Have you ever wondered about the stroke index shown on your scorecard?
A common misconception is that stroke index simply gives an indication of a hole’s difficulty, i.e. the hardest hole on the course is stroke index 1, second hardest is 2 and so on.
In fact, difficulty is just one of the many criteria considered when distributing stroke indexes.
Firstly, an even spread needs to be achieved. Many clubs do this by numbering the holes on one nine with odd stroke indexes and the other nine with even.
Stroke indexes 1 and 2 tend to be allocated somewhere in the centre of each nine. This is because in many matches, where the handicap difference is minimal, the placing of the lower indexed holes is of vital importance.
An effort is generally made to ensure the first six should not be allocated to adjacent holes, and the first and last holes are often not given a stroke index below nine.
Then length should be considered. Indexes should be allocated to holes of varying lengths. Stroke 1 might be a long par four, 2 might then be a shorter, more-strategically difficult par four, 3 might be a par five and so on.
Harder Should Be Lower
It should generally follow then that the harder holes on the course have low stroke indexes. But, difficulty in relation to par is not the overriding consideration when selecting indexes.
This is because a long par four may be a very difficult par for a low handicapper but a fairly straightforward bogey for a player of a slightly higher handicap.
In recent years, some clubs have opted to use dual Stroke Indices – One for Match play where indices are allocated using the CONGU guidelines as outlined above. Another for use in Stableford and other relevant competitions, based solely on the difficulty of the hole in relation to par: A great idea, but it does make for rather a complicated scorecard!
Certainly, I always thought it was down to the course designer who made his choice on what was felt to be the hardest and easiest hole through the 18 holes.
How often have you disagreed with a score cards stroke index, especially when you say birdied the Index 2, and boogied the index 7.
Anyway, I hope that helps explain the mysteries of the Stroke Index to you. To be honest if you are not sure there is usually some wise golfer around to help you maintain your score. Enjoy!