Handicapping FAQs

Section 17

Allocating Handicap Strokes

Q.  Does the USGA® have any recommendations for allocating Handicap Strokes?

A.  The USGA recommends that the Handicap Committee should review the course hole-by-hole to determine the appropriate allocation of handicap strokes for men and women. This procedure is not mandatory and will have minimal effect on a player's Handicap Index®. Common sense should be used to ensure that the handicap strokes are used as an equalizer and should be available where it most likely will be needed by the higher-handicapped player in order to obtain a halve on the hole.

When starting out, the Handicap Committee should remember a few basic guidelines:

  • Allocate strokes based on the tees played most often by a majority of the members.


  • Allocate the odd-numbered strokes to the front-nine holes and the even-numbered strokes to the back-nine holes—unless the back-nine is decidedly more difficult than the front—you can reverse the allocation.


  • Avoid allocating the low numbered holes to the beginning or end of the nine holes

A method for allocating your handicap strokes is to collect 200 hole-by-hole scorecards from two different groups of golfers. Group A consists of golfers with a Course Handicap™ of 0-8 for men or 0-14 for women. If there are very few members within this range, take the low 25 percent of its golfers as group A.

Group B consists of middle-to-high Course Handicap golfers, ranging 15-20 strokes higher than group A (20-28 for men and 26-40 for women).

The next step is to compare the average score per hole for group A against the average score per hole of group B. Rank the differential of hole scores between group A and group B from high-to-low (1 highest, 18 lowest) differential. Allocate odd and even numbers to front and second nine. The last step is to make sure low numerical holes are not at the beginning or end of each nine.

The Handicap Committee should use good judgment when allocating handicap stroke holes. The club makes the final determination.

Please visit Section 17 of the USGA Handicap System manual for further reference.