Handicap Hub: Peer Review – It Takes a Village | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: Peer Review – It Takes a Village

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director of Handicapping

You’ve no doubt heard the term Peer Review before and might think it’s either ‘Big Brother is Watching’ you (they aren’t) or that you must have your golf round attested (you don’t). Or, you might think Peer Review doesn’t exist at all (it does). Let’s examine what it really means and how it affects our golf games.

First, a few basics:

  • Each player is expected to make the best score they can at each and every hole they play regardless of where the round is played.
  • Each player is expected to post every acceptable round for peer review.
  • Members of a club must have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play together.
  • Access must be provided to scoring records for inspection by others.

The Myth
Most golfers would imagine that peer review simply means their club’s Handicap Committee is examining scoring records behind the scenes. Of course this is a crucial component of compliance with the Handicap System and one of the many jobs the Committee is tasked with, but peer review really involves each and every golfer. Are you doing your part?

What is Peer Review?
Peer Review is defined in the USGA Handicap System as “the ability of golfers to gain an understanding of a player’s potential ability and form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a score that has been posted.” This means that each player has both a stake in the game and a responsibility toward it. We’re all very busy concentrating on our own round, but what about your partner’s round? Can you support their scores? If a fellow member is not posting or not posting accurate scores, it is your obligation to alert the Handicap Committee.

No Expectation of Privacy
Remember that in handicapping, we have to encourage complete transparency. Scoring records must be exposed, and expectations must be raised. In creating an amiable environment at the club, we can urge each other in a companionable way to do the right thing and post all scores. And, we can be comfortable approaching the Committee with concerns.

A Real-Life Example
Gretchen and I are fellow club members who have decided to leave the office early and enjoy a casual round at the OGA Golf Course. At the completion of 18 holes, Gretchen pulls out her phone and records her score on her convenient OGA-GHIN Mobile App. I, on the other hand, go into the lounge to check on the Beaver baseball game, and don’t post my score. When Gretchen calls out my blatant disregard of the Handicap System I respond, “It was a terrible round! I’m not going to post it.”

The Consequence
If nothing further is done, Gretchen and I have failed in our responsibilities. I have failed by not posting an acceptable score and Gretchen has failed for not contacting the Handicap Committee and notifying them of my failure to post. You might think that it’s really not worth making a big fuss over, but it matters. What if I keep making excuses each time we play together? What if I’m out on the course every week but only post a small percentage of my rounds and no one is performing audits? Bad habits chip away (sorry!) at a scoring record and in short order I have an incorrect Handicap Index that I continue to use and my club fails to correct.

The Phone Calls
Yesterday I received two calls about a player who just participated in a Club Championship and ran away with the prize. Seems that this player had been playing every week at the club yet had only posted two scores all season, producing a Handicap Index that didn’t come close to matching his performance. The first call was from a club employee who was taking all the heat for a situation that wasn’t his fault (employees cannot hold the position of Handicap Chair). The second call was from a fellow club member who was complaining to the wrong person (me!). Unfortunately, the outrage occurred too late, which happens all too often in handicapping. The system takes all of us acting proactively and consistently to actually work.

A Handicap Index is both a letter of introduction and an agreement to uphold. In essence, the golfer’s club is vouching for each of its members playing ability. Golfers are further basing this good faith acceptance on the reasonable assumption that the fellow player has posted all of his acceptable scores.

We aren’t advocating turning golf clubs into mini police-states, or otherwise taking the fun out of the game, but this is golf – it isn’t basketball. We don’t have referees while we play! We must become our own referees.

Oregon Chapter PGA
Oregon Golf Course Superintendent's Association
First Tee of Greater Portland