Explanation of the Stroke Index - reproduced here from original notes by Harold Gould
“The present system has been in operation since 1965 when I was asked to revise the previous, rather unsound one. I think it took me something like 3 weeks to perfect.“
S.I. 1 Your first thoughts are, Where will I give one stroke? It must be somewhere in the middle of the round, hence I settle for the 11th , a hole where the better golfer holds a slight advantage over a slightly less capable opponent and has a fair chance to collect a half.
S.I. 2 This must come in the first half, so where but the 6th , being the ideal hole. The better golfer being unable to make the green in two, where his opponent can make it in three (net 2) – hence the higher handicap man has his advantage.
S.I. 3 This again must come in the first half. If you receive an odd number of strokes the greater number must come in the first half, so stroke 3 went to the 2nd hole as the prevailing wind in the golfing season is from the west.
S.I. 4 We must now even out our strokes, so we award this index to the 16th , being a difficult hole usually against the wind.
S.I. 5 This must come back to the front nine. Now problems begin to show themselves. If the 3rd hole was awarded S.I. 5 it would be far too near S.I. 3 (2nd hole). The 4th was thought about, but I thought this hole too short to warrant a low stroke index, so it was awarded to the 8th , not an easy hole being dog-legged.
S.I. 6 This index must be returned to the second half to keep the balance, hence the 13th hole (being par 5) received stroke 6.
S.I. 7 We again return to the first half, but where can we put stroke 7? Not the 9th – it’s too near S.I. 5. The 3rd? - no, it’s too near S.I.3. If you think of the 1st, it would also be too near S.I.3. A match going into extra holes, a player receiving 7 shots would have the advantage of a stroke a hole for the first two holes (rather unfair!). So S.I. 7 goes to the 4th, being wind against.
S.I. 8 This will now return to the second half. But where? The 12th is too near to S.I. 6 (the 13th). The 15th could receive stroke 8, but being a drive and a pitch I considered it to be too easy to warrant a single figure stroke index. Hence it had to go to the 18th – always a difficult hole against the wind, but nice to receive a stroke here, if the match is all square.
S.I. 9 Back to the first half to find a place for this index. We considered the 3rd, but next door you have the 4th with S.I.7. We considered the 9th but discarded that as being not difficult enough to receive S.I. 9. So we are left with the 1st which I think is a fair assessment. It had to go somewhere!
S.I. 10 We now have to choose from the 12th, 15th or 17th on the back nine. The 12th could possibly receive it, but the 15th looks more favourable, being into the wind. The 17th is far too easy with the prevailing wind helping. Some might say the 12th, but this hole has ample fairway (except for the slicer), so I decided on the 15th. This hole is so well guarded around the green, the second shot has to be played with a great deal of skill.
S.I. 11 We are now left with the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th on the front nine. The 3rd will have the wind behind; the 7th wind against, the 9th a cross wind, so out of these 3 holes the hole which would have the most advantage for the higher handicap man must surely be the 7th – a hole where at least he would have a 100% chance of a win. At all times you must give the man who is receiving the strokes a fair chance of a win if at all there is any advantage to be gained.
S.I. 12 Either the 10th, 12th or 14th. It would be out of place at the 10th and 14th, so let us now consider the 12th and 17th. The 12th is a far more difficult hole than the 17th where you have a nice helping wind 9 times out of 10. We go for the 12th with bushes left and right of fairway. I assume many people would say the 12th is more difficult than the 11th, but the people who say this are likely to be the habitual slicers.
S.I. 13 As our stroke allowance increases so it becomes easier to allocate the index figure. When we consider the 3rd and the 9th there is not much choice as the 3rd is far harder than the 9th. At the 3rd you could have a blind second shot which could be as much as a 4-iron even for the good golfer, whereas the 9th would be only a wedge to an open green.
S.I. 14 Back to the second nine holes, and it appears the choice is already made for us. The 17th is our choice. How nice it will be to have a stroke at the 17th if the match is all square!
S.I. 15 It cannot be the 5th, so we see it as ready made for the 9th – the slicer’s dream hole!
S.I. 16 We now have three short holes to allocate, the 14th being perhaps the easiest hole on the course. The 10th is slightly downhill, with the wind following. You can’t compare the 5th for difficulty. It calls for an accurate stroke to stay on the putting surface, with invariably a cross breeze. So S.I.16 is settled at the 5th.
S.I. 17 & 18 The 10th is a little more difficult than the 14th, so it is allocated S.I. 17, with 18 allocated to the easiest hole.”
“In my mind I have worked out this allocation of strokes from where the scratch man would prefer to give a stroke and where the higher handicap man would wish to receive a stroke. It is not easy to obtain the right balance, but I have confidence in my own judgment that I have obtained the right balance where I myself would be quite happy to give strokes and still be able to stay on level terms with an opponent.” - Harold Gould
by Tony Williams
Harold Gould had become club professional in 1950. Everyone in the club - indeed, almost everyone across South Wales has a story about Harold.
Harold wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His father was a gardener/caretaker at the Rest, the home for injured miners at Porthcawl. When young Harold began caddying (at eight years of age) at nearby Royal Porthcawl the money went straight into the family kitty.
The job meant long hours of hard work in all weathers, with much missed schooling, but at least he had the privilege of watching some of the world’s greatest players tackling the famous links. Afterwards Harold would go down to the nearby beach and hit balls off the sand with wooden shafted clubs that members had discarded. Sometimes he would be Percy Alliss, sometimes Cyril Tolley, sometimes Walter Hagan.
Caddies at Porthcawl were allowed one competition a year. In 1934 Harold, now a first class caddie, earning two shillings and sixpence a round, won it for the third time with a new course record of 69! For three more years he continued as a caddie and then, in 1937, he was appointed playing assistant at Radyr Golf Club.
In the South Wales Pro-Am Alliance matches Harold’s golf blossomed, the young player setting course records at Whitchurch and Cardiff Golf Clubs. In 1939 war intervened and Harold Gould forgot about golf for the next six years.
After the war it was back to Porthcawl, this time as a course labourer. A little later the club needed a new assistant professional and Harold was on hand to take the post. When the Welsh Professional Championship was held at Porthcawl in 1946 he won by five shots - at long last he held a title, even if the prize money for the event was only £50.
“I first met Harold Gould when I was a late teenager playing for the Bournemouth & District Alliance against South Wales Alliance. Harold was a quiet man with a gentle sense of humour which, once you were tuned into, was able to produce many a good chuckle. I remember his swing, which was long and loose limbed, but it was his putting stroke that intrigued me most. Using a hickory shafted, rusty headed putter, he could knock them in from anywhere; the style looked so simple, almost casual. The only other person who used a similar putter was the great South African, Bobby Locke, arguably the best putter I ever saw. Harold was one of the old school of professionals, no whiz kid he, but caringly looking after the needs of members during the period when the world of golf was very austere. A loyal servant, a true friend, a good companion."
- Peter Alliss.
Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea