Handicap Hub: "Just a Quick Question ..." | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: "Just a Quick Question ..."

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Dir., Handicapping & Course Rating
Click Here for Handicap Hub Archives

I’m not sure how many times a week I get a handicapping inquiry prefaced like the title of this article, but I do know that I don’t have time to count them because I’m too busy answering them. Sometimes, not to be snarky but rather to be honest, I just have to respond with: “You may have a quick question, but I may not have a quick answer.”

And so it goes with handicapping. A question you thought was simple on the face of it might not be, and leads us to a right turn, then a left turn through the maze and down the rabbit hole to get to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion.

And this could be calling out the elephant in the room, but I like elephants so here goes: there’s a chance the answer to your inquiry might 1) not be at all what you expected and / or 2) induce irritation, which will surely increase the amount of time it will take to conclude our exchange, putting us both on the proverbial clock.

True story: I once had a spirited debate with a crabby curmudgeon via email that lasted approximately three months. Not hours – MONTHS. Nobody has time for that.

Since there’s nothing I like more than handicapping head-scratchers (trips to the dentist are in close competition), I extend a Thank You to all of you Curious Georges posing these really good Quick Questions to me since the World Handicap System launched. Keep ‘em coming.


Q:  I’ve posted several scores in 2020, yet my Handicap Index hasn’t changed. With daily revisions, I assumed it would have changed by now. What’s up?

A:  Because your Handicap Index is based on averaging the best eight out of 20 current score differentials, you have to constantly review ALL of them to see which ones are the lowest (see next question for more nitty gritty details).

As golfers, we tend to be a bit myopic in only thinking of the round we just posted and its potential impact to our handicap; it’s human nature to make assumptions (or it could be just wishful thinking). But what about older scores; ones you’ve forgotten about? Every time you post a score, your oldest one cycles out and the differentials chosen can shift – or not! If your Handicap Index remains unchanged after posting, it is most likely because the same eight scores are still being used in your Index calculation. Or – your game is really consistent over a span of time.


Q:  I thought my lowest scores were chosen to calculate my handicap. What’s a differential?

A:  Understanding what a differential is holds the golden key to knowing why your handicap is good, bad or ugly (other than crediting or blaming your swing). A score of 80 on a difficult course may be a better performance than a 77 on an easier one, and it is the score differential that allows this to be captured.

Geek alert! Formula for a Differential – (113 / Slope Rating) X (Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating – PCC)

A score differential measures the performance of a round in relation to the relative difficulty of the tee played, by putting it against the tee’s Course & Slope Rating. Factored in can also be a Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) which may provide an adjustment if course and / or weather conditions significantly impacted scores on that day. The differentials are displayed next to your scores. Please become familiar with them as once you do, they will help put things in perspective.


Q:  I’m posting my scores hole-by-hole, but I notice that the handicap holes and some of the pars are different in GHIN than what is on my course’s scorecard. Why?

A:  While scorecards are effective and pretty pieces of advertising, they may not contain the most updated Course & Slope Rating, Par and SIA (Stroke Index Allocation, or the “ranking” of handicap holes), all vital information needed for handicap purposes. Scorecards are very expensive and facilities need to use up their supply before ordering thousands of new ones. Golfers carrying handicaps should always look to the GHIN system for accuracy when posting scores.

Since the launch of the WHS, which introduced a new optional method of deriving SIA, you may discover a change in where the handicap holes now land for your course. You also may discover that your nemesis, a long hole that you thought was a Par 5, is actually a Par 4. This is because the Course Rating system is what determines Par, based on yardage and the way the hole was designed to be played. Since Par wasn’t a factor in the previous Handicap System, the values weren’t visible. Now that Par has a heightened importance in the WHS, it’s crucial that Par is correctly populated in GHIN.

Note – Par has an effect on 3 things in the WHS: 1) Your Course Handicap, 2) your Net Double Bogey maximum and 3) Net Par adjustments for when you don’t play a hole in your round.


Q:  We recently played our home course in terrible weather. Yet, none of us had a Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) applied to our scores. Was this a mistake?

A:  Nope. In crunching the numbers from all scores coming into the system since the launch of the WHS, we know that PCC adjustments happen only about 5% of the time. This is what the USGA expected going in, so it is nothing out of whack. Most of the time, despite the rain pelting you from all sides while declaring your umbrella a new hazard, the PCC adjustment will be zero.

Remember that we need the planets to align for a PCC to happen: at least 8 scores that are significantly lower or higher from players with Handicap Indexes of 36.0 or less, all posted on the same day.

Note – Don’t ask me a Quick Question on what “significantly lower or higher” means in the above sentence. The algorithms are safely locked away in Fort Knox.


Q:  Sometimes course tees are moved forward of where they should be. This could produce an artificially lower Handicap Index. What should be done about this?

A:  In looking at the big picture, the 18-hole golf course should not be shortened (or lengthened) by more than 100 yards from its measured length. This ensures accurate application of the Course & Slope Rating in the calculation of players’ score differentials (see Differential question above), which ultimately impacts the player’s Handicap Index. The Handicap Committee and / or the Golf Pro at the club must notify the OGA when tees are moved beyond that length so that a decision can be made as to whether the Course & Slope Rating should be modified temporarily.

Ultimately, the sets of tees on a golf course should retain their effective playing length on a day-to-day basis. For example, tees might need to be moved up on a course that has had days of rain, as the effective playing length will likely be longer when a course is wet; meaning, players get less roll than usual.


Q:  When a man is competing against a woman from tees with different pars, how do they compensate for this in the handicap system?

A:  Gender doesn’t matter in this situation. My answer would be the same if two women or two men were playing against each other from tees with different pars.

When golfers are competing against each other from tees with different pars, the golfer playing from the higher par must receive the difference in pars, added to their Course Handicap. For example, if player A is playing tees with a par 72, while Player B is playing tees with a par 71, Player A would add 1 stroke to their Course Handicap.

Note – I think this was the only Quick Question that has a Quick Answer.


Q:  I played in an event where we weren’t given 100% of our handicaps. We weren’t sure that was fair.

A:  The application of what is termed “handicap allowances” is nothing if not fair. A “handicap allowance” is the percentage of a Course Handicap recommended to create equity based on the format of play. The practice of applying less than 100% of Course Handicaps (90% for Four-Ball Match Play, for example) is commonplace and the right thing for a Committee in charge of a competition to do. It’s the old “protect the field” adage in action.

Since higher-handicap players typically have more variance in their scores and an increased potential to shoot lower net scores, when full Course Handicaps are used in certain formats, players with lower Course Handicaps are generally at a disadvantage. By taking a percentage, the higher handicap players are impacted more, which brings the expected scores for all players or teams to a more consistent level.

Note – Click here to check out the USGA’s paper Handicap Allowances Under the World Handicap System 


Q:  I’m 78 years old and am struggling a bit even on more forward tees. How does the WHS compensate for age?

A:  It doesn’t. But it doesn’t need to. The WHS, just like the previous USGA Handicap System, never contemplates the player’s age whether 9 or 90 – it only measures skill and provides balance and equity when using handicaps (it goes without saying – but I’m going to say it anyway – that this only works when the handicaps are accurate). The WHS and the Course Rating System allow for a golfer’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and tee to tee. In other words, if a better golfer were to play from a more forward set of tees, the player would not have an inherent advantage in a competition or see an adverse impact to their Handicap Index after posting scores from that set.

The WHS enables players to play from different tees and still have a fair game or competition, which is why the USGA does not recommend any particular set of tees based on factors such as age, gender, or driving distance.

The moral of this story: Keep playing, keep posting, don’t worry about your handicap and above all, have fun! Let the WHS do all the messy work.

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

Published / Last Updated On: