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What’s the difference between a ‘hole not played’ and a ‘hole not finished’?

Golfers recording their scores are often asked a question when they’ve not started, or finished, a hole. Here’s how it all pans out for a World Handicap System score
 

Was it simpler in the old days? You didn’t play finish a hole in a Medal for whatever reason, scratched No Return across your card, and accelerated straight to the bar.

Net double bogey existed, of course, for handicap purposes but, outside of Stablefords, did anyone pay any attention?

Every hole counts, though, in the World Handicap System and messing up a hole is no longer a good enough excuse to put a big cross right through your scorecard. Now you can have a big ‘nought’ – you can have several in fact – and still have an adjusted score that appears on your handicap record.

That’s not altogether cleared up the confusion when scores are being entered into the computer and Geoff asked me this question over email: “When you have a bad hole and enter a zero it asks something like: Hole attempted but didn’t score or, hole not attempted.

“What is the difference between these as it would appear that both get you a default score of nett double bogey?”

Let’s take a look at the two terms and see if we can work it out…

World Handicap System: Hole not played and hole not finished

World Handicap System

Hole started but not finished

When you’ve started a hole but don’t finish it, you’ve got to have a valid reason for doing so. The score that’s recorded depends on the format of play, so if it’s Stableford then it’s zero points. You can put a zero, or a space, into the computer when recording your score if it’s a medal. You’ll be disqualified from the competition but you’ll be given a net double bogey for handicap purposes. If it’s a maximum score format, then that’s the number you’ll put on the card.

When a hole is not played

Your score can still be acceptable for handicap purposes if a minimum number of holes have been played. In the UK and Ireland, that minimum number is 10. You might also hear 14 banded out and the difference is how WHS records the scores for the holes not played.

In both circumstances, the round is scaled up to 18 holes. When you’ve played 10, you add nett par plus one stroke (or the equivalent Stableford points) for the first hole not played and then nett par for the others. When you’ve played 14, it’s net par (or Stableford equivalent) all the way home.

For those of you whose eyes have lit up at that prospect, again, you’ve got to have a valid reason for not playing a hole – or holes.

Having a good score and thinking you can net par your way into the clubhouse is not one of them.

They include failing light or bad weather, injury or illness, or a hole that’s declared out of play by a committee for maintenance purposes.

Have you ever been caught out when the computer has posed the hole not started/not played conundrum? Let me know how you solved it by tweeting me.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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