What Happens If You Don’t Finish a Hole in Golf?

If you don’t finish a hole in golf, you must record your Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey.

There are various reasons that could stop you from finishing a hole. This is primarily why the United States Golf Association (USGA) created the handicap system. This system makes the playing field fair for every golfer.

There are certain outcomes to not finishing a hole in golf. The USGA provides answers to the question, “What happens if you don’t finish a hole in golf?”

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the USGA’s answers. We’ll also explore how different reasons may affect the scoring of unfinished holes.

What Happens If You Don’t Finish a Hole in Golf?

If you start but don’t finish a hole in golf, you must record your Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey, depending on which is lower.

How to score an unfinished round of Golf

It’s true that you’re required to play all holes in a golf round. However, for various reasons, you may not be able to finish a hole or some.

There’s no limit to the times you can record a Most Likely Score within your Adjusted Gross Score. This is on the condition that you failed to hole out for a valid reason, not to gain an unfair scoring advantage.

Unless there’s a valid reason, you can’t record a Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey. If the reason is found invalid, a penalty score may be issued by the Committee.

Unfinished Hole for Valid Reason

You may start but not be able to hole out in golf due to a number of reasons. The following are some of the valid reasons for not finishing a hole:

  • The hole’s result has been decided already
  • One partner has already achieved a better score in a Four-Ball format
  • A player has conceded a hole in match play
  • A golfer reaching their Net Double Bogey limit on a particular hole

You can’t leave a box unscored if you don’t finish a hole. You either enter your Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey. The lower of both numbers is your score to enter.

Unfinished Hole for Invalid Reason

If a golfer fails to play a hole for an invalid reason, the score won’t be admissible for handicap purposes.

According to the United States Golf Association, invalid reasons for unfinished hole or holes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Failing to play a certain hole because the golfer usually finds it difficult to play and will result in a high hole score
  • Failing to play the final holes on a golf course to avoid recording a high or low score

If it is proven that a golfer was attempting to achieve an unfair scoring advantage by not playing a hole for an invalid reason, the Handicap Committee may:

  • Add a penalty score to the golfer’s scoring record
  • Withdraw the golfer’s Handicap Index

How Should You Score an Unfinished Hole?

There are two options to enter the score of an unfinished hole on the score entry page.

Penalty for not holing out in Golf

The first option is to enter “X” in the designated box. When you enter “X,” you avoid having your scorecard marked as incomplete.

In Stroke Play and Match Play, the leaderboards count the “X” as a missing hole. The Stableford and Quota leaderboards count the “X” as the worst possible score.

The second option is to enter “X” plus the Most Likely Score the golfer would’ve gotten if he had finished the hole. For example, if your Most Likely Score is six, you should enter “X6” in your scorecard.

Entering “X” + Most Likely Score is the same as entering “X.” The difference is that the score is posted as Most Likely Score with the maximum of a Net Double Bogey.

How Do You Determine the Score of an Unfinished Hole?

A player that doesn’t hole out for a valid reason records either their Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey.

Most Likely Score

You can think of Most Likely Score as in the number of strokes the golfer has already taken + the number of strokes needed to hole out + penalty scores received while playing the hole.

It’s true that you can use your best judgment to determine how many strokes are needed to hole out. Still, it’s much preferable to follow a certain guideline to ensure fair play.

The USGA recommends following the guidelines to determine Most Likely Scores:

  • Add one stroke if the ball is no more than five feet from the hole and on the putting green
  • If the ball is between five feet and 60 feet from the hole, add two or three strokes
  • If the ball is more than 60 feet from the hole, add three to four strokes

If the ball lies more than five feet away, choosing which number of strokes to add depends on the ball’s position, the green’s difficulty, and the player’s ability.

Net Double Bogey

Net Double Bogey is the maximum score for each hole. It equals par of the hole plus two strokes. Then, you add any handicap strokes you’re allowed to take. The handicap strokes you’re entitled to receive are based on the hole’s Course Handicap.

You use Net Double Bogey when your actual score or most likely score surpasses the maximum number obtained from the Net Double Bogey formula.

In Conclusion

It’s essential to know what happens if you don’t finish a hole in golf. You may not finish a hole due to a number of reasons. Whether they’re valid or invalid affects what happens to your score. Avoiding any confusion can help you complete your scorecard.

When you don’t finish a hole, you’ll either write down your Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey. Choosing which depends on the format of play and what’s appropriate for the situation.

The USGA has provided guidelines that you can follow to determine your Most Likely Score or Net Double Bogey. If you follow them, you can lessen the time spent on scoring and more on competing and enjoying your game.

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