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USGA Handicap System

In order to better understand and improve our association's use of the USGA Handicap System, MPMGA is publishing information here about the handicap system. We hope our members will review this information and refer to it as needed. The MPMGA hopes this will make our golf association better.

MYSTERY of SLOPE EXPLAINED

So. Just what in the world is Slope? Read on.

The following are terms essential to the USGA Course Rating System:

Scratch Golfer: A male scratch golfer is a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses. A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots.

USGA Course Rating:  A USGA Course Rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal place (72.5), and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of the scratch golfer. 

Bogey Golfer:   A male bogey golfer is a player who has a Course Handicap™ of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty (A slope rating of 113 would represent the Standard). He can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two shots.

Bogey Rating™:   A Bogey Rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for bogey golfers under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal place (92.1), and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of the bogey golfer.

Slope Rating®: A Slope Rating is the USGA® mark that indicates the measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers.  It is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating and the USGA Course Rating times a constant factor and is expressed as a whole number from 55 to 155. (For those really into math, the factor is 5.381 for men and 4.24 for women).

The picture on the next page shows the “Slope” of a line drawn (by hand, give me a break) between the Course Rating and the Bogey Rating. Mystery Revealed.

Marcus Pointe Course Ratings – Men’s


Tee

Course Rating

Bogey Rating

Black

72.1

96.7

Blue

69.9

92.7

White

68.4

90.5

Gold

65.7

86.8

 


Course Handicap™ Explained

Q.  What does a Course Handicap represent?

A.  A Course Handicap represents the number of strokes needed to play to the level of a scratch golfer—or the Course Rating™ of a particular set of tees. A Course Handicap is expressed as a whole number (e.g. 12).

Course Handicap is determined by using charts located at the golf course where the round is to be played. In addition, a Course Handicap can be calculated by these methods:

Course Handicap Calculator:
http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/calculator/course
_handicap_calculator.asp

The USGA Handicap System Reference Guide:
http://www.usga.org/playing/handicaps/understanding
_handicap/Handi_Ref_Manual.pdf

Formula:
Handicap Index® multiplied by Slope Rating® of tees played, divided by Standard Slope Rating (113) = Answer (rounded to nearest whole number, .4 rounds down and .5 rounds up)

Example: 10.4 Handicap Index x 125 Slope Rating / 113 Standard Slope Rating = 11.5 = 12 Course Handicap

Please visit Sections 3-3 and 10-4 of the USGA Handicap System manual for further reference.

What does "Playing to Your Handicap" mean and whether you should do this every time? The system is built around the concept of Course Rating™, which impacts us all even though its definition ties to a "scratch" golfer. When you are given handicap strokes, you receive the number of strokes necessary to play to the level of a scratch golfer. If the scratch golfer is supposed to shoot the Course Rating, then those handicap strokes relate to the Course rating as well.

We use the phrase "target score" regarding playing to your Handicap. How is a target score determined? First, go through the normal process of converting a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap. Then add that Course Handicap to the Course Rating. For example, a player with a USGA Handicap Index of 16.3 decides to play a course with a USGA Course Rating of 68.9 and a Slope Rating of 129. That player converts the 16.3 to a Course Handicap of 19 (using Course Handicap Tables or "Conversion Charts"), then adds 19 to 68.9, for a total of 88 (rounded). If the player shoots 88, that player has played to his or her Handicap.

So playing to your handicap is not exclusively a matter of whether you have hit the ball well or the number of putts you had, but a measurable number. IT IS NOT HOW YOUR NET SCORE RELATES TO PAR.

Players Competing From a Different Course Rating™ or Tees

Q.  When players are competing from a different USGA Course Rating or tees, why do you make a Course Handicap™ adjustment? What if players are competing from more than two sets of tees? Can a Committee ignore this adjustment?

A.  A Course Handicap represents the number of strokes needed from a specific set of tees to play to the level of a scratch golfer; i.e., to the USGA Course Rating. The calculation of a Course Handicap only includes a player’s Handicap Index® and the Slope Rating® of the tees being played. When a USGA Course Rating difference exists among competitors, they are playing to different benchmarks, and an adjustment equal to the full difference in USGA Course Rating must be made in order for the competition to be equitable.

Players competing from two different tees:
Player A is competing from the Blue tees (71.0) and Player B is competing from the White tees (69.0). Since the USGA Course Rating difference is two strokes, Player A must add two to the Course Handicap calculated from the Blue tees. As an alternative, Player B may deduct two from the Course Handicap calculated from the White tees, as the overall effect would be the same (see Decision 3-5/1).

Players competing from more than two sets of tees:
Player A is competing from the Blue tees (71.0), Player B is competing from the White tees (69.0), and Player C is competing from the Gold tees (67.0). The recommendation is to add four strokes to Player A’s Course Handicap calculated from the Blue tees, add two strokes to Player B’s Course Handicap calculated from the White tees, and make no adjustment to Player C’s Course Handicap calculated from the Gold tees. Alternatively, Player C’s Course Handicap calculated from the Gold tees may be reduced by four strokes, Player B’s Course Handicap calculated from the White tees may be reduced by two strokes, and Player A’s Course Handicap calculated from the Blue tees would not be adjusted. A third option is to set the baseline at the middle and add two to the higher-rated tee player(s) and subtract two from the lower-rated tee player(s). The key is finding a baseline and adjusting from there.

Please note that a golf club may not ignore Section 3-5/9-3c when players are competing from a different USGA Course Rating as doing so would be waiving a Rule of Golf. The Committee in charge of a competition does not have the authority to waive a Rule of Golf (see Decision 3-5/2).

Acceptable Scores

Fair handicapping depends upon full and accurate information regarding a player's potential scoring ability as reflected by a complete scoring record. Every player must be responsible for returning all acceptable scores, as defined in this section.

a. Scores to Post

To post a 9-hole score, the player must play 7 to 12 holes, and at least 7 holes must be played under the Rules of Golf. To post an 18-hole score, the player must play at least 13 holes under the Rules of Golf.

b. Scores on All Courses

Adjusted gross scores from all courses with a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating made during an active season, both at home and away, must be posted by the player along with the appropriate USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating.

  • An "adjusted gross score" is a player's gross score adjusted under USGA Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes, holes not played or not played under the Rules of Golf, or Equitable Stroke Control Scores in All Forms of Competition.

http://www.usga.org/etc/designs/usga/content/rule-book/img/f10d4ff4-50d3-4c21-9805-dc905269c1de.gif
Scores in both match play and stroke play must be posted for handicap purposes. This includes scores made in match play, in multi-ball, or in team competitions in which players have not completed one or more holes or in which players are requested to pick up when out of contention on a hole.

  • In Stableford type “Points” games where a player is encouraged to “pick-up” when a “Point” cannot be earned, the Player should post his Most-Likely Score.
  • A "most likely score" is the score a player must post for handicap purposes if a hole is started but not completed or if the player is conceded a stroke. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in the player's best judgment, the number of strokes the player would take to complete the hole from that position more than half the time. This number may not exceed the player's Equitable Stroke Control limit.
  • If a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under the Rules of Golf (except for preferred lies), the score recorded for that hole for handicap purposes must be par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to receive on that hole.

c. Unacceptable Scores

Scores made under the following conditions are not acceptable for handicap purposes and must not be entered in the player's scoring record:
(i) When fewer than seven holes are played;

 (ii) When a player plays alone; (NEW Rule in 2016)

(iii) When a player ignores one or more Rules of Golf and fails to post an adjusted hole score as required on unfinished holes or conceded strokes, or fails to record the appropriate penalty for a breach of rule.

Penalty Scores, Handicap Index Adjustment, and Withdrawal

A player must earn a Handicap Index. No player has an inherent right to a Handicap Index without providing full evidence of ability to the golf club's Handicap Committee. A Handicap Index must be changed only as warranted by the USGA Handicap System. Only the Handicap Committee where a player maintains a Handicap Index can adjust that player's Handicap Index. There must be no automatic increases at the beginning of a playing season or year. A Handicap Index is continuous from one playing season or year to the next

Penalty Scores for Failure to Post

If a player fails to post an acceptable score as soon as practical after completion of the round, the Handicap Committee will post a Penalty Score equal to the lowest Handicap Differential in the player’s scoring record.
The Handicap Committee is not required to notify the player prior to posting a penalty score.

Handicap Index Adjustment by Handicap Committee

The Handicap Committee has the responsibility of making certain that each player has a Handicap Index reflecting potential ability. Under the following circumstances, it will be necessary for the Handicap Committee to adjust the player's Handicap Index. However, the following list is not all-inclusive, and a Handicap Committee has the ultimate authority to adjust a Handicap Index under any circumstance that it feels necessary to do so. Before an adjustment becomes effective, the Handicap Committee must give the player an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the proposed adjustment, either in writing or by appearing before the Committee. When an adjustment does become effective, it must be identified with the letter M, indicating that the Handicap Committee has modified the Handicap Index (e.g., 4.9M).

 (i) Improving Faster Than The System Can React

A player recently taking up the game may improve too rapidly for a Handicap Index calculated by the standard procedure to reflect potential ability. For example, a player who is practicing aspects of that player's game and/or taking playing lessons may not have a scoring record that exhibits potential ability and may need a Handicap Index adjustment.

(ii) Numerous Away Scores Change Index

If a player's Handicap Index increases by 3.0 or more due to the posting of numerous away scores, and subsequent scores at the player's club clearly indicate that the increased Handicap Index is too high, the Handicap Committee must adjust the player's Handicap Index downward.

(iii) Temporary Disability

An increase in a Handicap Index must not be granted because a player's game is temporarily off or the player has discontinued play. However, an increased handicap may be given for a temporary disability. The modified Handicap Index must be identified by the letter "M" to indicate that it has been modified by the club's Handicap Committee. For example, a player having had recent surgery may be given a modified Handicap Index while recovering

 (iv) Player Manipulates Round

The Handicap Committee must adjust or withdraw the Handicap Index of a player who manipulates scores. Examples of manipulating scores include the following:
(a) Posting erroneous information to the scoring record;
(b) Stopping play prior to 7 holes to avoid posting scores;
(c) Repeatedly playing more than one ball to avoid posting scores;
(d) Not adjusting hole scores under Section 4 (ESC);
(e) Deliberately reporting more or fewer strokes than actually taken;
(f) Deliberately taking extra strokes to inflate a score.
(g) Not observing either or both of the two basic premises that underlie the USGA Handicap System.

That is
that each player will try to make the best score at every hole in every round, regardless of where the round is played, and that the player will post every acceptable round for peer review. The player and the player's Handicap Committee have joint responsibility for adhering to these premises.