Thursday, March 22 2018


Fewer handicap headaches

Update: February, 25/2018 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

by Robert Bicknell

Well, I hope everyone had a happy (Tết) Lunar New Year and the Year of the Dog is already being very kind to you, but we all know that dogs have a habit of surprising us from time to time, so we can expect this year to be full of surprises.

One surprise is the newly revamped “World Handicap System”, announced by the R&A and the USGA. This new system, due to launch in 2020, was the result of an extensive review of systems administered by six existing handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA.

They will take the best of these systems and create a new system that makes everyone happy, or send everyone screaming into the night.

Some of the biggest complaints about the USGA system which we use here in Vietnam, is that the system doesn’t react fast enough to people’s changing scores. In the US, most handicapped players only tee off a few times per month, so rolling the handicaps over once or twice a month is sufficient. But here in Viet Nam, many people tee off a few times per week, and such, they submit a LOT of scorecards each month. It only takes a few score cards to change a handicap, so what they were at the beginning of the month is not necessarily what they are in the middle or the end of the month.

So, players want a system which is more reactive and shows what handicap a player is today, not what they will potentially be. Thus, the system will be daily, instead of monthly.

The other complaint is that the USGA system isn’t an average of scores, but rather what your “potential” would be, based on 10 of your last 20 scores. In theory, it’s almost impossible to ever play to your USGA handicap, but we have seen it done here in Viet Nam countless times, so that theory doesn’t fly here.

So, the new system will be an average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.

People also complain that the criteria for submitting scores is too strict. They want to be able to just play golf and have a good time without all the ridiculousness. Therefore, the new system will allow flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds.

Another complaint is that the USGA system requires three scorecards for a temporary handicap, and 10 to 20 for a full one. The new system will allow players to be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.

The USGA Course and Slope Rating System will remain to allow handicaps to remain “portable” from one course to another anywhere in the world. It is currently used successfully in 80 countries.

And lastly (well not lastly because there are a lot of other things which I don’t have space to cover in this column), the maximum handicap limit will be increased to of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

As you can imagine, there are still a few bugs to be worked out over the next few years, but it is a good step forward in eliminating many of the headaches for both players and Handicap Administrators.

Of course, the weak-link in any system is the player. If someone decides to sandbag (cheat), it is difficult to catch them unless the system is strictly applied. In this, “peer review” is vital and is why clubs post the handicaps in the clubhouse for all to see.

It’s the players themselves who know who has an accurate handicap and who doesn’t. In many cases, it’s the other players who drop a quiet hint to the Golf Department.

Look at it this way, if a guy has a 22 handicap, and his friends only give him an 18, you know there is a problem. VNS



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