Handicap Hub: One-Liners

By Kelly Neely and Gretchen Yoder

Whether you refer to golf as a game or a sport, those words imply that there’s some fun to be had on the course. After all, we’re not professionals looking for a paycheck, we’re just trying to have a good time even if our round is in ruins. While watching your buddy’s game backslide can be even more amusing, it’s also worth remembering that there’s nothing healthier than mocking your own string of triple bogeys before someone else gets the opportunity.

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Speaking of mocking one’s own game, this one from OGA member Sue Rende deserves to be shared – “I’m not a scratch golfer unless ‘scratch your head – why is she out here’ counts.”

While there are plenty of golf jokes and one-liners out there, admittedly there isn’t a whole lot to laugh at when it comes to handicapping and course rating subjects as they tend to be accompanied by furrowed brows, generalized befuddlement and the occasional finger-pointing. So, the one-liners in this article refer more to the types of short proclamations we hear repeatedly and need to debunk (but we’ll still take our amusement wherever we can).

My handicap isn’t fair – I can’t play to it.
Your Handicap Index might be good, bad or downright ugly but if it’s correct, the one thing it is, is fair. That’s because you’ll only really play to it one out of four or five times and it has nothing to do with averages or how you feel you are playing. Your Handicap Index is meant to be an indicator of your best demonstrated ability, which is a fancy way of saying there’s math involved and sadly, numbers don’t have feelings. Here’s a quick way to see what “playing to your handicap” really means – add your Course Handicap to the par of the tees played. If you hit that number, please buy yourself a celebratory beverage.

When the greens are aerated, we use the two-putt rule.
Ah, the good ole rule that isn’t a rule. This one has been floating around for many moons, though maybe not centuries because aeration wasn’t needed back then – that’s what the sheep were for. When you reach a green that’s been punched and sanded do your handicap a favor by using the real rule: post your Most Likely Score. This is the number of strokes you’ve already taken; plus, the number of strokes it would take you to hole out based on your best judgment about your own game. Afterall, are you always going to two-putt? (No, we’re not talking about what happens in your dreams).

You can’t post match-play scores.
It’s our fervent wish that this one will get tossed in the trash with the remnants of yesterday’s burnt hot dog, never to be seen again. Match Play is referred to in the Rules of Handicapping as an “authorized format of play”, which means it is eligible for handicap purposes. If the minimum number of holes required for either a 9-hole score (7 for 9) or an 18-hole score (14 for 18) are played during the match, you’re in business. The question isn’t the Shakespearean-esque “to post or not to post”, it’s simply how to adjust holes that might have been started and not finished (Most Likely Score), or not played at all during match play (par plus any handicap strokes allowed).

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My course’s rating is wrong. It’s way too low.

  1. Trust the numbers.
  2. Too low compared to what? If you’re putting the slope of Course A up against the slope of Course B, please don’t. It’s a trap! Slope Rating doesn’t give you all the information you need to make a fair comparison. You also need Course Rating, Yardage, Par and a couple of golfer’s Handicap Indexes. This is a two-page article all by itself. To qualm your concerns, how about this: as long as there has been no major construction or yardage changes since the last time your course was rated, it’s as right as rain and you can feel good that it’s been rated following USGA standards. In other words, read #1 again.

Side note – Be careful what you wish for. If we raise your course rating, your handicap is taking a dive.

You can’t post a score when there’s a temp in place.
If you are ever at a golf course where there is a hole that is out of play, has a temporary green or even tees – YES, you must still post your score. Even though you might be putting into a hole that is as generous as a Costco-sized vat of peanut butter instead of a regulation sized hole, just post the score that would give you net par (par plus any Course Handicap strokes) for that hole.

I played my own combo today – now I can’t post.
Did you decide to challenge yourself to a longer par 3? Opt to play the forward tee on that difficult water carry hole? Play a Red / White / Blue tournament for July 4th? There is a handy chart in the Rules of Handicapping, Appendix G, that has you covered. Add up the length of the chosen set of tees and compare that total to the yardage of the nearest set of rated tees. If the difference is less than 100 yards, post your score as normal. If, however, the difference is between 100 and 300 yards, please use the awesome power this procedure affords you – with a modicum of math – to figure out your own course rating by completing a manual adjustment as assigned in the Appendix G tables. If the difference is over 300 yards, or it is a combo your course needs to include for regular play, contact Gretchen.

I’m coming back from an injury and now I’m being penalized because my Index is capped.
The WHS only contemplates scores and course ratings and knows nothing about your personal story. It doesn’t know your age, if you have bad knees or need a hip replacement. There is no evil wizard behind the curtain doling out penalties for bad scores – though that theory is fun and is easier to explain than the actual WHS formulas. As was mentioned above, numbers don’t have feelings. The system is designed to slow or stop dramatic upward movement of a Handicap Index, affectionately known as capping. If your handicap is legitimately on the rise due illness or injury and you’ve been subject to a cap, your only option is to call in the cavalry (your club’s Handicap Chair / Committee).

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I was at Bandon Dunes and it was blowing sideways, yet the PCC didn’t kick in.
PCC (Playing Condition Calculation) adjustments are calculated at the end of every day. It is a super-secret algorithm (see evil wizard reference above) that looks at all scores posted that day and determines if they were significantly higher or lower than expected. The system doesn’t know whether it was due to weather (wind, rain, hail, locusts) or course conditions (US Open setup, yardage set extra short, grumpy greens crew). It just knows that mathematically, the numbers are wonky and will then adjust the players’ score differentials, for all who post that day, from -1 up to +3, to make up for the difference. Did at least eight golfers with Handicap Indexes of no more than 36.0 post their scores? Were the scores completely out of range? Did they post on the day of play? If you go to the Cellar Bar to commiserate (not sure how much commiserating you need to do while at Bandon) and forget to post until morning, a PCC will not be triggered.