Handicap Hub: That's a Good Question! | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: That's a Good Question!

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
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Handicapping and Tournaments
Here at the OGA, we earnestly embrace the concept that there is no such thing as a stupid question. But those who preface their query with “I have a quick question” will likely get a response from me of “I might not have a quick answer.” Given the quirks and complexities of the USGA Handicap System, one inquiry often leads to another. And another. (And on top of that might involve other slightly messy things like the Course Rating System and / or the Rules of Golf. Just a warning.)

Q1:  There seems to be quite a bit of confusion in our men’s club regarding tournaments and posting scores for these events. Every Wednesday we have a game made up by the Tournament Committee and a lot of these are not postable (scrambles, etc.), but some are better ball and individual play. Some members want all of these posted as tournament scores. Are there any guidelines?

A1:  As a matter of fact, there exists a great set of guidelines within the USGA Handicap System covering the subject of tournament scores. Certainly, not all club competitions qualify to be posted as tournament scores, which is exactly the category the events you are describing fall into. The USGA is crystal clear that routine events such as daily, weekly or monthly play days should NOT be tagged as T-Scores. Your Committee would need to be very choosy and carefully consider which rounds are denoted, as if you over-designate them, the Handicap System will fail to properly identify players who shoot below their Indexes. This is the opposite of what most assume.

Examples of scores made at the club level that should be designated as T-Scores include Club Championships, member-guest and invitational competitions; those events that club members are gearing up for. Hit and giggles need not apply.


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Q2:  We have a player in our club that should have his handicap reduced. He’s performed way below his Index several times in tournaments, yet the system is not adjusting his handicap. Why?

A2:  Without having specific data such as the player’s handicap and their T-Scores, my answer will just boil down to basics. There are two factors that will cause a player’s Handicap Index to be reduced automatically by the Handicap System: 1) How much better are the player’s two best T-Scores compared to his Handicap Index? The threshold is three strokes, by the way. And, 2) How many T-Scores has he posted in the last 12 months? The more T-Scores the player has logged, the LESS likely his handicap will be adjusted. Hence the importance of designating only those rounds of significance to the club as T-Scores (please circle back to Question #1). You don’t want to flood the player’s record willy-nilly with T-Scores and dilute the System. It’s likely the player in question has enough T-Scores for a “hall pass.”

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Q3:  When there is more than one round in a tournament and the second round is played after a handicap revision, should the handicap change for the contestants in the second round?

A3:  The recommendation is yes – it’s preferable that each player use the Handicap Index in effect at the time each round is played; if a competition spans a handicap revision date, the revised Handicap Index should be used in rounds following that date. However, is it feasible and practical to update Handicap Indexes? It might be in some cases; others it might not be. Bottom line, the Committee can conduct their event any way they see fit. Full authority, carte blanche. They’ve just got to make determinations and publish them in advance.


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Q4:  Should we allow players into our tournament without handicaps? Can a player just submit their last round of golf and we go from there?

A4:  My best answer is to insist that they become OGA members and establish real Handicap Indexes prior to the event. It’s a very easy thing to do (online memberships are quick and painless to sign up for, and you just need five 18 hole rounds to calculate a Handicap Index). There really is no substitute for a solid scoring history, which is the basis of the Handicap System.

However, at times you’re going to be faced with a novice or occasional player who doesn’t have – and doesn’t want – a Handicap Index. You can always assign them what we like to call “a PAS” (Play At Scratch – aren’t we mean?). Some organizers will try to be accommodating, and create a handicap from one score. This is a bumpy road full of potholes that can swallow a small Committee. Information gained from a single round of golf is not sufficient to evaluate any player. Take the player with no score history who shoots 90. Is there any way to determine whether that score was a poor round of a good player or a good round of a weak player?

Questions? Contact Kelly in the OGA Handicapping & Course Rating Department at (503) 981-4653 x226 or Click Here to Email Your Question

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