Stroke Index Golf

What is the Stroke Index in golf? You'll have heard of it but why is it there and how is the stoke index chosen? 




What is Golf Stroke Index?

The Golf Stroke Index is a numbering system in place at each golf course. It gives each golf hole an SI (Stroke Index) number between 1 and 18. That's the easy part. It goes without saying the stroke index is NOT the same as the hole number. 

This ranking system is in place to allow handicap match play games and also to let you know how many stableford points you've scored on each hole. 

It's a common misconception that it's a ranking system in order of difficulty but it's NOT and we'll touch on this later...


How does my Handicap link to the Stroke Index?

This is where things get a little more tricky. As mentioned the stroke index in golf is primarily in place for golf match play. If your handicaps are different then one player must give some shots to another but on which holes?

Firstly to determine how many shots one player gives the other, you take the higher handicap from the lower handicap which with leave you with the difference. 

So lets say James is a 15 handicapper and John is a 10 handicap. The difference between these is 5 so James gets 5 shots in the match play.  

James gets 5 shots but on which holes? The answer is the stroke index 1,2 ,3 4 and 5 holes. 

Still with us? 



What is 'having a shot' on a hole? 

Quite simply, if you have a shot on a hole then your opponent has to complete the hole in at least 1 shot less than you to draw, and 2 shots less to win.

So if you complete the hole in 5, a shot gets taken away leaving you with a 4. Your opponent needs at least a 4 to draw and a 3 to beat you on that hole. 


How is the hole Stroke Index determined?

Our statement above is a little misleading because hole difficulty is taken into account, but not entirely. 

As it's in place for matchplay it's about trying to be as fair as possible to the low handicap whilst also helping the higher handicap on more difficult holes. 

For example it's rare that the 18th hole is a low Index as it would be deemed harsh for the low handicap to give a shot on a crucial hole. Also because most match plays are finished before the 18th, a higher handicap may miss out on their full allocation. 

It's rare that the 1st or 10th holes are low index's, as if there's a playoff it can again be considered harsh for a shot to be given on a crucial hole. That one is open for debate...

As a general rule it's also advised Stroke Index 7, 8, 9 and 10 should not be allocated to adjacent holes. This is to avoid a player receiving 10 strokes from having a shot on at least 3 consecutive holes. 

So yes the difficulty is taken into account, but they also need to be as fair as they can for matchplay. This may answer why the Stroke Index may seem a little off at your local club? 


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