WHAT'S YOUR ANTI-HANDICAP?
by Robert Carney Golf Digest, November, 1988, pages 70-71
How to Pick the Right Partner: Knowing the Difference Between a Strong 12 and a Weak 12
Letter to the gods of golf:
Thank you for the wonderful improvements in the handicap system--for Equitable Stroke Control and Obstacle Course Rating, for Home Course Handicaps, for Slope and for Mr. Dean Knuth. But with all due respect, it's not enough to know that one of your creatures is a 10.2 or a 6.8 or a 19.4. I need more information. Is this guy I'm playing strong or shaky? Can my 10.3 fleece his 10.3? If we were paired in a member-member, would we take those miserable creations of yours, Smith and Wesson, who have beaten the field like a gong for the past five years? Please reply soon, as I am losing my shirt.
The problem with handicaps is they're one dimensional. On paper, a 6 is a 6 is a 6. On the course, Harry's 6 translates to: "He'll break 80 consistently," but Ralph's means, "He'll shoot 90 as often as he shoots 78." Nor will the handicap chart tell whether Harry or Ralph is a stronger teammate for your 17 in a better-ball match.
But there is a number that will reveal a player's true strength against handicap. It's your anti-handicap, or what your Handicap Index would be were it based on the worst 10, not the best 10, of your last 20 scores. Anti-handicap addresses the shakiness quotient.
The difference between your Handicap Index and your anti-handicap measures your consistency. Subtract your Handicap Index from your anti-handicap. If the number is 5 or less, consider yourself steady. If it's 15 or more, you should be looking for a more consistent partner.
U.S. Golf Association Director of Handicapping Dean Knuth suggests that if you're on one end of the consistency scale, you can use anti-handicap to help you find a better-ball partner who is on the other.
"We refer to golfers as Wild Willies or Steady Eddies," says Knuth. "Anti-handicap helps measure how wild Willie is and how steady Eddie is."
The anti-handicap formula is similar to the handicap formula:
1. Determine your worst 10 differentials. (A differential is score minus Course Rating, multiplied by 113 over course Slope Rating.)
2. Add those 10 together.
3. Multiply by .096.
(A less precise method is to add your 10 worst scores and multiply by .096.)
If you have a relatively low anti-handicap, says Knuth, your optimum partner should have a high anti-handicap. Let's say your Handicap Index is also low, a 6. Look for a higher-handicapper, an 18, say--because he's getting lots of strokes--but find one who's more erratic than you are. (Note: USGA recommends that clubs make an additional 10% reduction of the handicaps on teams where the difference in handicap is greater than 8 strokes, otherwise the teams will have an unfair advantage.) Why? Because often his rounds resemble his collection of scores. He'll "blow" holes about as often as he does whole rounds. On the holes he doesn't blow, he'll carry you. "It turns out that Wild Willie and Steady Eddie make pretty good partners," says Knuth.
Anti-handicap also can help predict how Eddie will fare in a match against Willie. All else equal, he'll do darn well. Eddie, after all will play to his handicap more often than Willie--because (given equal handicaps) his average score is lower than Willie's.
To maintain your regular handicap, you need only play to it about 25 percent of the time. Steady Eddie plays to his more often than that, Wild Willie doesn't. Given the same handicap, the probability that Eddie will match his is greater than that of Willie matching his.
"Two people could have the same average score giving them an 18 handicap," says Knuth, "but one could have all 20 differentials at 18 while the other player might have 20 scores, none of which was an 18 differential. The one whose Handicap Index is closer to his average will tend to win in a head-to-head match."
Golf Digest tested these assumptions recently with two Connecticut golfers. Steady Eddie was Ed Sakowski, 63, a Dow Chemical retiree from Norwich (Conn.) Golf Course. His Handicap Index was 11.2 and his anti-handicap was 12.8. Wild Willie was Terry Craw, 47, a junior high school teacher who plays at Candlewood Valley in New Milford. Craw's Handicap Index was 13.6 and his anti-handicap 25.1.
The two played 18 holes with two Golf Digest editors at Race Brook Country Club in Orange, a course neither had played before. Their games resembled their handicap nicknames--with Wild Craw frequently playing from rough and hazards, Steady Sakowski rarely missing the fairway by more than three or four yards. Under Slope, Sakowski's course handicap was 12. Craw's was 15.
Sakowski, whose 20 current scores were all in the 80's, shot 91, high for him. Craw, whose 20 current scores ranged from 82 to 108, shot closer to his average: 94. Nevertheless, using their handicaps they tied in match play, with Craw losing the front nine 1 down and winning the back nine 1 up. Sakowski survived a bad round, not losing a penny.
It was an outcome that was, according to Knuth, predictable and, er, anticlimactic.
Robert Carney is director of trade publications for the New York Times Magazine Group and publisher of Golf Shop Operations, Golf Digest's sister publication for club pros.
Eddie vs. Willie
The value of consistency becomes apparent when we match up a hypothetical pair of 10-handicappers. In 15 matches our new Steady Eddie scores every round between 80 and 86 while his opponent, Wild Willie, ranges between 78 and 90. Although both men have identical handicaps and differentials, Eddie comes home winner 11 out of 15 times and is constantly being invited to play in member-guest tournaments, while Willie pays and pays an never gets asked anywhere.