How to Play the Bisque Format/Game

The Bisque format is a golf game or competition format in which handicap strokes are used, but with a twist. In the Bisque game, golfers do not apply their handicap strokes in the normal manner (using them according to the ranking of handicap holes listed on the scorecard). Rather, they can use their handicap strokes on any holes they wish — so long as they announce it before teeing off on a given hole.

So, for example, if a golfer reaches the fifth hole and wishes to apply a handicap stroke there, that golfer has to announce before teeing off that he'll be taking a stroke on that hole.

Before we continue with the Bisque game, let's note that the word "bisque" is used in a couple other golf games (or elements of golf games), too, and those games are different from the one we are describing here. A "bisque stroke" is a single, extra handicap stroke given by one golfer to another as an enticement into a match or bet. (The bisque stroke is in addition to the receiving golfer's full allotment of handicap strokes — read more here). There is also a format called "Bisque Par" in which golfers play match play vs. par and can use their handicap strokes on any hole, even deciding to do so after completion of a hole.

Details: Playing the Bisque Format

Let's say Golfer A has a course handicap of 5 and Golfer B has a course handicap of 8. Normally, playing a match under the Rules of Golf, Golfer A would play off zero and Golfer B would play off 3 (8 minus 5 = 0). But in the Bisque format, both golfers play off their calculated course handicaps, so in our example they stick with 5 and 8. So Golfer A has 5 strokes to use during the round, Golfer B has 8 strokes.

Normally, those strokes would be used on the holes designated 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, for Golfer A, on the scorecard's handicap line. And Golfer B would apply his strokes on the holes designated 1 through 8 on the handicap line.

But in the Bisque format, Golfers A and B both get to decide for themselves on which holes to apply those handicap strokes. They just have to make that decision before teeing off on a hole.

If Golfer B reaches the No. 3 tee and realizes, "this hole is one where I often struggle," he can announce to his opponent that he is taking one of his strokes on that hole. No. 3 might be the 18th-rated handicap hole, but that's OK: In Bisque, it's up to the golfer where to allocate his strokes. When Golfer B completes the third hole, he reduces his score by one stroke, using one of the 8 handicap strokes he has to use.

One proviso that usually applies in Bisque is this: You cannot use more than two strokes on any single hole. Another proviso that always applies in Bisque: Once you've used all your strokes, that's it. If you're a 5-handicap and you've used all five strokes by the eighth hole, you're done using strokes for the round.

And remember: You must announce your intention to use one (or even two) of your available strokes before teeing off on a hole.

More golf formats:

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