Handicap Hub: In Their Words – The Handicap Chair | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: In Their Words – The Handicap Chair

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Dir. of Handicapping & Course Rating
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Normally this time of year when it’s officially sweater weather and the days are sadly getting shorter, we address a slew of questions surrounding seasonal subjects like Preferred Lies, accumulation of leaves on the course, and why your lucky friend who has escaped to sunny Arizona must post scores over the winter period (please revisit last year’s Handicap Hub: Chill Out Old Man Winter).  

But since the World Handicap System is nearing its 2nd birthday (any urge to make Terrible Two references will be suppressed) it’s high time we highlight that unsung hero of handicapping – your club’s Handicap Chairman. Or Chairperson, or if you’re into the whole brevity thing, simply HC. Or perhaps there exist other creative names some answer to. I’m hoping the commanding yet dignified “Potentate of Posting” will catch on.

History lesson side note: Centuries ago, in The Old Country Where Golf Was Born, handicapping and betting became natural accomplices. Back then, the club Handicap Chair was called “The Adjustor of the Odds.” This title is so good it belongs on a tee shirt.

Recently our hardworking Handicap Chairs were canvassed for commentary regarding their positions, the WHS and GHIN, and the challenges inherent in handicapping. They were prevailed upon for candor and promised bonus points for cracking wise; thus, with much esteem and respect, no names or clubs will be revealed.


What’s the best thing about being on your Handicap Committee?

“I thought I knew more than it turned out I knew – and some of what I thought I knew was not correct. Working on the Committee forces you to really understand how this all works.”

“Learning the intricacies of the WHS which I’m sure I never would have otherwise.”

“I enjoy reading your newsletters, but I can’t really say I enjoy my position.”

“The best thing about being the Handicap Chair has been seeing our members, and therefore our club, becoming more aware. Since our Handicap Committee began educating and holding accountable our members, the number of rounds posted have doubled!”

“Do you remember the school geek who suddenly became everyone’s best friend when final exams came around? Although no one has shared their lunch box with me yet, I seem to have more friends this year, and the occasional free beer has been more than welcomed.”

“I believe in Rules and like to understand their importance before I try to engage others to accept them.”

“The most satisfying thing is the delightful expressions I see on the faces of those who finally 'get it.' It is so wonderful to see these new golfers pull out their phones after golf and post their scores!”

“I’m a numbers guy (hooray for icky math!) so I like knowing how handicapping works and being able to explain that to the club. We have a number of casual golfers so helping them learn is a lot of fun.”

“The best thing about being on our Handicap Committee is it gives me a reason for day-drinking Arnold Palmers and vodka. Call me a masochist because being on the Committee can be very painful at times but I still get pleasure being a part of something so essential to the greatest game ever played. In a very small way, I feel like I’m giving something back to the game.”  


What’s the most difficult part about being on your Handicap Committee?

“Dealing with people who think they know the handicapping rules and really don't. They won't believe me till I show them in black and white.”

“Most difficult – getting everybody on the same page by way of compromise.”

“Enforcing posting of scores. With the amount of membership, it is difficult to audit players without some community policing / help from members.”

“The most difficult part about being on the Committee is putting up with the practical joking non-posters who unfasten the cart bag strap on my cart.”

“Being the final decision on questionable circumstances.”

“Figuring out how to share this complex information with players who either aren’t interested or find these things confusing. The best way I found was to create a Rules & Handicap 'Bowl' where teams had to answer questions about it (timed and out loud) and the team with the most correct answers won a prize.”

“Confronting golfers who ‘forget’ to post their scores. At our club this is almost always golfers who hope to maintain a 'vanity' handicap.”

“The most difficult part of being on the Committee is dealing with those individuals who don’t want to accept the rules. They want to pick and choose which scores to post to manipulate their handicap. There is a group who have “vanity” handicaps and another group of 'sandbaggers.' Both hurt the field in one way or another. The new system has made it more difficult for these individuals to figure out what it takes to move the needle. It would be nice if those individuals would take that same energy and enjoy the opportunity to play.”

“Dear Club Members: I don’t work for the OGA, USGA, R&A, PGA or WHS; and Old Tom Morris isn’t a long lost relative. So, when you are upset about your Hard Cap, ESR, or your event’s 85% handicap adjustment, let’s talk, but don’t shoot the messenger. And please, don’t blow up my email with issues involving slow greens, bunker rake placement, soggy fairways, or slow play; that’s the other guy.”


What do you think about the WHS changes and the new GHIN platform?

“I think the changes are good and more equitable. The old system of taking a maximum of 8 on both a par 5 and a par 3 was ridiculous.”

“They are now the RULES of handicapping. That makes it a big deal.”

“The WHS has been an improvement, although lots of golfers are still transitioning from ESC. The new GHIN platform has been very easy to use, and as a golfer I love the hole-by-hole with stats, even though my stats could be better!”

“I think the changes of the WHS are great because now there is only one worldwide handicapping system. I appreciate the simplicity of posting scores through the GHIN app and that our handicaps are updated daily.”

“I’m not sure we need to be so precise. We’re killing a gnat with a sledgehammer.”

“I have really found the new rules have simplified the job of the chairman.”

“The question I get from members more than any other is – How can my handicap drop overnight like Isaac Newton’s apple, and yet it takes my handicap longer to go up a tenth of a point than it takes a cicada to surface from its 17-year hibernation?”  

“I agree with the new scoring adjustments of Net Double Bogey replacing ESC – it makes for a fairer game to be played for all, and hopefully enjoyed by all. I question the reasoning for a PCC. Does it really help / matter?”

“I believe the new system is better at representing the actual handicap of the player.”

“So far, I think the new system is an improvement. I especially like the hole-by-hole posting and the more accurate way to score a blow-up hole.”

“I feel like the daily updates make it harder for players to manipulate their Indexes.”

“The new GHIN app is very convenient. Because I golf with many seniors whose memories are so bad that they could plan their own surprise party, I feel obligated as a Handicap Chair to have all their Indexes loaded on my phone. And if any guests from out of town join us, I verify their Indexes, too.”


What part of the WHS do you feel needs improvement?

“Simplify the system as much as possible. A reasonably accurate handicap should suffice.”

“Not sure if the Low Handicap Index should cover an entire year. Obviously, that can be modified for an illness / injury as a player is recovering, but quite a bit can happen to a person’s game over a year that doesn’t involve an illness / injury. I have witnessed several players who will start playing poorly and they don’t get back to their old form. Having the Low Index sitting there for a year can cause some issues, especially when they feel as if they can’t compete anymore.”

“The PCC is a good idea, but the plus / minus seems opposite of what it should be and is difficult to explain.”

“I find it a bother to have to check every day for new handicaps. Bi-monthly was sufficient in the past.”

“Personally, I think the Capping part of the system needs work. I feel that the Hard Caps are punitive. Trying to understand Capping has been our biggest challenge.”

“The system has not been up and running for enough time to consider changes. But if anything might need adjusting, it could be the Exceptional Score procedure. One exceptional score should not influence a handicap for weeks after that good round.”

“After being Hard Capped myself, it took a long time for the system to adjust when my time in jail ended.”

“I have no complaints about the WHS and can roll with it the way it is.”


What is the most difficult or oddest handicapping scenario you’ve encountered at your club?

“The most difficult situation for me has been addressing issues with players head on, while remaining calm and non-confrontational. Example: Educating those who have come from clubs who allowed playing procedures outside the Rules. When they come to a compliant club who notices and corrects playing and / or posting procedures, they get grumpy!”  

“Stroke Index Allocations! The never-ending conversation about why this hole is rated 'harder' than that hole when 'I think' that hole is way harder. I admit to having a little joy in my heart when the explanation starts with, 'It has nothing to do with you.'”

“Had a member who played multiple times a week and was only posting scores that would keep his handicap where he thought it should be. Several people had complained, I personally talked to him numerous times about posting, and he still wasn’t posting all of them. So, I posted a penalty score for him and sent him a letter detailing complaints, what I had witnessed, and a spreadsheet which showed all the days he had played over the last several months and another showing when he had posted. I explained in the letter that belonging to our club and having a Handicap Index was a privilege, not a right, and that if he continued this way he could be removed from our club. A week later he handed me a letter (which he stated was from his attorney) informing me of his intention to sue for ruining his reputation and threatening to remove him from the club. I read the letter, then laughed, which caused him to start threatening me physically. I then explained that if he really wanted to have a handicap and continue to be in our club, maybe assaulting me wouldn’t be the best move. After that, he started posting all his scores, but never said another word to me even when we were paired on the same team.”

“I had to deal with an individual who was very 'brash' and really made it hard for me to be respectful and not want to abuse my power. I had to send him several letters for not posting and each time he just complained to the Pro Shop. The Head Pro said he was just not going to let him compete in events anymore. As it happened, he had been posting but had two GHIN numbers and was using the one from Arizona; I had OGA merge the records. Even though this member was extremely hard to deal with, I am glad I went the extra mile because now he is one of my biggest supporters!”

“Early in 2020 I had a chat with an older golfing member about the fact that he clearly does not post very many of his scores – he was a notorious sandbagger. He was openly resisting change and felt indifferent about the new WHS. However, the next day he couldn’t get to me fast enough to turn his phone around and show me that he had downloaded the GHIN app. Since then, he has been consistently posting his scores. Although it can be frustrating to get people to adhere to the Rules of Handicapping, we definitely have way more 'wins!'”


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

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