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Golf scoring: Maximum strokes per hole

Independent Golf Tips for the professional at Leisure

February 2008


What is the maximum score for a bad hole?

Every golfer has to deal with the occasional bad hole where a double-digit score unfairly skews their handicap and ruin their round.  Many golf professionals insist that you should always record your actual strokes, no matter how bad, but the USGA has rules on this issue.

The USGA has developed the “Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) system to keep an exceptionally bad hole from ruining your round.  This is especially important to me because a bad hole can take me up to 15 strokes, ruining my bogie golf.  Everyone has a “hole from hell” where a few bad shots snowball into a nightmare of frustration.

I once saw a fellow toss 8 golf balls into a water hazard, determined to make it over from where his ball landed, all because he had seen Tiger do it on TV!

Your max score per hole
Inside the Equitable Stroke Control system

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the maximum allowed individual hole scores to more accurately represent a player's scoring "potential", and forgiving a bad hole!

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the "capping" of individual hole scores to make handicaps more indicative of a player's scoring potential. The maximum score that a player can post on any hole is based on the player's Course Handicap.

In the case of a player without an official handicap, scores are adjusted using the maximum hole score for the highest Course Handicap. Once your Handicap is established, you can use this table for your maximum score per hole.

 Your Handicap 

 Maximum stroke score per hole 

up to 9

Double Bogey

10 through 19


20 through 29


30 through 39


40 or higher



It's interesting that better golfers (low handicappers) get a better deal.




Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

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