limit strokes, do you think it is better to have a maximum per hole, or have a rule that you pick up after so many strokes and place your ball on the green and putt out. (The problem with the latter we have found is it doesn't speed up play and it can cause arguments about where the ball should be placed on the green).

Now that we will all be starting our leagues soon, I hope you can give us your thoughts on this.


P.S. Love your emails, I always try to answer the question before I read your answer, and I must be learning as I am getting pretty good at coming up with the right answer.  Thanks!!

Dear Lulu,

This is not my area of expertise. However, I can see that you’re interested in my opinion, so I will try my best to offer you some useful suggestions.

Limiting strokes is a fine idea for leagues where the players have high handicaps. It helps with pace of play, as you mentioned, and that makes the round more enjoyable for everyone. No one should have to stand around and wait while another player hits 10 shots on a par 3. My recommendation would be to limit the strokes per hole to a maximum of double par (6 on a par 3, 8 on a par 4, and 10 on a par 5). When a player reaches the maximum and has not completed the hole, she should pick up and not hit again until she tees off on the next hole. I see no reason to allow this player to pick up and then place a ball on the green to putt. If she wants to practice putting, the place for that is the practice putting green.

Players will need to learn that the score they make during league play is not necessarily the same score they will post in their handicap record. They should keep a separate record for posting purposes on which they record their most likely score for any hole where they are required to pick up. Their most likely score must not be higher than their ESC score (“ESC” is the abbreviation for “Equitable Stroke Control”). You might better understand this if I offer an example.

Let’s look at Daisy, whose Course Handicap is 36. After 8 shots on a par 4 (double par), she is still 30 yards from the green. For league play, she will pick up and record an X-8. However, the number she will officially post for that hole is not 8. Remember, she did not finish the hole. First she must estimate her most likely score for that hole. That would add up to 11, assuming one chip and two putts. However, 11 is higher than her allowable ESC score. A player whose Course Handicap is 36 may not post higher than a 9 for any hole. When Daisy totals her score for posting purposes, she will count 9 on that hole.

I understand your discomfort at winning when you actually scored higher than another player but your league score was lower because you were required to pick up and record a set maximum score. I am going to try to make you feel better about that. There is a precedent for such scoring in golf. In a Stableford competition, each time your score on a hole is more than one over the fixed score, your score for the hole is 0. If the fixed score is par, then it doesn’t matter whether you score a double bogey or a quadruple bogey–your score is still 0. And if I may use an example from recreational baseball and softball, there are leagues where boys and girls have a limit on the number of runs they are permitted to score in an inning. If a team reaches that limit with bases loaded and no outs, those players have to come off the bases and take the field. It’s possible for them to lose that game because of this rule. You and your fellow competitors all know that the rules of your league require that you pick up after a certain maximum number of strokes. If you are all observing the same rules, then the competition, theoretically, is fair.

That being said, I will offer a suggestion for your league championship that might help guarantee that the player with the actual lowest net score is the winner. When you reach the maximum, instead of writing that maximum number with an X (you mentioned that you record X-10), record your most likely score with an X (X-13, for example). To avoid arguments, you might establish “official” most likely scores related to the distance remaining to get to the green. For example, you might decide that for all balls within 100 yards of the green, add 3 strokes; from 101 to 150 yards, add 4 strokes; over 150 yards, add 5 strokes.

I hope my suggestions will prove useful. Even if you don’t adopt them, they might help you formulate fair rules so that everyone in your league will be able to enjoy the competition.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.