Allocation of Handicap Strokes

USGA Handicap Department
PO Box 708
Far Hills, NJ 07931
T (908) 234- 2300 F (908) 234-1513
[email protected]

Allocation of Handicap Strokes

In general, the handicap stroke allocation that appears on the scorecard indicates the ranking of holes in which a higher handicapped player most needs a stroke(s) in order to obtain a half in a singles or four-ball match play event. A common misconception is that the handicap stroke allocation is a ranking of the degree of difficulty of holes on the course, but it is not. A handicap stroke should be an equalizer and should be available on a hole where it would most likely be needed by a higher handicapped player.

The USGA has two recommendations for determining the allocation of strokes based on a match play format outlined Section 17-2 of ?The USGA Handicap System? manual, the comparison method and the regression method. Each method uses scores collected by the Handicap Committee to develop a mathematical relationship between high and low handicap players, not necessarily in relation to the difficulty of the hole or par of the hole. In other words, a hole may be a difficult for both the high and low handicap players, meaning it would not rank numerically low for handicap stroke allocation. These methods look for the disparity in scores versus Course Handicap to determine lowest to highest ranking. Since no mathematical formula can evaluate the varying conditions from course to course, it is important for the Handicap Committee to review the results and customize the rankings to their golf course using the suggestions provided in Section 17-1 of ?The USGA Handicap System? manual.

Good judgment is of prime importance because no formula can cover conditions on every golf course.

For stroke play competitions in which the allocation of handicap strokes is relevant (e.g., Four-Ball, Best-Ball-of-Four, Skins, and Stableford competitions) the Handicap Committee may decide to develop an allocation table that ranks holes according to their difficulty in relation to par. (See Section 17-5.)

The procedure for determining the allocation of handicap strokes can be found in Section 17 of ?The USGA Handicap System? manual, which is available to view online at