Handicap Hub: The Adjustor of the Odds
By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
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You’ve got to love the Scots. They came up with more than a few brilliant inventions that brought about incredible societal change – the steam engine, the telephone, the television, and penicillin. (Full disclosure – I am of Scottish descent).
They also invented golf – that cerebral and artful game that revolutionized recreation. But did you know the Scots also invented handicapping? While some of you might be pondering whether to thank them or not, it really was another bit of brilliance on their part (I know, I’ve now used that word more than once), to envision allowing players of any skill level to compete equitably against one another.
We’ve got to turn to horse racing – a sport slightly older than golf – to find the term ‘handicapping’. Apparently the jockey was handed his odds for the race in a cap (‘hand-in-cap’). But what’s really significant is that in the early years of handicapping in golf, a brave and steadfast soul was needed to award strokes – known as “assigning the odds.” This was done by a gutsy individual we currently refer to as the Handicap Chairman – then called “the Adjustor of the Odds.”
Still significant today, yet underappreciated and oftentimes overworked, the Handicap Chair is the unsung hero at the club, as some members are unaware who even holds the position. While early on the Adjustor of the Odds would be involved in heated negotiations on the first tee over who gets strokes, the modern Handicap Chair looks to USGA’s GHIN (Golf Handicap Information Network) to calculate Handicap Indexes. But while the number-crunching and data collection has been automated and it’s relatively easy to edit scores and pull reports, the real challenge lies in understanding and implementing the rules of the USGA Handicap System.
Does the Handicap Chair need to be a scholar on the Handicap System? No – more importantly is a desire to give time and energy to the club; to be organized, fair-minded, diplomatic yet influential (it might go without saying that someone seeking to win a Popularity Contest might not be the best candidate for this position).
There is an entire section of the USGA Handicap System Manual devoted to spelling out Handicap Committee responsibilities, generously sprinkled with the word “must”. These tasks run the gamut between the mundane (displaying Course Ratings) to the onerous (posting penalty scores and adjusting Handicap Indexes). The HC is required to be an effective yet complex combination of watchdog and educator, and cannot be an employee of the club. As you can see, there is more to the position of Handicap Chair than meets the eye and it is sometimes difficult for clubs to find members willing to step up to the challenge.
Perhaps besides needing more time to perform score audits, what the HC really needs is solid support from the club. This is sometimes in short-supply, as it’s all too easy to ‘shoot the messenger’. But as the Scots knew in the early days of handicapping, the Adjustor of the Odds is an essential element of the game. It’s mandatory to have that fair and firm mediator to help equalize the playing field and assist members in navigating the intricacies of the Handicap System.
So please make it a point this season to thank your Handicap Chair for taking on the toughest job at the club – buy them a frosty adult beverage, or offer to help with administrative tasks. After all, the Adjustor of the Odds is a member too, just out to enjoy their golf game.