What is the Max Score You Can Take on a Hole

USGA Handicap: What is the Max Score You Can Take on a Hole?

Golficity Golf Instruction, Rules & Scoring 4 Comments

TiWhat is the Max Score You Can Take on a Holeme to fess up…we’ve all had that one disappointing 8 or 9 on a par 5 because we were forced to drop a ball, take a penalty, and then 3 putt.  When this happens handicapping golfers often wonder, “what is the maximum score that I can take on a hole?”

Equitable Stroke Control is part of the USGA Handicap System and is designed to limit the potential toll a scorecard disaster (the dreaded “blow-up holes“) would take on a golfer’s handicap index.

The Equitable Stroke Control system was designed to set a maximum score per-hole that a player can submit for handicap purposes.

A classic example: You hit your tee shot on a par 4 into the woods and give up looking for it.  After taking a drop you miss-hit your 3rd shot and wind up in a water hazard.  Frustration builds as one dreadful shot leads to another and you’re left with 11 total strokes on the hole.  So now the question becomes, can you enter that double digit disaster into your handicap index?

The answer depends on where your current handicap lies.  For example, let’s say you’re a 15 handicap, according to the chart below, you would submit a 7 on that hole for handicap purposes.

The reason for this limitation is that taking an 11 for the hole will put your handicap into a range where it doesn’t belong.  The key thing to remember when handicapping your golf game is that the handicap index is not meant to reflect your average score, it’s meant to reflect your best potential.

To determine the max score you can take on a hole, you must first calculate your course handicap.  There are a number of iPhone apps and other helpful (and often free) tools that will assist you in handicapping your game – just keep in mind that you need a few rounds under your belt for the proper handicap to be determined.

If you’re in the process of establishing a handicap index you can use the USGA maximum handicaps (36.4 for men and 40.4 for women) when referencing the chart below.  This will give you a temporary number that you can use until you’ve entered enough scores to established a proper handicap.

Keep in mind that if you do not plan on handicapping your game and just want to compete in stroke play against your golf buddies on the weekend, you don’t need to follow this procedure.  In fact, the score of 11 (above) is actually what you would mark on the scorecard during a stroke or match play round.  The only time you cap your score is when you are entering the score into a USGA Handicap System.  So when you shoot an 87 this weekend, don’t brag to your friends that you shot a 75 due to equitable stroke control.

Course Handicap Maximum Score
0 - 9 Double Bogey
10 - 19 7
20 - 29 8
30 - 39 9
40+ 10

1 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
JaredTusharS JosephJerry Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted

10-19 can take a 7 on a hole. Does that mean any hole? Par 3’s.
How many 7’s can you take?

S Joseph
S Joseph

Excellent question Jerry. Keen to know the answer too


The reference is based on par 4. you may add/remove stokes based on par score.


You can actually take 18 7’s if you are a 10-19. That means anything from quad bogie on a par 3 to a double bogie on a par 5. The max score per hole does not move with the part of the hole.