What is Stroke Index?

Stroke Index

Stroke Indexes are designed to allow for handicap Match Play games. In Strokeplay between players of unequal handicaps, it is simple to determine a winner – deduct each player’s handicap from the gross score and you get the net score and lowest net score wins.

But in Match Play, when the competition is to win individual holes, on which holes should the handicap be applied? This is where we need Stroke Index, For example:

With a difference in Playing Handicaps between Tony and John, Tony  has to give John 4 shots during the round – but on which holes? The answer is on the stroke index 1, 2, 3 and 4 holes.

Stroke index is also used in other competitions, prime among them Stableford competitions. Here points are earned on each hole in relation to each golfer’s net par for the hole. To work out the net par for each hole you need the stroke index. For example:

If Sarah has a playing handicap of 10, she will get one extra shot on the holes with stroke index 1 to 10 inclusive. Ann, with a playing handicap of 19 will get two extra shots on SI 1 and one extra shot on each of the other 17.

Although The ‘Handicap Stroke Index’ was designed for Match Play, because it is also used widely for Stableford, Par and Bogey competitions in these forms of stroke play competition the need to have a uniform and balanced distribution of strokes is less compelling. There is therefore a strong case for the Index in such competitions to be aligned to the ranking of holes in terms of playing difficulty irrespective of hole number.

For this reason, some clubs have two sets of stroke index, one for Match Play and one for Stableford. The Stableford ranking is more a straightforward ranking of the difficulty of each hole.

Stroke Index Allocation

The recommended procedure for the allocation of stroke index values in the Rules of Handicapping under the World Handicap System (WHS) has changed from the recommendations found in the previous USGA and CONGU Handicap Systems.

For the WHS a simple, consistent and data-based approach is used that can be applied to any course in the world, regardless of the number or type of players at the course.

Because stroke allocation is used in match play, but also in certain forms of stroke play such as four-ball stroke play and Stableford. It was not preferred to maintain a separate stroke index table for both Match Play and Stroke Play for a number of reasons, keeping things simple was the primary factor.

The conclusion was to base the stroke index table on overall hole difficulty relative to par as a starting point, then use the procedures that work well to provide equity in match play, including placing odds and evens on different sides, avoiding consecutive low stroke index holes, and avoiding low stroke index holes at the beginning or end of a nine. It was also a recommendation to have separate stroke index tables for women and men, but not have multiple stroke index tables per gender as that can lead to players selecting tees in order to gain an advantage, especially if trying to maximize strokes between partners in team events.  

From worldwide research, in match play, the stroke index order is not really important in producing equitable results as long as the strokes are spread out, consecutive low strokes are avoided, and low strokes at the beginning or end of each nine are avoided. So, applying the triad concept of using three-hole clusters (with the lowest stroke hole on each nine in the middle of the nine), spreading out low stroke holes, and avoiding consecutive low stroke holes produces a simple but effective method for allocation.

As stroke index values are also used in stroke play or Stableford play, it was important to generate an allocation based on overall difficulty, which is where the Course Rating data is used. Using Course Rating data, which factors in both effective playing length and obstacle ratings, provides a consistent method regardless of the makeup of players at the course. While the stroke index values are ultimately adjusted to accommodate the recommended procedures for match play, they are generally consistent with the order of difficulty as ranked using Course Rating data. Stroke Indexes also play a part in Handicap Index Calculation, because it is used to determine the maximum score that can be recorded for a player on each hole.

Since the maximum hole score allowed for handicap purposes is based on a net double bogey, which is tied to the stroke index value, it is important to have the holes ranked in a general order of difficulty. 

As with the previous Handicap Systems, stroke index allocation is a recommendation and courses are free to use whichever method they choose. There is no recommendation for a course to run a new allocation solely due to the move to the WHS. However, for courses that are looking to run a new allocation, the new WHS method produces consistent and acceptable values without the need to find specific players and collect hundreds of scores from a common tee.  

For more information on Stroke Index Allocation under the World Handicap System Click Here.

Concessions in Match Play

Concessions in Match Play

Well a couple of points have come to light regarding strokes being conceded. Remember that it is against the Rules of Golf to concede strokes in Stroke Play, balls have to be holed-out, unless you are playing a social game amongst your friends when you may give ‘gimmes’ to speed up play.

The first point came as a question from a subscriber to my Rules Blog concerning the matter of a player, in a team 4BBB Match Play event, continuing to putt out after her/his putt had been conceded by an opponent, but before her/his partner has putted, who may be in a position to better the player’s score for that hole.

The question was:

“”Whilst there is no penalty when a player putts out after their next stroke has been conceded, if this would be of help to a partner in a Four-Ball or Four Ball Better Ball Match, the player’s score for the hole stands, without a penalty, but the partner’s score for the hole cannot count for the side. (Exception to Rule 23.6)”

I have read this over a number of times, but I cannot understand the final words “but the partner’s score for the hole cannot count for the side”.

If the partner of the player (that had received a concession but still holed out for the 4BBB) actually gets a better score on the hole (for the Match Play – or the 4BBB), why can’t the partner’s score count for the side (in the Match Play)?

I must be missing something but will appreciate clarification.”

The answer to this question comes in the Exception to Rule 23.6

Rule 23.6 Side’s Order of Play

 Partners may play in the order the side considers best.

This means that when it is a player’s turn to play under Rule 6.4a (match play) or 6.4b (stroke play), either the player or his or her partner may play next.

Exception – Continuing Play of Hole After Stroke Conceded in Match Play:

A player must not continue play of a hole after the player’s next stroke has been conceded if this would help his or her partner.

If the player does so, his or her score for the hole stands without penalty, but the partner’s score for the hole cannot count for the side.

The relevant wording in the exception is, ‘a player must not continue play of a hole after the player’s next stroke has been conceded if this would help his or her partner.’

If a player’s putt may help her/his partner read a line-of-putt or pace-of-putt etc. then it would be better for the partner to putt first, before any concession is made.

Match Play is a game of strategy, and if an opponent sees that a player’s putt may help his partner then it is likely that the opponent may jump in and concede the player’s putt before s/he has a chance to give her/his partner any help in reading their putt. The player’s partner still has an opportunity to putt out, for a better score, provided the player does not putt out after the concession, otherwise the player’s score counts.

So, if your next putt has been conceded, but your partner could record a better score, don’t putt-out after the concession, in case your opponents consider it may help your partner, otherwise your score must count.

 The next point I have on ‘Concessions’ is the incident that Sergio Garcia had in the recent World Golf Championships in Austin Texas, during his Quarter Final match against Matt Kuchar when he misses his putt for par on the 7th Hole.

Watch the video below, sorry that there are ads in this video but click on the play button after each ad to see what Sergio does

Sergio went on to lose the quarter-final and felt hard done by because Matt Kuchar had not conceded his putt or offered to halve the hole.

In Kuchar’s defence, Sergio acted recklessly and too quickly in striking his ball with the back of his putter, not allowing Kuchar time to make a concession. A concession must be made immediately, before a player makes another stroke at her/his ball.

A concession cannot be made retrospectively and so Garcia had to accept that, through his impetuous action, he had lost the hole.

Anyway, why should Kuchar reward Sergio for such unprofessional behaviour?

Because Sergio had on a previous occasion conceded a hole to Ricky Fowler because he felt that in delaying play by asking for a second referee’s ruling on the lie of his ball he had led Ricky Fowler to lose the hole they were playing.

This was a generous and sportsman-like act on Sergio’s behalf, but should not lead him to automatically expect the same sort of action from other players whatever the reason.

So, what are concessions in Match Play?

Rule 3.2b of Rules of Golf states

(1) Player May Concede Stroke, Hole or Match. A player may concede the opponent’s next stroke, a hole or the match:

  • Conceding Next Stroke. This is allowed any time before the opponent’s next stroke is made.
    • The opponent has then completed the hole with a score that includes that conceded stroke, and the ball may be removed by anyone.
    • A concession made while the opponent’s ball is still in motion after the previous stroke applies to the opponent’s next stroke, unless the ball is holed (in which case the concession does not matter).
    • The player may concede the opponent’s next stroke by deflecting or stopping the opponent’s ball in motion only if that is done specifically to concede the next stroke and only when there is no reasonable chance the ball can be holed.
  • Conceding a Hole. This is allowed any time before the hole is completed (see Rule 6.5), including before the players start the hole.
  • Conceding the Match. This is allowed any time before the result of the match is decided (see Rules 3.2a(3) and (4)), including before the players start the match.

(2) How Concessions Are Made. A concession is made only when clearly communicated:

  • This can be done either verbally or by an action that clearly shows the player’s intent to concede the stroke, the hole or the match (such as making a gesture).
  • If the opponent lifts his or her ball in breach of a Rule because of a reasonable misunderstanding that the player’s statement or action was a concession of the next stroke or the hole or match, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

Although there are various types of concession, in our games of golf the most common situation that we will come across is that of conceding a putt.

A “conceded putt” is a putt that your opponent in a golf match gives you; that is, your opponent allows you to count the putt as made without requiring you to actually putt it into the hole.

As soon as your opponent tells you s/he’s conceding your putt, your putt is considered holed. For example if you were lying four and your putt is conceded, you pick up your golf ball, mark down a “5” on your scorecard and move on.

The act of telling an opponent you are conceding her/his putt is called “conceding the putt” or “giving the putt”; a putt that’s been conceded is a “concession.”

Reasons to Concede a Putt and the Strategies Involved

 Why would anyone concede an opponent’s putt? Why wouldn’t you force them to make every putt on the chance they might miss?

Well, if your opponent’s ball is just a few inches from the cup, a concession might be given just to keep up a good pace of play.

If the opponent’s ball is two feet from the cup, then the decision whether to concede may require more thought.

Conceding putts is not mandatory; if you want to make your opponent hole out on every green, just don’t offer any concessions.

The idea that one should never concede a putt to an opponent in a match is certainly one that is held by many golfers but there are different schools of thought among golfers when it comes to concessions:

  1. Never concede a putt. Think that every putt is missable, after all, no matter how unlikely; even a 6-inch putt can be missed. So, force your opponent to hole-out every single time. However, be mindful of the fact that if you take the never-concede-a-putt approach, that your opponent is not going to offer you any concessions, either.
  2. Concede every putt that is short enough. “Short enough” means whatever distance you feel is close enough to allow a ‘concession’. This approach will speed up play, and, perhaps, foster goodwill. A golfer who is conceding every very short putt is more likely to have the same-length putts of his own conceded.
  3. Concede very short putts early, but not late. This is a tactical approach favoured by some golfers that may work on the theory that you should deny your opponent a chance to get comfortable over those short, nervy putts. Golfers who don’t get to roll any of those short putts into the hole, early in a match (because of concessions), might be more prone to miss such a putt later in the match when the pressure is higher and when a concession is suddenly withheld.

No matter what Match Play strategy you subscribe to there is a bit of advice from Gary McCord, in the instructional book Golf for Dummies:

“Always ask yourself whether you’d fancy hitting the same putt. If the answer is ‘no’ or even ‘not really,’ say nothing and watch.”

Your concession strategy might also be influenced by how much you know about your opponent. Knowing your opposition to be a strong or weak putter, or to have a strong or weak mental game, can influence when and how often you concede a putt.

Concessions Are Given, Never Requested

Note that conceded putts are not something you should request; concessions are solely at the discretion of the opponent. It’s entirely up to you whether your match play opponent gets to pick up his ball without putting out; it’s entirely up to your opponent whether or not to concede your putt. You may not ask for a concession!

Can You Rescind a Conceded Putt?

For example, if you inform an opponent you are conceding her/his putt, but before s/he picks up the ball, you change your mind. Can you rescind the concession?

No. A concession means the ball is holed. Concessions must be made immediately and as soon as you concede an opponent’s stroke, that ball is considered holed and your opponent’s play of that hole is over. If your opponent decides to putt out anyway, after your concession, and misses, it doesn’t matter. (Remember, however, the point I made about a partner putting out after a concession has been made in a Four-ball Format). When a concession is given, that golfer’s play of a hole is over.

How Do You Indicate That You Are Conceding a Putt?

If you decide to concede a putt, be sure that your concession is clear and not misunderstood. You may indicate the concession verbally or by some unambiguous signal.

Most golfers who are giving a concession simply say to their opponent, “that’s good” or “pick that one up.”

However, if you ever see or hear something from an opponent and you are unclear whether your putt has been conceded or not, ask them to repeat it and clarify. Never pick a ball up unless you are certain a concession has been offered.

Can You Concede a Putt Retrospectively?

The short answer is NO. A concession has to be made immediately, before your opponent makes another stroke at her/his ball.

Hope you have found this useful, especially when you come to playing your Club’s Knockout Competitions this season.

Enjoy your golf!


Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules Blog: www.my-golf.uk

Rules of Match Play 2019

Well I hope everyone had a good Christmas and is looking forward to a New Year of great golf, under the 2019 Rules of Golf.

Because many clubs play Match Play, especially in regular Knockout Competitions, I have published a Rules of Match Play page on the My Golf Rules Blog.

There are a number of differences between Stroke Play and Match Play rules, which you must be aware of if you do not want to incur penalties or lose a match.

Certain specific rules governing match play are so different from those governing Stroke Play that combining the two formats is not recommended and in the previous Rules of Golf was not permitted.

The R&A and USGA have however recognised that groups of players, although entered into one competition often like to play a separate cometiton within their group.

The R&A and USGA have therefore included in the New Rules of Golf guidelines for dealing with these events.

You can read the Rules of Match Play on the Webpage or download your own PDF or Microsoft Word Copy from the page, by clicking on the download button below.

Enjoy your golf, and have a great New Year


Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules Blog: www.my-golf.uk

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