Handicap Hub: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
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When talking with golfers about handicapping, what comes up over and over is an ill-advised way of thinking about score posting. Unfortunately the default setting seems to be why a score shouldn’t be posted. No, I’m not making a blanket indictment that everyone is looking for excuses to falsify their record. Reflexing to the negative (and overthinking) is sometimes simply human nature. But, since the season just began and the sun is shining, this is a good time to talk about resetting the default to ‘just post your score.’ (pretty much All. The. Time.)
If I listed a description of admissible scores for handicap purposes, it would take so long to read you wouldn’t have time to actually play golf. So in the interest of practicality and space, I’m going to ask you to commit to memory the very short list of very specific Unacceptable Scores (USGA Handicap System Manual, Section 5-1e).
- When fewer than seven holes are played
- When made on a golf course in an area in which an inactive season established by the authorized golf association is in effect
- When, as a condition of the competition, the maximum number of clubs allowed is less than 14, or types of clubs are limited, as for example, an irons-only event
- When scores are made on a course with no USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating (no tees have been officially rated on that course)
- When a player uses non-conforming clubs, non-conforming balls, or non-conforming tees; or when a player incurs a second breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment)
- When a player plays alone (don’t hate me)
- When a player ignores one or more Rules of Golf and fails to post an adjusted hole score as required under Section 4-1 and 4-2 (adjusting for unfinished holes and / or holes not played), or fails to record the appropriate penalty for a breach of a rule
Omitted from this list, but unacceptable to a handicap record nonetheless, is when playing in a Scramble format, as no individually identifiable score is produced at the end of the round. And, to add clarity to number 1 above, if you complete 7-12 holes, you must post a nine-hole score. If you complete 13-18 holes, you must post an 18-hole score. Yes, even if you don’t finish a hole or an entire round, you’ve got to post it. It’s called adjust, adjust, adjust.
Over time, the USGA Handicap System has allowed a few exceptions that promote the inclusion of some scores that are not played perfectly under the Rules of Golf. Though this might seem contrary to common thinking, these exceptions represent an effort to make it easier to obtain scoring data needed to produce an accurate Handicap Index.
Knowing this, now let’s get into rounds you might think you wouldn’t post, but MUST.
Match Play & Best Ball
Plenty of golfers are under the impression that you do not post Match Play or Best Ball scores. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Handicap System has clever provisions built in for adjusting scores when you start but don’t finish a hole. Let’s say you lost the match on hole 15 and did not putt out – you must post your Most Likely Score for that hole. This is the number of strokes you’ve already taken, plus the number of strokes it would take you to finish the hole. Assuming you’re heading in for a beer and not finishing your round – what about holes 16, 17 and 18? Nope – you don’t toss the round out. Just post par plus any handicap strokes you were allowed on those holes.
Preferred Lies (Winter Rules)
I’ve covered this subject ad nauseum in a previous Handicap Hub article – Preferred Lies & Posting Scores – Or, There’s No Free Lunch, but it’s pertinent to bring up again here. Even though the use of preferred lies is not endorsed nor interpreted under the Rules of Golf, a club Committee can decide to adopt a Local Rule for Preferred Lies. But whether the Committee adopts a Local Rule or not, if a player uses any form of preferred lies, the score still must be posted for handicap purposes.
Another fun example is the good ole Mulligan. Mulligans are a relatively frequent occurrence on the golf course, but they are not recognized under the Rules of Golf. The USGA Handicap System doesn’t want to eliminate a round if a mulligan was played on a hole or two (remember – a lot of scoring data is needed!). For handicap purposes, the hole score made with the mulligan is tossed out and replaced with par plus any handicap strokes the player should receive.
A player with a Course Handicap of eighteen receives a stroke on every hole, so that particular player’s hole score would be par plus the one stroke, or a bogey.
Now it’s understandable that you might not want to post a score that fell under some other category, such as: you were playing with your boss and became a Shankopotamus, or you suddenly decided your round was so ugly it became “practice”. But those are just excuses that aren’t covered by the Handicap System. So reset your defaults and post ‘em all – the good, the bad AND the ugly.