GAO Golf Canada

Mother Nature wreaks havoc on course conditions and scoring events

Mother Nature hasn’t been kind this winter, causing many golf courses to have less than ideal conditions to start the season.

Problems that have arose because of unfavourable winter weather include: tree destruction, turf issues (especially on greens and fairways) and bunker deterioration. The result for many courses is having a few to the majority of their greens out of play – likely well into June.

At Golf Canada, we’ve been receiving many concerned calls from courses, clubs, leagues and golfers about how this impacts them and their golf season. Here’s a look at some of the concerns facing golfers, clubs and courses:

Score posting for golfers:

Golfers are wondering if their scores can be posted for handicapping purposes if less than 18 holes are completely played.

In such cases where holes are completely out of play or temporary greens are in use, our trusty Golf Canada Handicap Manual describes a procedure often referred to as Par Plus. This means the player would count the PAR of the hole, plus any handicap strokes that he/she is entitled to receive on that hole.

For example: A player with a Course Handicap of 15 receives ONE handicap stroke on the first 15 allocated handicap-stroke holes. If the player does not play the sixth allocated handicap-stroke hole which is a par-4 because of construction on the green, the player must record a score of par plus one for handicap purposes, or a 5 in this case. If at least seven holes are in play on one nine, a nine-hole score must be posted, and if 13 or more holes are fully in play (no temporary greens, etc.) an 18 hole score is to be posted, with the remaining holes posted using the par plus procedure.

How clubs/courses can run events and score them on a course with temporary greens or holes out of play:

Questions I’ve received from courses and clubs have predominantly revolved around their events and how to score them equitably if less than 18 holes are played.

Each situation is a little different in terms of the number of holes which may be out of play or under temporary setup, but the procedure in dealing with the situation is the same. For example, we have a course that only has 12 holes in play and they have severe damage on the other six holes. They were wondering if it is possible to conduct their annual match play competition because all 18 holes cannot be played until August.

If we reference the definition of “Stipulated Round” from the Rules of Golf, we would find “stipulated round: consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee.”

That definition is designed to help in just such cases where conditions will not allow 18 holes to be played. Should a club/league decide to proceed using less than 18 holes for their events, some adjustments must be made to handicaps of participants. As handicaps in this situation would normally be for 18 holes, we need to reduce handicaps by an appropriate number of holes that are to actually be played, in this case 12. We would need to take 12/18 of handicaps (or 2/3 if we reduce our fraction to lowest terms, don’t be alarmed this will not turn into a high school math class).

The last step to have an equitable event/match is to modify your stroke hole table (Handicap Stroke Holes). As there are six holes out of play, we need to reduce our stroke hole table by six as well (to a total of 12). To modify the stroke hole table equitably, it will depend on which holes are actually taken out of play and what number the stroke hole is. If one of the holes out of play in our example was stroke hole #2, stroke hole #4 would now become stroke hole #2 for the event, and so on.

I hope these explanations have helped to clear up some of the looming questions about handicapping and temporary greens or closed holes. If you have any questions, please contact our Golf Canada membership team at or 1-800-263-0009 ext. 399.

Additionally, you can check out our Handicapping section online here.