What Is The Maximum Number Of Strokes Per Hole In Golf?

We explain how there is a huge difference in how the maximum number of strokes per hole are calculated for medal and handicap purposes

Maximum number of strokes per hole
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

In medal play the Rules of Golf do not limit the number of strokes that a player may take on a certain hole as all strokes are counted towards your final total. 

The highest number of strokes taken on any one hole on the PGA Tour is 23 when Tommy Armour made somewhat of a monumental mess on the par-5 17th hole at Shawnee CC at the 1927 Shawneee Open. The Scottish-American, who won three legs of the career Grand Slam, knocked 10 balls out of bounds which meant that he would have been playing an eye-watering 19 off the tee before making a ‘regulation par’ with his 11th ball.

In more recent times John Daly ran up an 18 at the 6th hole at Bay Hill in 1998 when he repeatedly found the drink when trying to clear the same lake which Bryson DeChambeau made famous in 2021. There was also the Kevin Na 16 at the 2011 Texas Open when the American couldn’t get himself out of the woods before only needing needing one putt.

This year the DP World Tour saw Russian Andrey Pavlov open up his day with a 17 after finding the water six times in Austria.

For handicap purposes the maximum number of strokes per hole is a different story. Here the maximum score on any hole is limited to a net double bogey – so whatever the par of the hole + the two strokes (double bogey) + any handicap strokes that the player might have for that hole based on their Course Handicap.

For example, if a player is off 15 and the Stroke Index is 10, the player’s maximum score, for the purposes of his/her handicap, would be 7. So, even if you were to make a 12, than that would be rounded down to 7 which stops one hole giving an unfair reflection of a player’s ability.

And there is no limit to the number of holes in a round where a net double bogey adjustment may be applied.

Where a Course Handicap is calculated at more than 54 and a player receives four or more strokes on a hole, then the maximum hole score is par + 5 for handicap purposes.

When obtaining a Handicap Index for the first times, for a player submitting their first scores the maximum score for each hole is limited to par +5 strokes so, on a par 5, a 12 would be rounded down to a 10.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.