Monday, December 18, 2017

Ask Linda #1666-Most Likely Score vs. ESC score

Dear readers,
My answer to this question is based on the USGA Handicap System. If you live in a country that does not use the USGA system for handicapping, this answer may not apply to you.

Hi Linda,
I was wondering if I could prevail on you to answer two questions that came up in a best ball match today. I asked the pro down here in Florida and he changed his answer 3 times (he's a bit of an idiot).

We were playing best 2 balls of 4 (3 Jills and a Jack).

On one hole, I picked up when lying 5 on a green. It would have been a difficult putt and my partners were in better shape. They thought I had to record my max (8) and I thought I should record most likely score (7).

I see on the USGA site the question:
Q: "Should a "most likely score" be recorded on a hole not finished in best ball event?"
A: Yes

But it didn't indicate a rule number. Do you know where I can find it?

On another hole, a par 3, we all teed off. My partners were in good shape, I went left on a hole that has a high fence to the left (about 20-30 feet from the fairway) and we all thought I'd find my ball. We did not find it and I did not return to the tee to hit another. Again I was told to take the max (8). My handicap, 22, gives me 1 stroke on the hole. I thought maybe I should take a 6. 

What do you think?

Appreciate your help if you have the time.

Lulu from Pennsylvania

Dear Lulu,

I am always happy to answer questions about the Rules of Golf.

1. When you pick up on a hole, you must record your most likely score, which may not exceed your ESC score (ESC stands for Equitable Stroke Control). For a ball that is lying 5 on the green with a difficult putt, your most likely score would be 7. Since 7 is lower than your ESC of 8, you must record a 7. If you had been lying 7 on the green, facing the same difficult putt, you would record an 8, since your most likely score (9) would be higher than your ESC.

2. On the par 3, your most likely score would be a 6 – tee shot, one-shot penalty for stroke and distance, and an estimated 4 strokes to finish a hole where your handicap entitles you to one stroke. Again, the most likely score of 6 is lower than your ESC, so you must record the 6.

Both of your answers were right on the money. You might try to explain to everyone involved that ESC is used when posting to lower a score on a hole where your actual score or your most likely score exceeds that number. You would never post a score higher than what you actually shot or were mostly likely to shoot.

The reference for this information is not in the rulebook; this is because the rulebook is universal, and handicap systems differ from country to country. The source for handicap rulings in the U.S. is The USGA Handicap System. You may access this manual online at under Handicapping. For the Rule that applies to your questions, please read Rule 4-1 (“Unfinished Holes and Conceded Strokes”) and Decision 4-1-1 (“Explanation of ‘Most Likely Score’ for Holes Not Completed”).

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