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Each month we will try to bring to you straightforward examples of popular - and not so popular - games on the course; games that will make your rounds more challenging and fun to play. In this next installment of Game of the Month, we'll tackle a classic game: 'Stableford.'

Stableford isn't played very often anymore (like knickers, some feel it should remain in the nineteenth century), but in a sport where people trek across the Atlantic to see 'the old course,' a game of Stableford may bring a bit of classic excitement to your round.

In Stableford, you play against everyone else in your foursome (or if you have multiple foursomes, everyone else who is playing that day). The game is based on a point system, where the points you earn are determined by your score on the hole. Every point is worth a set monetary amount (some people play 10 cents, some people play ten dollars) that is decided in advance of the game. How many points is a hole worth? Over time, variations on the game have arisen, and so we list three below:

Stableford Variants
    Classic British Spanish
Double Eagle   8 Points -
Eagle   5 Points 4 Points Same as
Birdie   2 Points 3 Points British Stableford
Par   0 Points 2 Points but with Joker
Bogey   -1 Points 1 Points holes (points on
Double Bogey   -2 Points 0 Points hole are doubled)*

*Before you tee off, each golfer declares two joker holes - one on the front nine and one on the back nine.

Since most people have a hard time shooting double eagles and eagles, golfers often play Stableford (especially classic Stableford) using their full handicaps.
Using your Handicap
Once you have a handicap, you can use it to play Stableford (or any other 'hole by hole' type of game) to make the game between friends of different skill levels more competitive and fun. On every course scorecard, you will see a line called 'HDCP.' HDCP stands for Handicap, and rates the difficulty of each hole (1 being the hardest, 18 the easiest).

For most games (e.g. Match & Medal), you give the difference in handicaps as strokes. For example, if two friends with handicaps of 10 and 22 play a match, then the less skillful player will receive 12 strokes - one on each of the twelve hardest holes (as defined by the HDCP row). If the difference between players is 20 strokes, the less skillful player would receive 2 strokes on 2 holes, and 1 stroke on 16 holes. If you play a game with more than two golfers, then everyone plays off the lowest handicap golfer. Once you subtract the strokes given to you, the result is a 'net score' that takes into account your handicaps.

However there are a few games, such as Stableford, where players may choose to use their full handicaps. In the example above, the golfer with a 10 handicap would receive a stroke on each of the ten hardest holes, while the golfer with a 22 handicap would receive 2 strokes on the 4 hardest holes and 1 stroke on the remaining 14. In a game like Stableford this allows them to calculate the appropriate number of points earned on each hole.

In Stableford, the golfer at the end of 18 holes who has the most points is declared the winner. The other players pay the winner the difference between their points multiplied by the value of each point (decided upon ahead of time). Some golfers like to add pressure to the match by requiring third place to pay both second (the difference between the point totals for third and second multiplied by the point value) and first, and for fourth place to pay the other three players. This type of Stableford can quickly become very expensive!

In the example below we display a simplified Classic Stableford game between two players. Note that both golfers are using their full handicaps (Jack takes a stroke on the hardest 13 holes and Tom takes 25 strokes):

Stableford Example

The red numbers on the scorecard indicate cumulative point totals for each player. For example, on the 4th hole Jack shoots a bogey. But because it is the 11th hardest hole on the course he receives a stroke, giving him a net par (worth 0 points) and keeping his point total static at -2. After 18, Tom wins the match by 10 points. If the twosome were playing for $1 a point, Jack would owe Tom $10.

Next time you play golf, try a game of Stableford - a classic game for a classic golfer.

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