Handicap Hub: You Don't Know What You Don't Know | Oregon Golf Association

Handicap Hub: You Don't Know What You Don't Know

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
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I sometimes wish I had kept a tally of all the questions I’ve received over my 24-plus years at the Handicapping helm of the OGA, but if I had taken time to log them I wouldn’t have time to actually answer them. Still, it would be interesting – perhaps only to me – to have a detailed report of not only how many times a particular question was asked (indicating an especially confusing, yet oft-used rule that needs more attention and explanation), but even when those one-off, unexpected questions bubble up (indicating just how quirky and interesting this handicapping subject can be).

Who was it that said “You don’t know what you don’t know?” Was it the same guy who coined the term “Unknown unknowns?” Though probably quoted by a politician and not a golfer, these little-known rules of handicapping might fall into that category. It wouldn’t surprise me if you don’t know that...


You can come up with your own Course Rating if you need to:  What if you wanted to mix up your round a bit? You started out playing the White tees and on a few holes, moved forward to the Red tees. How do you post your score when the only ratings available in GHIN are strictly for Blue, White and Red tees? Don’t give up and toss your score out, or settle for posting to the White tee rating. There’s a nifty little provision of the Handicap System that allows adjustments based on existing ratings from other tees on the same course. You just have to add up the yardage going through all holes on your “combo”, and compare that total to the yardage of the nearest rated tee.

Let’s say you’re a female and your “White / Red Combo” came up 208 yards longer than the Red tee rating, which was closest in length. According to the USGA Handicap System ‘Ratings Adjustments from Unrated Tees’ chart (there’s one for men, one for women), you would add 1.2 to the Red Course Rating, and 2 to the Red Slope Rating, thereby creating your own “combo rating”. Then, just post your score using “manual” instead of searching through the Course Rating Database.

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You can’t establish a Handicap Index playing with one hand and a second Handicap Index playing with the other hand:  Okay, this one is a little obscure, but it’s been known to happen. You’re a player who has a Handicap Index of 2.6 playing right-handed and a Handicap Index of 29.3 playing left-handed. Because a Handicap Index is based on the best play for every round, your higher Index would have to be completely withdrawn.

In another scenario, a golfer decides to discontinue playing left-handed and begins playing right-handed. Can he just continue with the same scoring record, posting scores made from rounds played right-handed? Nope! His existing Index becomes invalid. The player is in effect starting over and is required to establish a brand new Handicap Index. The two scoring records cannot commingle.

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You can ask for an adjustment of your Handicap Index if you’re injured:  Many golfers have no idea they can appeal to their club’s Handicap Committee for a possible increase of their Handicap Index when they have suffered an injury. This could include recovering from surgery, a stroke, a rotator cuff tear, or any number of maladies. Notice I didn’t list being temporarily off your game. Sorry, there’s no cure for that except maybe visiting Dr. Golf Pro for some lessons.

The important thing here is that you’re actively playing when you ask for consideration of a handicap increase. You can’t schedule surgery and your handicap modification at the same time. Your club Handicap Committee must be able to review current scores and performance, while you’re recovering, in order to make a reasonable and fair assessment of where your handicap needs to land temporarily. And, it can be monitored and modified as you continue to get back to your old self. If your old self never reappears, and it is determined that you will not be able to play to the Handicap Index established before the injury, your Handicap Committee may discard your old record. You would then need to establish a brand new Handicap Index.


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The score of a disqualified player must be posted:  While some may think this is rubbing salt in the wound, a rule is a rule. A player who is disqualified from a competition, but has an acceptable score – meaning they’ve played enough holes for handicap purposes (7 holes for a 9-hole score, 13 holes for an 18-hole score) – must record that score. This means that a Tournament Committee will also need to be aware of this rule as they are usually posting scores for the entire field. Disqualifications can be complicated, and while the Tournament Committee is justifiably concerned with the Rules of Golf surrounding the DQ, scores made under this circumstance are not often thought of.

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The Club Handicap Committee can dispense penalty scores, lower a Handicap Index, or withdraw it completely:  Yep. The Handicap Committee – made up of your fellow members – has full authority over your handicap. Not you, not your Golf Pro, not the USGA. But, I’m going to give you an early Christmas present by not even diving into this one; not yet anyway.

Now that our OGA score posting season (March 1-November 30) is coming to a close for the year, I will be taking a short winter break and will come back after the holiday season with some more Handicap Hub. See you in 2019!

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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