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“R” You Kidding Me? F


rom October to May, the number of NCGA members with reduced (“R”) handicaps will more than double (reduced due to exceptional tournament scores, or T-scores). And every 1st and 15th of the month between now and springtime, our handicap department can expect to receive a chorus of emails and phone calls wonder- ing what is going on. What does the “R” mean?. . .How is it calculated?. . .Why is it kicking in now?. . .How long will it be in place? Let’s start with the


basics. The goal of the USGA


handicap system is to issue an index which best rep- resents a golfer’s potential ability. Potential, for these purposes, is arrived at via a review of a golfer’s best 10 of 20 most recent rounds, AND, by a review of a golfer’s two best T-scores of the past 12 months. Basi- cally, the system examines the size of the gap between the current best 10 of 20 number and the average of the two best T-scores. If the system feels the gap is too wide, an automatic reduc- tion kicks in. Automatic, as in it is a


calculation performed on every handicap issued in the country (as opposed to an NCGA action or an action brought about by a whistleblower). And contrary to popular belief,


By Jim Cowan Director of


Course Rating & Handicapping


Email: jcowan@ncga.org


an “R” is not an accusation of wrongdoing or dishon- esty. It’s just math designed to peg a golfer’s potential ability. So if your best 10 of 20 number is around a 15, and the average of your two best T-scores is a 9, you might expect to be issued a reduced Handicap Index somewhere between 10.9R and 14.0R. The decid- ing factor will be the total number of T-scores cred- ited to you in the past 12 months. If you play in a lot of tournaments, the system will not come down on you as hard. And this only makes sense. After all, the more tournaments you play in, the greater the odds of eventually scoring well in two of them. That’s another key. The


system will always give you one low T-score a year without blinking an eye. It’s when you have two or more in a revolving 12-month period (low in relationship to your current best 10 of 20 number), that the system will apply greater scrutiny. Why does “R” activity


pick up so much this time of year?


Think about it—the


average of your two best T-scores is always being pitted against your current best 10 of 20 number. If you were a 15 last summer and played to a 9 in two tournaments in September, your October best 10 of 20 number would have plum- meted without the benefit of a reduction. And at this lower handicap level, the gap between your best 10 of 20 number and the two T-scores is not shockingly


wide. It’s only when these two T-scores age and drop out of 20-most recent status that the best 10 of 20 number snaps back to 15 and the gap becomes wide enough to warrant a reduction. That’s precisely what is happening right now. Sum- mer and fall scores, when we were playing our best, are being replaced by rounds of lesser quality (as we play less frequently and as weather/course conditions deteriorate). Best 10 of 20 numbers are on the rise, just begging for reductions. With so many moving


parts (best 10 of 20 number changing each revision, T- scores being added or expir- ing from a record, etc.), it’s no wonder that it is impos- sible to predict the lifespan of a reduction. As long as the “gap” referred to remains wide enough, a reduction will remain in place. Worst case scenario, the “R” goes away when one or both


of the T-scores expires (i.e., becomes more than 12 months old). The one and only


authority that can inter- vene on a player’s behalf is his or her club. If the club feels there are extenuating circumstances that warrant an override of the reduction, they need to contact the NCGA accordingly. Some sort of injury, illness, surgery or disability situation that has afflicted the golfer since the time of the T-scores might be a good example of when a club should inter- vene. Simply disagreeing with the reduction process itself or vouching for the honesty of the golfer does not represent grounds for an override. Remember, any other golfer in the entire country with the same set of scores would have been issued the “R.” So a club needs to have an extraordi- nary reason to remove it. “R” you up to speed on


the process now? WINTER 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 61


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