Frank Barney Gorton Stableford (1870 - 1959)
The Stableford (not Stapleford!) system of scoring was invented in 1931 by Dr. Frank Stableford of the Wallasey & Royal Liverpool Golf Clubs, a +1 handicapper in his thirties. The Stableford system was included in the end pages of the unified Rules books from 1952, and in 1968 received official recognition as a form of play by being moved to the main body of the Rules. This format of golf is most popular in the UK and Ireland but is increasingly being adopted as an optional competition format across the world. There are two main benefits claimed for Stableford competitions. First, it should speed up the pace of play, as once it is no longer possible to score a point, a player does not have to complete the hole but can simply pick up their ball and proceed to the next hole. Second, it is still possible for a player to record a competitive score despite having the occasional bad hole.
So, how does the Stableford scoring system work? The traditional way to calculate the number of Stableford points scored on each hole is to compare the player’s net score for each hole (i.e. taking their handicap and the stroke index for the hole into account) against the fixed par score. Once a player has taken two strokes more than the adjusted fixed score, they should pick up their ball, as it is then not possible or them to score any points on that hole. For example a player who receives a handicap stroke on a par-4 hole should pick-up once they have had six strokes, as they cannot then score any points for that hole. The winner of a Stableford competition is the player with the highest points total. This table explains the scoring system:
1. Player A, handicap 5, on Par 4, index 14, scores 4 = 2 points
2. Player B, handicap 16, on Par 4, index 14, scores 5 = 2 points
3. Player C, handicap 32, on Par 4, index 14, scores 6 = 2 points
4. Player D, handicap 5, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 0 points
5. Player E, handicap 11, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 1 point
6. Player F, handicap 25, on Par 5, index 6, scores 7 = 2 points
The Rules for stroke play apply to Stableford competitions where they are not at variance with the format. These are some points to note;
- The competitor who has scored the most points at a hole takes the honour at the next teeing ground. If two or more players have scored the same number of points on the hole then the honour between them remains the same as on the previous teeing ground.
- The marker is responsible for marking only the gross number of strokes at each hole where the competitor's net score earns one or more points.
- There are several instances where in a strokes competition the player would be disqualified where in a Stableford competition they are only disqualified for the hole, e.g.;
- not holing out
- playing from a wrong place
- partners exchange balls during play of a hole
- not playing one or more holes of the stipulated round
- recording a lower score than actually scored if it does not affect the points for the hole (e.g. a competitor with no handicap stroke records a 6 instead of a 7 for a par-4 hole).
None of the above precludes a player from being disqualified if they sign and return a score card that does not include a penalty that has been incurred, such as playing from a wrong place.
One final point to make is that the player does not have to work out the Stableford points scored for their round, it is the Committee’s responsibility. However, as someone who has acted as a competitions secretary at Club level, I can assure you that it saves a considerable amount of time if the scores only have to be checked, rather than calculated for every competitor.