In theory, the extra strokes in a handicap game give the weaker side an equal chance to win the game. But the theory only works if those extra strokes are used effectively. As a rule you should only use an extra stroke when that one stroke gives you an excellent chance of winning the point. Using an extra stroke for defense is usually a poor value.
You want to make your winning points as short as possible. Your extra strokes turn you into a better player, but only temporarily. The shorter you can keep a point, the greater the impact of that temporary boost in ability you get from using an extra stroke.
A simple but very effective play is when you are playing the first ball to a hoop. If you don’t get good position with your first shot, use an extra stroke to do so. The opponent now has to hit a long shot to clear you. Naturally this is most effective when both opponent balls are a long way from the hoop.
A good time to use this play is at the start of the game if you win the toss. While the opponent will have two shots at your ball, both of them will be long shots. Also, many players aren’t shooting their best at the start of a game. In short, this can be a good way to get off to a good start, and to put your opponent on notice that you know how to use your extra strokes.
This play works even better when you can hide from one or both opponent balls. If the opponent has just scored a hoop, but only by a little, the hoop might interfere with that ball’s next shot. If the hoop just scored is an odd-numbered hoop, this will nearly always be the case — it’s very difficult to shoot accurately when you have to swing through a hoop. At even-numbered hoops this is less often an issue, but if the ball has only barely scored the hoop so that some of the ball is still in the jaws, you should be able to take position hidden from that ball. Of course, if you get good position without using an extra stroke, so much the better.
Another way to hide is to use your partner ball. This can be a way of making this play work even when an opponent ball isn’t so far from the hoop. In the diagram, the opponent has just scored hoop 4 with red, and you have just over-hit your shot with black. Because hoop 5 is so close to hoop 4, this isn’t usually a good time to use an extra stroke to improve your position. But yellow is a fair distance away, and your partner ball is close to the blocking line. If you use the extra stroke to get position and yellow misses, you will have a good chance to block red’s shot. So the extra stroke is a good value.
Last modified on 4 March 2017