Handicap Hub: Real Handicap Indexes vs. Other Creative Calculations | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: Real Handicap Indexes vs. Other Creative Calculations

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
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While never really surprised at most folks’ reluctance to embrace math when discussing handicapping (or really any time, for that matter), I’m always a bit surprised why anyone would want to deviate from USGA Handicap Indexes and manufacture other types of handicaps for league play or tournaments.

Usually this will come up in phone conversations when I’m asked for recommendations about handicaps for various formats, or otherwise engaged in philosophical discussions regarding sandbagging (it’s what I live for). Perhaps a Committee is wary of merely accepting handicaps as presented, and they wish to explore other options to add another layer of security in leveling the playing field.

Side Note: To be truthful, a club can choose to run their events any way they like – following the USGA Handicap System or not; following the Rules of Golf or not. I won’t debate their right to do this (well, it depends on the day). However, I will always throw my enthusiastic support behind using a real USGA Handicap Index.

It’s a beautiful thing when the USGA Handicap System is utilized uniformly, because it produces amazingly accurate numbers, rendering the need for “side handicaps” completely moot. Yet time and time again, I hear of clubs disregarding Handicap Indexes for certain forms of play, and coming up with:

  • Handicaps based on the player’s last three rounds
  • A “league handicap” based only on league scores
  • Low Handicap Index of the last 24 months
  • Handicaps based only on tournament scores
  • Course Handicap plus the player’s age minus number of beers consumed during the last round

Okay, I made the last one up, but you get my point. All of this inventive number-crunching might make the Committee feel like they’ve accomplished something in the name of fairness, but really they’ve just created a lot of work and extra spreadsheets that, at the end of the day, no one really wants to maintain. More importantly, they’ve produced handicaps that aren’t official.

So put down the calculator. No use searching through various GHIN products for assistance in your own creative record keeping and tallies – you won’t find it, as GHIN only calculates real Handicap Indexes.

Now I realize if you have opened your event up to other participants – not just your own members – you have a unique dilemma. Do you throw caution to the wind and operate on faith that these handicaps are honest when you might have no knowledge of the players’ abilities? I’m one of those odd folks who examines scoring records daily, staring at handicap differentials and noting red flags, but I do this sordid stuff for a living.

Most Committees have little time for that sort of in-depth review while prepping for an event that includes guests. But, if you do, call me.

What I’m really talking about here is what to do about “the couple of guys who are always winning” – and those guys happen to be your own members. Don’t reinvent the wheel, or punish the entire field. Why not just go by the book – that little 140-page gem called the USGA Handicap System Manual – and lower their Handicap Indexes?

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

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