Equitable Stroke Control in Golf and Maximum Scores

A woman playing a round of golf.
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Is there a maximum score that golfers should take for any given hole during a round of golf? Yes - if the golfer has a USGA handicap index, and if the golfer is playing a round that he or she will turn in for handicap purposes.

What is Equitable Stroke Control?

This is a feature of the USGA Handicap System known as Equitable Stroke Control (or ESC). Equitable Stroke Control is designed to minimize the effects of "disaster holes" on a golfer's handicap index.

You know, that one hole per round where you put three balls in the water and then 5-putt.

Equitable Stroke Control sets a maximum per hole score that you can turn in for handicap purposes, and those per-hole maximums are based on your course handicap. For example, on that one disaster hole, you might have taken 14 strokes (get to the practice range, buddy!) to get the ball in the cup. But based on your course handicap, ESC might require you to post only a "7" on the scorecard you submit to the handicap committee.

Including that 14 on your handicap score might throw your handicap index out of whack. And remember, the handicap index is not meant to reflect your average score, it's meant to reflect your best potential.

To determine the Equitable Stroke Control limits for your round, you must first know your course handicap. Once you've determined your course handicap, you can check the chart down below (which should also be available at golf courses) to determine the ESC per-hole maximums.

(If you are in the process of establishing a handicap index, you won't yet have a course handicap and therefore won't be able to use the chart below. Wait, yes you will! Use the USGA maximum handicaps - 36.4 for men, 40.4 for women - to determine course handicap.)

Keep in mind that Equitable Stroke Control is a function of the USGA Handicap System; it is used by golfers who carry USGA handicaps who are playing rounds that will be turned into a handicap committee.

If you do not carry a USGA handicap or are playing a round that you won't turn in for handicap purposes, ESC doesn't apply.

Also note that even when ESC limits are in use, golfers must still count all their strokes. If you score 89, you don't get to claim to your buddies that you shot 79 because of ESC limits. Your score is the number of strokes you used. But the score you submit to a handicap committee is the total that results after you apply Equitable Stroke Control (and that figure is known as your adjusted gross score).

Here is the chart that shows Equitable Stroke Control limits:

Equitable Stroke Control Chart

Course HandicapMaximum Score
0-9Double Bogey
10-197
20-298
30-399
40 or more10
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelley, Brent. "Equitable Stroke Control in Golf and Maximum Scores." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/equitable-stroke-control-1561068. Kelley, Brent. (2017, April 4). Equitable Stroke Control in Golf and Maximum Scores. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/equitable-stroke-control-1561068 Kelley, Brent. "Equitable Stroke Control in Golf and Maximum Scores." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/equitable-stroke-control-1561068 (accessed October 21, 2017).