Last Updated: 08/09/2016

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)

 
Q. What is Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)?

A.  ESC is an adjustment of individual hole scores (for handicap purposes) in order to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential ability.  ESC is applied after the round and is only used when the actual score or the most likely score exceeds a player’s maximum number.  ESC sets a limit to the number of strokes a player can take on a hole depending on the player's Course Handicap.  This prevents a score on a single hole from artificially inflating the player's handicap index.  There is no limit to the number of holes on which a player may adjust his score.  According to USGA Handicapping procedures, ESC must be applied to all scores, including tournament scores.

Below is the maximum score a player can take on a particular hole, for handicapping purposes.  Note that the maximum score is based on your Course Handicap, not your USGA Handicap Index or your Tournament Handicap.  For an explanation of the differences between these terms, click here.

Course Handicap Maximum Hole Score
9 or less Double Bogey
10 to 19 7
20 to 29 8
30 to 39 9
40 and above 10

To illustrate how ESC is applied, let's use this simple example.

Ron has a handicap index of 6.7 and plays the Blue Tees, which have a course rating of 71.8 and a slope of 128.  Bill has a handicap index of 11.2 and also plays from the Blue tees.

Step 1: Calculate each player's Course Handicap:

Ron:  6.7 x 128 / 113 = 8    (number is rounded off to determine course handicap)
Bill:   11.2 x 128 / 113 = 13    (number is rounded off to determine course handicap)

Step 2: Correct any hole scores above each player's maximum limit.

According to the table above, Ron (course handicap of 8) cannot record a score higher than double bogey on any hole for handicap purposes.  Bill (course handicap of 13) cannot record a score of higher than 7 on any hole for handicap purposes.  Thus, Ron's triple bogey 7 on the 10th hole is reduced to a double-bogey 6.  Similarly, Bill's 8 on the 6th hole is reduced to a 7.

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Actual Score ESC Score
Par 4 4 3 4 5 4 5 3 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 4 3 5 72  
Ron 5 4 5 4 5 5 5 4 5 7 4 4 3 6 5 4 4 7 86 85
Bill 6 5 5 4 5 8 5 4 5 7 4 4 5 6 5 4 3 5 90 89

Step 3: Post the ESC-adjusted handicap score.

Each player now posts the ESC-adjusted score for handicap purposes.  Ron posts a score of 85 on the GHIN system, and Bill posts a score of 89.

 

For more information on Equitable Stroke Control, consult the USGA's official Handicapping web site.

For additional information on this topic, please see the USGA's position paper on Equitable Stroke Control.