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Par + Handicap for Holes Not Played under the Principles of the RoG

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Section 4

Holes Not Played/Not Played Under The Rules of Golf

Q.  How do I post a score if a hole is not played or not played under the principles of The Rules of Golf?"

A.  For handicap purposes, the player must record a score of par plus any handicap strokes normally received for the holes not played or holes not played in accordance with The Rules of Golf. These scores should have an “X” preceding the number. For example, player A is not able to play holes 16, 17, and 18 due to darkness. Player A has a Course Handicap™ of 12 and holes 16, 17, 18 are a par 5, 3, 4, and are allocated as the number 4, 16, 10 handicap holes, respectively. Therefore, player A will record an x-6, x-3, x-5 on holes 16, 17, and 18, respectively.

Please visit Section 4-2 of the USGA Handicap System manual for further reference.

Section 4

Conceded Strokes/Unfinished Holes

Q.  How does a player post a score if conceded a stroke or does not finish a hole?

A.  If a player does not finish a hole or is conceded a stroke, record the most likely score for handicap purposes. A most likely score is the number of strokes already taken, plus in the player's best judgment, the number of strokes needed to complete the hole from that point more than half the time.

The most likely score should have an "X" preceding the number. For example, player A is just off the green in two strokes, and player A’s partner just holed out for a two; therefore, player A decides to pick up. Player A determines the most likely score would have been to chip on and two putt; therefore, player A will record an X-5 on the scorecard (two strokes already taken plus three more strokes to complete the hole). Player A does not automatically put down the Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)™ maximum. First, player A determines the most likely score and then after the round checks to see if the most likely score is above the ESC limit. In this case, player A has a Course Handicap™ of 24 and an ESC maximum of eight. Recording X-5 is not above ESC limit and therefore, X-5 is the score that must be posting for handicap purposes.

Please visit Section 4-1 of the USGA Handicap System manual for further reference.

We've had debate in other threads, but I wanted to bring this one here so that it could be discussed in one place.

Let's assume for the purposes of this discussion that we have a scratch golfer and an 18-handicap (course handicap) golfer. They're playing the #10 handicap hole, a par four. ESC for the Scratch Golfer (SG) is 6 (double bogey), while for the Bogey Golfer (BG) it's 7.

The SG bogeys a few holes, birdies a few holes, and pars a lot. The BG bogeys most holes, pars a few, and doubles a few. 90+% of the time of course.

Both of these players are just examples, and are playing the hole separately just in normal day-to-day play for the purpose of enjoying the game and turning the score in for their handicaps.


Scenario #1: Lost Ball off Tee, No Provisional

In this scenario our players hit a ball off the tee that they think will be found, but cannot find it. Because the course is busy, they drop a ball in the area where they thought their tee shot was, play in, and record a score from that point of 3 and 4 (i.e. if the ball was their actual tee shot, they'd have made par and bogey).

What score would you have each of them write down on this hole for handicap purposes?

Scenario #2: Multiple OB/Lost Balls off the Tee

In this scenario, our players hit two and/or three balls that they can't find or which go OB off the tee. They're embarrassed so they chip and putt to play the hole out with their buddies, but they just mark an "X" on the card for the hole. They were hitting 5 or7 off the tee, after all.

What score would you have each of them write down on this hole for handicap purposes?

Scenario #3: Unplayable Lie, Player Moves Laterally and Finishes

In this scenario, our players hit the ball into a bush to the right of the fairway. They determine that they cannot play the ball as it lies, and can't go back to the tee. It's a large bush so two club lengths would not get them out of the bush, and the ground on a line back from the flag and the location of the ball is not great (it's in trees, a little rocky, tall grass, whatever), so they just take the ball out (or drop a new ball) four or five club lengths to the left of the bush, play in from there, and end up taking 4 (SG) or 5 (BG) strokes (not counting the penalty).

What score would you have each of them write down on this hole for handicap purposes?


Scenario 1: They started the hole, and hit one ball but couldn't find it, and played out, making their "expected" scores. People often score this one of two ways:

  • Many just add a penalty stroke. Their ball should be right there, they'll insist. Maybe it's 20 yards ahead, maybe it's 20 yards back. Maybe it's nearby but under a leaf. Maybe it hit a rock and is 100 yards away. If you add a stroke, the golfers get 5 and 6 - which is lenient, but it's still a stiffer penalty than if the ball was just hiding under a leaf and they didn't see it.
  • Add two penalty strokes, effectively pretending as if the drop was your provisional ball and they took the stroke and distance penalty. They'd score 6 (SG) and 7 (BG); effectively a par (SG) or bogey (BG) with their "second" ball.

In this scenario, I lean toward assigning the player a score of 5 or 6. I lean this way over the second scenario of 6/7 because it would serve as an advantage in a handicapped competition to have the lazy player not look long for their ball and just give themselves two strokes every time he can't find his ball in a minute of searching.

Now, yes, you could say the same about giving them a 5/6, too, but simply put it feels more "right" to me than assigning them the value of par+handicap. We have to assume the golfer made a good faith effort to look for his ball, and having removed the larger advantage from above of gaining two strokes. Basically, a 5/6 feel like what they'd have "likely" made, or is slightly better than they'd have likely made, while still assuming that they're not cheaters and penalizing them (with a lower score and thus a lower handicap than we have to assume they earned) with a 4/5 on that hole.

Now, as I type this, I realize I'm sort of just making up my own rules here. The hole was started and it was not played in accordance with the Rules of Golf. I'll talk more about this later, though, as it applies to all.

Scenario 2: I am okay with assigning a score of 6/7. Hitting 5, the SG would have to make eagle with his third ball after hitting two balls OB. He's not likely to do that at all. The BG would have to make birdie, which is also unlikely. This is more so the case if they hit three balls OB/lost: the SG is already past his ESC, and the BG would have to hole out with that fourth ball from the tee to get ESC.

Obviously, it should go without saying, I'm assuming that someone is not sandbagging by intentionally hitting several balls OB.

Scenario 3: In this case, I'm going with a score of 5/6. I would not go go any higher because that may very well reward them for not even attempting to drop the ball back on a line back from the flag (maybe they'd have made a "par" or "bogey" [plus the penalty stroke] with that ball), but doesn't go so far as to assume that having taken an unplayable and the penalty stroke, they're going to hole out in only 2 (SG) or 3 (BG) more strokes to score "par + handicap" for the hole.


As I see it, the notes above from the USGA leave somewhat of a hole in there. Holes not completed are to be scored by the score you're likely to make, while holes not played under the principles behind the RoG are supposed to be scored as par + handicap.

But what about holes where those collide? There seems to be a reasonably sized grey area: the scratch golfer who loses a ball on a tough par four is highly unlikely to play his next ball (if he could return to the tee) in only two strokes, just as the BG is unlikely to play it in birdie with the second ball.

So what then? If that's not grey enough for you, what about two lost balls (or two balls OB followed by giving up on the hole since you're hitting five from the tee)?

This kind of stuff comes dangerously close - or maybe not even close but forges right in - to the "let's make up whatever seems right at the time" type of decisions. I found myself doing it above, trying to balance the strokes the golfer had legitimately played, what score they would likely get if they played by the Rules but basically just picked up (them playing out the rest of the hole was academic at that point,  or "practice" if you care to call it that, which in a casual round for handicap purposes only I doubt many people truly would).

This is complicated by the fact that handicap is intended to show a potential and the lower scores, so assigning people too high a score is advantageous. One of the things from the Principles is that the penalty should be at least as severe as the advantage that could be gained (and is often time more severe, so as to prevent a situation where the penalty is less severe), and the same kind of thing should apply here: the advantage being to get to turn in a score higher than the golfer would have shot.


That's an argument for the old par+handicap route, but it seems contrary to the situation where, again, a golfer legitimately (i.e. not sandbagging) makes a good faith effort but, say, hits two OB or loses two balls (or one and one) but is supposed to take a par for the hole despite that not being possible since they've already taken four strokes.

Thoughts? How would you score each of the three scenarios (for turning a score in for handicapping)?

P.S. I typed this up quickly, so if I made a goof or a typo or said "SG" when I meant "BG" or something please alert me. Thanks.

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I haven't yet had time to read your entire essay Erik, but you left out one important Decision from the Handicap Manual that puts even more gray in the gray area.

Quote:

4-2/1. Explaining the Phrase "Principles of the Rules of Golf" in Accordance with "The USGA Handicap System" Manual

Q: What is meant by the phrase "in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf" in "The USGA Handicap System" manual?

A: The phrase "in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf " refers to situations where the player has played a hole in such a manner that the score would be sufficiently accurate to be used for handicap computation purposes. Occasionally, holes are not played strictly in accordance with the Rules of Golf. Thus, flexibility has been provided in the USGA Handicap System for a score to remain acceptable for handicap posting purposes in certain situations. This policy better ascertains the player's potential ability by attempting to capture more scores for handicap purposes than just those made in accordance with the Rules of Golf. For example, a player starting but not finishing a hole in stroke play (e.g., picking up before holing out) records the "most likely score" for handicap purposes (see Section 4-1).

If a player uses a distance (only) measuring device or plays a round under preferred lies, regardless of the Local Rule established, the score remains acceptable for handicap purposes. (See Decision 5-1e/2 and Section 7.) This policy also includes situations that are generally out of the player's control, such as incorrectly installed hole liners or an incorrectly marked golf course. (See Section 15-5.) (NEW)

From this it appears that scores such as those involving the "unexpected lost ball", then dropping in the area and playing on under one or 2 penalty strokes is still an acceptable handicap score.  It's almost as if they are sacrificing the rules for pace of play.  I'm not saying that it's a bad idea for casual play, but it is a departure from any previous interpretation of "acceptable".

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Scenario #1 - Happens so often during our normal week games, that I think the greater majority play a new ball from where they think the first ball should be, rather than trek back to the tee. In this case, for handicap I would allow one penalty stroke for the lost ball, then score in as normal from there.

Scenario #2 - Write down the lowest score that gives you no Stableford points.(Stableford scoring gives two points per hole for achieving your par, with the points adjusted up or down from there . So if you get one handicap stroke on a par 4 hole, then your par for that hole is 5, and you would score two points. A 4 on the hole would give you three points, a 6 would give you one point. In this case, the worst you can score on this hole, for handicap purposes, is a 7)

Scenario #3 As per #1 above. 1 penalty for moving the ball, then score in as normal

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@chris3putt My feeling is one stroke penalty is not enough as it doesn't account for the distance part of stroke and distance

Scenario #1: Lost Ball off Tee, No Provisional

My feeling, after reading some other posts, is that you make your best estimate of what the score would have been if you played under the rules for HI purposes.  Accordingly I'm adding two strokes to the actual number of shots and putts for the hole.

For example,

Tee shot lost, drop because of pace of play concerns, best estimated replacement of the stroke and distance rule is to drop where you think the ball should be and take a two stroke penalty.  Play out the hole.

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Another thought that just ocurred to me, the worse thing you can do for HI purposes is not post the round.  By not posting the round, at some point, you change which rounds are included in the 10 round average.  For example, the last round in your current 20 was an outlier low round.  If you don't post the round in question, that low round stays in the HI calculation and that will have a bigger impact than these 1 or 2 stroke estimates to come up with how to score the hole which was not played under the rules of golf.

Since you take an average of the best 10, and if the round in question is included in the lowest 10 of the last 20, then the impact of a wrong 1 or 2 stroke estimate on that hole to your HI calculation is only 0.1 or 0.2, respectively.  And that's only if the estimate was wrong and the round was good enough to be in your top 10 of 20.  Imo, in practice the affect on an HI of these estimations will be lower than 0.1.  Immaterial I would think.

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Most golfers with a handicap want a lower handicap.  The USGA is more than willing to oblige because:

1. They want to weed out sandbaggers; and

2. They want lower handicapped players to win matches against higher handicapped players.

In scenarios where a player drops rather than return to the tee, the USGA wants to assign a low score to the hole (par + handicap strokes) so the player does not inflate their handicap.  In situations where a player abandons the hole, the USGA is more willing to assign a "most likely" score knowing that ESC will limit the score, anyway.

Few of us abandon a hole when a score that is less than our ESC limit is still possible.  Yes, after I drown 2 balls on a par 3 I may move on when a "6" is still possible but the chance I am going to record a "6" is pretty slight.

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Scenario #1

Seems to me that the USGA has already accounted for this under 27-1

Quote:

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 27-1 :

Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.

Basically if a person hits a ball, not OB, but can't find the ball. They drop one and play on. They are basically Drive 1, Drop 2, +2 stroke penalty, Hit 4. Let's say both golfers get on the green and one two putts and the other one putts. So I would say a score of 5/6

It technically could be a rule that is abused to take multiple OB out of play. I can also see on a packed course, who wants to go back to the tee for a scenario where a ball is lost in a place it would normally be found. I say the best case would be, if you know it came close to OB, play a provisional. If you know it went into play, not close to anything that could cause it to be lost, if the course is packed then drop the ball and take the 2 stroke penalty and move on. In this unique scenario that a lot of people have happen breaking the rule and taking the breach of rule 27-1 might be a good option. It's not under the actual allowable dropping rules, but they did write in a penalty for the breach of the rule. I think in the spirit of the game the golfer should make every attempt to go back to the tee box and hit another drive. If they can't because of a busy course, then I would say it would be OK to breach the rule.

Scenario 2

Again I think Breach of Rule 27-1 is in play. If a golfer hits 3 balls OB and just drops up in play to play out the hole.  In this scenario the ESC is going to come into play no matter what. So technically it would be Drop 8, + 2 strokes, Hit 11, Putt out for 13.

I don't know if it matters if you are talking about an 11 versus a 13.

Scenario 3

Same scenario as Breach of Rule 27-1. Breach of Rule 28 states 2 stroke penalty for stroke play. So it would be Drive 1, Drop 2, + 2 strokes, Hit 4. SG gets a 5, BG gets a 6.

I would not advocate using the Breach of Rules as a method to get away from dropping as specified by the rules. The penalty is in there for the breach, and I think it is an accurate method to account for most likely score if a player has no other option because of a busy course.

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Scenario #1 Seems to me that the USGA has already accounted for this under 27-1

I think the player is just DQed-He played from such a wrong place it is a serious breach. But that would not matter in this casual round-DQ is nothing but a place with ice cream treats in that case.

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I think the player is just DQed-He played from such a wrong place it is a serious breach.

But that would not matter in this casual round-DQ is nothing but a place with ice cream treats in that case.

Well in the first place I was incorrect on the scoring on that scenario I described with the breach of rules,

27-1/3

Ball Dropped in Area Where Original Ball Lost; Ball Then Played

Q.A player, unable to find his ball, drops another ball in the area where his original ball was lost and plays that ball. What is the ruling?

A.In match play, the player loses the hole - Rule 20-7b.

In stroke play, the player incurs the stroke-and-distance penalty prescribed by Rule 27-1 and an additional penalty of two strokes for a breach of that Rule. If the breach was a serious one, he must rectify the error as provided in the second paragraph of Rule 20-7c; otherwise, he is disqualified.

You are also correct it would be considered a serious breach of the rules and get the player disqualified.

Though I would say in a tournament setting you have a better opportunity to replay the hole with a 2nd ball under Rule 20-7c, or actually following the correct dropping procedures under Rule 27-1. I was more inline with talking about if a scratch golfer wanted to play around of golf for handicap purposes, that was not a tournament, but still on a course that was busy enough that going back to the tee box would seriously back up the course and be frowned upon.

As for me, I might say screw the group behind me, I'm going back to the tee box to rehit if this would be considered such a serious breach of the rules.

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Let's try to stick to the three scenarios and the purposes of scoring for handicapping.

This isn't about what the rules would be in a tournament. I think those are pretty clear.

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Case 1: The SG I'd score the SG 5 and the BG 6. Taking full ESC can lend to sandbagging.

Case 2: Multiple balls lost OB? I'd go with the ESC score. They're probably close to it or above it by that point anyway.

Case 3: SG 5; BG 6. The golfer even on kind of rocky terrain could conceivably putt the ball without damaging their club to a potentially decent lie if the rough around it isn't tall which distancewise is about the same.

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Scenario #1 - Not played in accordance with Rules so SG takes 4 (par plus -0- stokes) and BG takes 5 (par plus 1 stroke)

Scenario #2 - Hole not played. - Mostly likly score is in excess of ESC so SG takes 6 and BG 7

Scenario #3 - Not played in accordance with Rules so SG takes 4 (par plus -0- stokes) and BG takes 5 (par plus 1 stroke)

Once one abandons a hole or starts playing with modified Rules, the "score" is sort of irrelevant except for reporting for one's handicap.  Sure, dropping and taking 1-2 penalty strokes in the unexpected "Lost Ball" scenario might closely approximate what one might have scored .  The reality is, however, that one did not return to the tee and have the pressure of hitting a ball into play.

If either SG or BG wants to talk about "but for the problem on #10" how they would have had a great round, fine.  They can even talk about how they probably would have scored X and shot XX.  Just make sure they post it correctly to GHIN and let's hope we play each other in the Net Match Play.

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Scenario #2 - Hole not played. - Mostly likly score is in excess of ESC so SG takes 6 and BG 7

The hole was played, or certainly was begun. Any rule that penalizes a player for not correcting a mistake made on the previous hole before teeing off on the next hole would come into effect as play was definitely begun on that hole. If the hole wasn't played, the answer would just be "par + handicap," just the same as if the hole was skipped due to being under renovation or just for lack of time or whatever.

Once one abandons a hole or starts playing with modified Rules, the "score" is sort of irrelevant except for reporting for one's handicap.  Sure, dropping and taking 1-2 penalty strokes in the unexpected "Lost Ball" scenario might closely approximate what one might have scored.  The reality is, however, that one did not return to the tee and have the pressure of hitting a ball into play.

They would have most likely not scored eagle or birdie with their second ball, though, don't you agree? So if handicapping's sole purpose is to most accurately reflect a golfer's score that day, how can you justify the scores you offered?

(I'm just asking to help drive the conversation. I don't really have a strong opinion here.)

If either SG or BG wants to talk about "but for the problem on #10" how they would have had a great round, fine.  They can even talk about how they probably would have scored X and shot XX.  Just make sure they post it correctly to GHIN and let's hope we play each other in the Net Match Play.

You have them posting lower scores than they'd have said, though. The SG was not going to make a 4 on that hole, nor the BG a 5. So you have the reverse of what you seem to be saying here, where guys will say "If I hadn't gotten that bad break and bounced OB, I'd have shot a 79" when they shoot 81. You have the opposite situation here. You're crediting them (for handicap purposes only, I know) with shooting lower than they almost certainly would have.

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They would have most likely not scored eagle or birdie with their second ball, though, don't you agree? So if handicapping's sole purpose is to most accurately reflect a golfer's score that day, how can you justify the scores you offered?

(I'm just asking to help drive the conversation. I don't really have a strong opinion here.)

Who said handicapping's goal is to most accurately reflect a golfer's score that day?  To me handicapping's goal, for the purposes of this discussion, is to reflect the golfer's most likely overall average score.

If a 15-handicap plays every hole not in accordance with the RoG, he'd turn in an 87, which is likely dead center on his average and would keep his handicap right at 15.  It doesn't matter that perhaps he might have had a bad day and shot 98, or for that matter, a really good day and shot 81.

I agree with @ bkuehn1952.  Once you "modify" a rule, the USGA is saying, "the results of the hole no longer matter.  Turn in your average."

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Who said handicapping's goal is to most accurately reflect a golfer's score that day?  To me handicapping's goal, for the purposes of this discussion, is to reflect the golfer's most likely overall average score.

I do not believe you can be saying that a golfer who has put a ball OB would score eagle (SG) or birdie (BG) with his next ball. Given even a single ball OB, "reflecting the golfer's most likely score" on that hole is the only concern. He has the other 17 holes to play to create his "overall" score.

If a 15-handicap plays every hole not in accordance with the RoG, he'd turn in an 87, which is likely dead center on his average and would keep his handicap right at 15.  It doesn't matter that perhaps he might have had a bad day and shot 98, or for that matter, a really good day and shot 81.

It's almost certainly not his average score (this assumes a 72.0/113 course rating/slope). His average is likely several strokes higher.

It does matter what he shoots on that particular day because the scores in a handicap are individual. They show trends, too, and a bad score can kick out a good score (or vice versa). The BG likely has high variance in scores, not only round to round, but hole to hole.

I agree with @bkuehn1952.  Once you "modify" a rule, the USGA is saying, "the results of the hole no longer matter.  Turn in your average."

And I think that's absolutely bogus. Again, imagine a scenario where a golfer hits six shots OB on the tee, then doesn't complete the hole. What score should he turn in? Par + handicap? That's ridiculous, wouldn't you agree? He abandoned play on the hole, he didn't "modify" a Rule of Golf.

In the scenarios above where the player plays out, he could just as well have abandoned the hole and used his subsequent practice to help determine the "most likely" score from there. Plus his past history of not making eagle or birdie very often…

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wadesworld

Who said handicapping's goal is to most accurately reflect a golfer's score that day?  To me handicapping's goal, for the purposes of this discussion, is to reflect the golfer's most likely overall average score.

I do not believe you can be saying that a golfer who has put a ball OB would score eagle (SG) or birdie (BG) with his next ball. Given even a single ball OB, "reflecting the golfer's most likely score" on that hole is the only concern. He has the other 17 holes to play to create his "overall" score.

Quote:

Originally Posted by wadesworld

If a 15-handicap plays every hole not in accordance with the RoG, he'd turn in an 87, which is likely dead center on his average and would keep his handicap right at 15.  It doesn't matter that perhaps he might have had a bad day and shot 98, or for that matter, a really good day and shot 81.

It's almost certainly not his average score (this assumes a 72.0/113 course rating/slope). His average is likely several strokes higher.

It does matter what he shoots on that particular day because the scores in a handicap are individual. They show trends, too, and a bad score can kick out a good score (or vice versa). The BG likely has high variance in scores, not only round to round, but hole to hole.

Quote:

Originally Posted by wadesworld

I agree with @bkuehn1952.  Once you "modify" a rule, the USGA is saying, "the results of the hole no longer matter.  Turn in your average."

And I think that's absolutely bogus. Again, imagine a scenario where a golfer hits six shots OB on the tee, then doesn't complete the hole. What score should he turn in? Par + handicap? That's ridiculous, wouldn't you agree? He abandoned play on the hole, he didn't "modify" a Rule of Golf.

In the scenarios above where the player plays out, he could just as well have abandoned the hole and used his subsequent practice to help determine the "most likely" score from there. Plus his past history of not making eagle or birdie very often…

Once again, straight from the FAQ for the handicap section on the USGA website:

Section 4

Holes Not Played/Not Played Under The Rules of Golf

Q.  How do I post a score if a hole is not played or not played under the principles of The Rules of Golf?"

A.  For handicap purposes, the player must record a score of par plus any handicap strokes normally received for the holes not played or holes not played in accordance with The Rules of Golf. These scores should have an “X” preceding the number. For example, player A is not able to play holes 16, 17, and 18 due to darkness. Player A has a Course Handicap™ of 12 and holes 16, 17, 18 are a par 5, 3, 4, and are allocated as the number 4, 16, 10 handicap holes, respectively. Therefore, player A will record an x-6, x-3, x-5 on holes 16, 17, and 18, respectively.

Please visit Section 4-2 of the USGA Handicap System manual for further reference.

How can you dispute this?  It's stated as clearly as possible, par plus handicap.  It doesn't say unless he has started the hole and is already in danger of reaching his ESC .  It says he MUST record par plus - no quibbling.

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Once again, straight from the FAQ for the handicap section on the USGA website:

How can you dispute this?  It's stated as clearly as possible, par plus handicap.  It doesn't say unless he has started the hole and is already in danger of reaching his ESC.  It says he MUST record par plus - no quibbling.

Because rules can be disputed. I believe this thread is to discuss or dispute the validity of that rule. I know what the rule says, I am not sure it is correct, or the USGA made a correct decision in making the rule "Par + Handicap"

If this was a simple thread were someone asked, "Hey how do I handle this situation". Then yes your response here would be more inline. This is more of a philosophical debate.

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As an example, I played a round about 8-months ago where I was absolutely on fire.  I was 3-over through 13 holes when we ran out of light.  I'm a 15-handicap and typically shoot high-80's / low-90's, though yesterday I turned in a blistering 98.

For that exceptional round, I computed the unfinished holes as par+handicap and posted a 79, a score I've only achieved one other time in my life.  However, I didn't tell people I shot a 79 that day, nor do I tell people I've shot 79 twice.  I tell them about a magical round where I was 3-over through 13 holes.  Why?  Because the score the USGA required me to post a 79.  It's not what I shot. I don't know what I would have shot.  Could have been 77, 79 or 85.

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