Golf Digest, June, 2008
Q: How are holes assigned their course handicap?
A: Many golfers think holes are handicapped (stroke allocation) from hardest to easiest. Actually, holes are handicapped to maximize the number of halved holes in a match.
The stroke-allocation table is based on what works the best, on average, for all players in head-to-head matches. When a 3-handicap plays a 5-handicap, for example, the two holes on which the 5 gets a stroke should be the holes where he most needs a stroke to halve the hole. It doesn't always work, but that's the intent. Odd numbers are assigned to the front nine and even numbers to the back, unless the back nine is a lot more difficult.
Years ago, a player receiving strokes could pick any hole to use them, including a hole he had just finished playing. It was called a "bisque." Try it sometime. ( For more on handicapping, see "What is a 10-handicapper?" <http://www.golfdigest.com/ magazine/usopencontest/2008/ 06/usopenhandicap> )
By Dean Knuth, Golf Digest Professional Advisor. Former senior director of the USGA handicap department, Knuth invented today's USGA Course Rating and Slope system.