Since Match Play means you either win, lose or halve a hole, you may pick up when either your opponent concedes the hole to you (because she has already played more strokes than would have won the hole) or if you’re playing a two-person “four ball match play”, when your teammate has clearly won the hole.
In this scenario you will post what you likely would have gotten, based on what you were lying when you picked up.
In Stroke Play
If you’re playing stroke play and you have already reached your maximum portable score, then you may pick up at that number, or one stroke before that number, and indicate a 7X or 8X on your card (or whatever your max is for that hole).
You may pick up earlier in certain situations, such as:
- You get an urgent text or phone call that you have to take for a moment
- Your foursome is severely behind and you hit your first shot into a Penalty Area or out of bounds, so you decide to be the sacrificial lamb and pick up rather than delaying everyone even further
- For some reason you just can’t play a particular hole
What To Post If You Pick Up Before Reaching That Max Score
So if you’re going to pick up for one of the above reasons, or some other reason, what you post for that hole at the end of the round is determined by WHEN you picked up.
Let’s use a par 4 hole that is the number one handicap hole as an example. You’re a 16 handicap so you get a stroke on this hole.
As a 16 handicap you may take up to a 7, however, you might not put that 7 down. Here’s why:
Under Equitable Stroke Control you will either post “par plus” or what you likely would have gotten. So if you pick up after just one tee shot, or two shots, you would not post a 7.
Picking up after just your tee shot you’d then count 1 or 2 strokes to get you to the green, and then perhaps a two putt. So it may be a five or a 6.
If you pick up after just your tee shot on a par 3 hole where you have a stroke, again you may not post your maximum 7 for that hole. You would count one for your tee shot, plus another shot to get you on the green, and perhaps a two putt, for a total of 4 or 5, depending on where your ball was and how many shots you would normally take to get on the green.
Taking your maximum 7 or 8 too often when you should really be counting your most likely score on that hole contributes to false handicaps and what we call sandbagging. No one wants to play with a sandbagger, so you might consider a discussion with your golf pro and fellow competitors on this very important aspect of golf.
Its a delicate subject and I know most of the time we post incorrectly because we aren’t aware of the proper procedures and more importantly WHY we should be extra cautious when not completing a hole. As Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better”.
See more of the 2019 Rules of Golf at USGA.org.