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Tournament Handicaps “On the Side” I often field inquiries from

clubs regarding the conduct of their own tournaments. Anything from what per- centage of handicaps to use in various team formats to operational questions regard- ing the Tournament Pairings Program software (TPP). More and more, however, the subject of a club computing its own handicaps “on the side” based solely on scores from its own tournaments has come up. The thought, I guess, is that such an endeavor will bring about an added level of “fairness” to com- petitions and curb sandbagging. Before proceeding, let me

make it perfectly clear that a club can choose to run its own tournaments in any manner that it sees fit. . .by the Rules of Golf or not. . .with official handicaps or not, etc. So while I might have misgivings about a club venturing down the path of tournament handicaps, I do not dispute a club’s right to take such steps. Obviously when asked, I

tions play a factor for deter- mining when, where and with whom we play? Absolutely. If you don’t believe me, check to see if your foursome avoids the “home course” right after it has punched greens. I don’t think the majority

of golfers expect U.S. Open- type conditions every time they tee it up. If golfers have those kinds of high expecta- tions, then perhaps their game is better suited for getting paid to play rather than paying to play. For us mortals, play- ing the course as we find it generally works. Can we find things about the golf course to complain about? Probably. If we didn’t most of us wouldn’t have an excuse for not playing better. I’m kidding of course, but there is a small kernel of

am always going to recom- mend playing tournaments by the book. Two books actually, the USGA Rules of Golf and the USGA Handicap System Manual. I am a firm believer that a Handicap Index is the best “number” that money can buy and that if a club follows the guidelines of the USGA Handicap System properly, it renders a club tournament handicap completely unneces- sary. Some clubs though, it would seem, would rather create their own system and a moun- tain of work rather than address their “problem” golfers head-on. Be that as it may, let’s delve into the subject of a club-com- puted tournament handicap a little deeper. First and foremost, any

such handicaps are completely unofficial and have no status outside the club’s own tourna- ments. Most clubs that I am aware of require the member to play to their club-generated “number,” or their official Handicap Index, whichever

truth regarding our expecta- tions and course conditions. With everything else in our

economy, the golf industry has experienced a “new normal.” Golf course conditions have not been excluded either. Perhaps your favorite facil- ity is adjusting to some more budget-friendly maintenance practices by prioritizing many of the practices they perform on a regular basis. Modifying how many times a course trims bunker edges, edges and cleans cart paths or mows tees and fairways are a few examples of ways courses are dealing with the “new normal.” Over the past couple of

years courses have altered the frequency of completing detail work or adjusted to fewer maintenance practices. Con-

is lower. This, at least, makes sense to me, but it does make me wonder. If the club tourna- ment handicap says six, and the Handicap Index is 10, how can the club sit back idly and unleash this golfer on the rest of the Northern California golf community as a 10? You would think that they would take steps to modify the Handicap Index down to the proper level . . . most don’t. Secondly, any such club is

completely on its own when it comes to computing this num- ber, both in terms of the math that it employs and the spread- sheet that it stores the scores in. Do not kid yourself, such a program represents quite an undertaking and requires a lot of thought, a lot of recordkeep- ing and a lot of work. As suggested above, there

are all sorts of rules and, in fact, a 150-page manual on how to compute a real Handicap Index. There are no such guidelines, manuals, or any hard and fast rules when

sider the changes the USGA has been promoting for some time now—brown is the new green, less is more and firm and fast among other things. While every lie may not be

perfect, or every bunker as finely manicured to our liking, our job as golfers is to make sure we leave the course the same if not better for those golfers playing behind us. Fixing ball marks, replacing or filling divots, raking bunkers and picking up loose trash on the course will go a long way in providing the conditions we all enjoy.

By Mike

McCullough Director of Environmental and Water Resources


By Jim Cowan Director of

Course Rating & Handicapping


it comes to computing a club tournament handicap. Ask 10 different clubs and they will probably reveal 10 different formulas for their calculations. So right off the bat a club is go- ing to have to decide how many tournament scores it is going to hold and what percentage of these scores it is going to use to produce its number (i.e., the low two, the average of the 2nd and 3rd best, best three of six, etc.). And don’t look to the

GHIN software for any help in storing the scores or performing the calculations. The software issued to clubs is designed to compute a real Handicap Index, not a lesser number. Your club is going to have to establish your own spreadsheet, enter your own scores, encode your own math and generate your own reports. And if you utilize TPP for your tournaments, you are going to have to hand-enter your home- grown handicaps into the pro- gram to generate your scorecards and results and then replace them with the real Handicap Index to have Equitable Stroke Control applied properly to the scores before they are posted. Not fun stuff. Which leads me to the ques-

tion, “Is it all worth it?” Proponents would say “yes.”

I’m not so sure. It seems like every time I ask a club why it would want to take on such a project, I get an answer like “there are these two guys who keep winning all our tourna- ments.” Wouldn’t it be simpler to do what that 150-page manual says and just lower the Handicap Index of those two golfers? You can save yourself a lot of work and a lot of grief.

SUMMER 2011 / NCGA.ORG / 71

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