Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands



Rules Review

Rules of Golf Review: Our match is going to extra holes. How do handicap strokes apply now?

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bgwalker

You just played your tail off to come back from 3 down with five holes remaining and now the match is tied after 18. You and your longtime golf partner have been trying to take down this twosome for years and momentum is on your side. Extra holes, baby! A little sudden death to decide a $20 closeout. Things are looking up.

But then it hits you … you remember that your opponents each get a handicap stroke on the first hole, and that's exactly where you are heading for your extended match. Could it be possible that they get another handicap stroke when you play No. 1 again? Even worse, it's a par 5 that's reachable in two.

The answer? Unfortunately for you, it’s yes. They each get a handicap stroke.

Rule 3.2c (2) in the Rules of Golf covers this scenario. For starters, understand that a match that is extended beyond 18 holes is not considered a new match (in stroke play, a playoff is considered a new round under Rule 5.1). In match play, think of the first hole as the 19th hole if you're going to extra holes and the second as the 20th, and so on.

Unless the committee says otherwise, all matches continue on the hole they started on. So if you went off on the back nine, your first playoff hole would be the 10th, not the first. Same as if you had a shotgun start and your match started somewhere in the middle of the course. If you're tied (remember, it's not called "all square" anymore), you go back to the hole you started the round on to begin your extended match.

It could be a case where your opponents get strokes on consecutive holes, definitely setting up a perceived advantage. But keep in mind, unless they are sandbaggers, they were getting those handicap strokes to make the match more equitable. You can roll your eyes about that, but if you agreed to play a match against them in the first place knowing they are getting too many strokes for their true ability, who's fault is it that you're now heading to extra holes at a huge disadvantage?

To head off this issue, keep in mind that you can always agree to call a match a tie after 18. Not particularly satisfying, but it's within the rules.

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