What happens when a golf hole isn’t played?


Does your round still count, or have all your efforts been for nothing? Our WHS expert gets under the bonnet of the Rules of Handicapping

What happens to your score when a hole isn’t played or a round isn’t completed? Maybe the weather forced you off the course, or ever-darkening skies made it impossible to see the ball?

Perhaps you fell ill, or suffered an injury? If you’d been sailing along – and playing some of your best stuff – or couldn’t wait to finish, what becomes of your efforts from a handicapping perspective if you don’t have a full 18 holes in the bag? Let’s take a look…

World Handicap System explained: Does my round count if a hole isn’t played?

Did you know there’s an official Rules of Handicapping? It’s just like the Rules of Golf and is split into a series of sections all covering various aspects of the World Handicap System.

Rule 3.2 covers when a hole isn’t played but first we’ve got to establish something known as the “minimum number of holes”.

If an 18-hole score is going to be accepted for handicap purposes, you need to have played a certain number of holes. That number can vary, depending where you are in the world, but in the last Rules of Handicapping I looked at, it was 10 in the UK. For a 9-hole score, you need to complete that round. If you don’t finish at least 9, it won’t count.

What counts as a hole played? If you’ve started it, you are considered in the Rules of Handicapping to have played it.

So that leads to a question. If I play 10 holes and walk off, what happens to the other holes? Well, firstly, don’t get ahead of yourself. You’re going to need a good excuse.

And if your reason for not playing a hole, or a series of holes, isn’t considered valid by your competition committee then they might be inclined to apply a penalty score.

Why would that matter? It is because of the way the number of holes you play are “scaled up” to produce an 18-hole score.

The paper copy of Rule 3.2 has a handy table to explain it and it’s done at two junctures. If you’ve played at least 10 holes, the committee would add net par plus one additional shot (or what the equivalent Stableford points are) for the first hole not played.

If you’ve played at least 14 holes, you then add net par for the holes not played.

Now, the more astute among you might notice this could give rise to a potential flaw. If, for example, you’ve played 14 holes of great golf in a general play round, what’s to stop you not starting any of the remaining holes and getting net par for all of them?

This is where ‘valid reason’ comes into play and there’s an interpretation to Rule 3.2 that lists a number of excuses that won’t cut the mustard and would result in a score not being acceptable for handicap purposes.

These include: Not playing a particular hole because it causes them problems and they’re likely to post a high number, or “not playing the final holes on a golf course in order to avoid submitting a high or low score”.

If it’s decided that the player’s actions were “for the purpose of gaining an unfair scoring advantage” then a penalty score is likely to be appearing on that player’s record.

Need more information on the World Handicap System?

Visit our dedicated WHS page where you will find everything you need to know and details of how to contact us if you have any more questions.

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