Stroke Allocation - World Handicap System | Oregon Golf Association

Stroke Allocation - World Handicap System

Stroke Allocation 2020: But It's the "Hardest" Hole!?!

It never fails. Every time we step onto a golf course to work our Course Rating duties, we get similar questions. 1. What are we doing there? 2. When will the changes take place? 3. Why isn’t Hole #X the number 1 handicap? It is the hardest hole.

The first two questions are pretty easy to answer. Let’s focus on the third question.

There are a two misconceptions about the Stroke Index Allocation (we’ll call it SIA for brevity). The first being that the number 1 ranked hole is the “hardest” hole on the course. The purpose of the ranking of the holes, is to determine where the higher handicapped player deserves the assistance of an extra stroke in order to tie, or halve, a hole with the low handicapper. 

That stroke should be assigned on the hole where the relative difficulty of the hole is more difficult for the higher handicapped golfer than the relative difficulty for the lower handicapped golfer. Did you notice that the word “hardest” was not mentioned?

When someone tells us about the “hardest” hole, we often ask back: Hardest for whom? The difficulty of a hole is relative to the set of tees, the level of golfer, the landing zones where each player hits and more. On occasion, there may be a hole where the higher handicapped golfer has less difficulty due to their landing zones being nice wide fairways, but the low handicapper may have a landing zone where they must lay up to not hit through the corner on a dogleg, or they have a very narrow landing zone with close in bunkers, water, trees etc. In that case, the hole might be relatively less difficult for the Bogey golfer than the Scratch.

The #1 allocated hole should not necessarily be the “hardest” hole on the course. Often that hole is one where the relative difficulty is the same or similar for low and high handicapped golfer.

The second misconception of Stroke Index Allocation, formerly known as handicapping of the holes, is that it is part of the Course Rating process. It has never been the job of Oregon Golf Association. It should have been calculated by the golf course/clubs by entering hole-by-hole scores for hundreds, 400-500, rounds of golf into a special program. That program analyzed the scores for low vs. high handicapped golfers to see where the highest discrepancy between the groups of scores occurred.

That program still exists, and if a golf course would like to use it, OGA can get you access. Courses using USGA Tournament Management/Golf Genius to run their events, can use the allocation program in that app to compare multiple rounds of golf and hole by hole scores.

The allocation of strokes should be re-run occasionally to update for course conditions, yardages, obstacle changes, equipment upgrades and differences in ability levels of the golfers who play the course.

For the first time, USGA has come up with a method using Course Rating information to provide the Stroke Index Allocation without the need of collecting and entering hole-by-hole scores. Instead of using hundreds of scores, it uses the same information for Scratch and Bogey golfer that is necessary to calculate the Course Rating, Bogey Rating and Slope for each course and set of tees. This article goes into more detail on how that process calculates SIA. Stroke Index Allocation.

Whichever system is used, hundreds of scores or the Course Rating Program, the basis is still the same:

  • Rank the holes in order of relative difficulty 1-18
  • Assess the odds to one nine (typically the front) and evens to the back, unless it is determined that the back nine is statistically much more difficult
  • Avoid assigning low numbered strokes to the end of each nine (Nothing worse than having to “give” a stroke on the last hole!)

WHS has introduced the concept of Triads, where each group of three holes is considered a triad. The lowest stroke index (1 or 2) on either nine should be in the middle triad (4th, 5th or 6th hole). This is outlined in Appendix E: Stroke Index Allocation of the Rules of Handicapping.

We all know that there is a lot of emotion tied to the SIA. If we keep the emotion out of it and go by the numbers, the system works.

With the WHS allowing the golfer to post hole-by-hole scores, and scores being adjusted for Net Double Bogey, it was necessary to add the Stroke Index Allocation for every golf course. Having SIA listed in the GHIN program, the system will automatically correct for a score that is beyond Net Double Bogey. In the example below, the person with a 21 Course Handicap shot a 9 on the 5th hole. Since they can only post an 8, the necessary adjustment was made and the correct score will be posted to GHIN.

In late December of 2019, OGA sent an email to multiple contacts at every course asking what they wanted to have for their SIA. Since stroke allocation was never part of the system previous to 2020 we needed to gather the most current information. Attached to each email was the SIA as calculated by the Course Rating Program.

On January 6th, when GHIN went live with the WHS calculations, we found that golfers could not look up their Course Handicap without SIA listed. Since we weren’t in posting season yet, we decided to publish the Course Rating SIA for every course that hadn’t communicated with us yet. We thought that there was plenty of time before posting season opened on March 1st.

Many courses asked to have their own score-based SIA added. We were glad to accommodate them. Quite a few courses adopted the SIA calculated from the Course Rating Program.

You may have noticed that when you post hole-by-hole scores in GHIN, that the SIA for your course is different than what is on the scorecard.  One of four things have happened:

  1. The course has adopted the SIA information we provided from Course Rating information
  2. They have provided us with new SIA based on scores, but haven’t made the expensive move of updating scorecards yet
  3. They have not yet been in touch with us to make the change
  4. The course is due to be rated shortly and they are waiting to see what the change will be

If you feel that the SIA should be changed for your course, have a conversation with the Pro, Handicap Chair or Committee. Once the persons in charge contact OGA, we can advise the course on which method might be better and how to proceed.

Now when we are on the course and someone asks the Course Rating Team to change the allocation of holes, we can let them know that it is up to the course whether to adopt the CRP version, or calculate their own allocation based on scores. Either way, it is up to the course which version we publish to GHIN.

For further questions on Stroke Index Allocation, please contact Gretchen Yoder, Manager of Handicapping and Course Rating, or 503-981-4653 ext. 228

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