Scotland Course and Slope Ratings
Course Rating
Dealing with Sandbagging
Handicapping Guidelines
18 Questions About Your Handicap
A formula for slow play and higher scores?
Andy Garcia and his Handicap
Are You Getting Strokes on the Right Holes?
Coming Soon: a New Handicap System
Figuring your own handicap
Guidelines to Handicapping
Handicap 103
Handicaps for the unhandicapped refined
Handicapping, Slope designed for enjoyment
Here comes your slope Handicap
How To Get a USGA Handicap
How Well Should You Play?
It Just Wouldn't Compute
Picking the Right Partner
Publinks Handicaps
The Jury is Out, but ESC Remains in
USGA help the handicappers - part I
USGA help the handicappers - part II
What is the meaning of Slope?
What is Your Anti-Handicap?
Why Your Handicap Will Change This Year
History of Handicapping
Junior Golfers
Pace of Play
Scramble Tournaments
Tournament Point System
World Rankings
Magazine Articles
About the Pope Of Slope

Pope Of Slope

18 Questions About Your Handicap

Golf Digest, January, 1986, pages 44-45

We answer your most-asked queries, with the help of Dean Knuth, the USGA's Director of Handicapping

1--Should I post scores from match play events? If so, how do I handle putts that have been conceded and holes where I have picked up?
Submit all scores played under the principles of the Rules of Golf, including those shot in match play. Conceded putts are considered holed. If you think you would not normally make a conceded putt, putt out, or add one stroke(most likely score), or apply ESC, whichever score is lower.

2--Should I turn in scores on courses other than my own? What about nine-hole score?
Submit all scores, along with the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for each course you play. Combine nine-hole scores and post them as 18-hole scores too--even if played at different courses with different ratings. Nine-hole scores no longer must be consecutive--post them.

3--If I play 27 holes in one day, may I choose the 18 I want to record?
Post the first 18 holes as a score and then combine the next nine with your previous or next nine, whatever the case may be.

4--When men and women play together, should we allot strokes based on the men's handicap holes or the women's?
Men are allotted strokes according to men's stroke allocation (handicap holes), women according to women's. Even if a woman is "playing off" the man's ball, she should receive strokes according to women's stroke allocation.

5--If we play "winter rules," do the scores count?
If the course is "in season", post scores played under winter rules, unless the club specifically has declared not to do so.

6--Do I have to take scores from my Northern club with me when I go South for the winter?
Yes. Take your last 20 scores along with the Course and Slope Ratings of the courses on which they were played, and post them at your club in the South. (If there is insufficient room on the sheet, give them to your handicap chairman). You must also take your last 20 scores from the South back North with you. I there is a handicap network service available to you, you can have the routing to multiple clubs done automatically for you.

7--Just when I figured out how the handicap system worked, the USGA added the Slope System. What can it accomplish that handicaps and course ratings don't already?
The Slope System is a refinement of the USGA Handicap System. It adjusts a player's handicap to the course he's playing. That's necessary because Course Ratings are based on an expert's game. An expert's score should approximate the ratings. On a difficult course, a poorer player's score tends to rise more than the difference in Course Ratings between that course and an average one. Just how much more is what the Slope System measures.

8--How can a man and a woman with identical handicaps play even, when the man is able to hit the ball 50 to 75 yards farther?
Forward, or women's, tees are meant to alleviate most of this inequity, but the differences between men's and women's course rating systems require that the golfer playing from the highest-rated tees(usually the woman) add the rounded-off difference in Course Ratings to her handicap. If the women's Course Rating is 75.2 and the men's Course Rating is 70.1, for example, the woman receives an extra five shots.

9--I'm a grandfather an my young grandson and I like to play the front tees. When we record our scores, should we use the women's course rating?
No. The women's Course and Slope Rating is based on a female player's proficiency. Regional and State golf associations have issued men's Course and Slope Ratings for most forward tees. If they have not, the club can use a correction table from the USGA Handicap System manual.

10--Based on scores in our senior league, we're getting strokes on the wrong holes. What can we do?
Section 17 of the USGA Handicap System manual (available from the USGA for $5.00) recommends collecting 200 scorecards from your lower-handicap (0 to 8) members and comparing hole-by-hole averages with a similar collection from your average-handicap (20 to 28) members. Re-rate the holes based on the average differences between the scores of the two groups on each hole. The largest differences indicate the lowest-handicap (toughest) holes; the smallest differences the highest-handicap (easiest) holes. Do not make either the first or the 18th hole the No. 1 handicap hole. Usually the odds are on the front and the evens are on the back-nine. This system works best for match play. For team stroke play, the traditional system of assigning shots according to a hole's difficulty (primarily length, with consideration given to obstacles) is best.

11--What is the USGA Handicap Formula?
(Go to: and select Handicapping, then select the USGA Handicap System manual. See Section 10.)

12--Explain Equitable Stroke Control. How do I figure it if I don't yet have a handicap?
Equitable Stroke Control is the USGA's system for limiting your maximum score on any one hole so that your handicap reflects your true proficiency. It is the first line of defense against sandbagging because it prevents a golfer from deliberately recording a high score on one hole. A player with a Course Handicap of 9 or less can post up to a double bogey on any hole. 10-19 handicappers can have a maximum of 7 on any hole, 20-29 an 8, 30-39 a 9 and 40 or more a max of a 10. A player without an established USGA Handicap Index uses the maximum Handicap Index of 36.4 for men, or 40.4 for women, converted to a Course Handicap to determine his maximum number.

13--How long are my scores good for? When is it too late to submit them?
Scores are good as long as they are in the golfer's scoring record of last twenty scores. Tournament scores are good if they are either made in the last 12 months, or are in the record of last 20 scores. Always post scores as soon as possible.

14--How do we compute our club's Most Improved player?
There is more than one method. The USGA recommends that you add 12 to a players beginning Handicap and divide this by 12 plus the player's ending Handicap to determine the improvement ratio. The club member with the highest improvement ratio is "most improved". Golf Digest uses a slightly different method: Multiply a player's beginning handicap by 2 and multiply his ending handicap by three. Subtract the second figure from the first. The difference is the player's improvement rating. The player with the highest improvement rating is "most improved".

15--In match play, should we use the difference between the lowest handicapper's strokes and the other players' to determine how many strokes each player gets for the round, or should all players take all strokes as they appear on the scorecard?
The USGA recommends that the lowest handicapper play with no handicap strokes and the other players receive strokes equal to the difference between their course handicap and his. To allot strokes to each player according to his full handicap without playing off the low player gives an unfair advantage to the lowest-handicap player.

16--When my match goes to sudden death, do I still get strokes?
Yes, according to the handicap stroke holes on the scorecard.

17--Should I play my real handicap or my "trend"--what I believe it will be as soon as my most current scores are processed?
Play your official USGA Handicap. It does not change until the new handicap report is posted on a revision schedule established by the state or regional golf association. "trend" is for information only and should not be used for play.

18--I belong to a men's club at a public course. How do I get a USGA Handicap?
Any organization of golfers who 1)play together regularly, 2)personally post scores at a public area at the club, 3)have committees to supervise golfing activities--including a handicap committee to make sure that the USGA Handicap System is followed, 4)has by-laws--can issue USGA Handicaps to its members, just by following the USGA Handicap System Manual. Write to the USGA for sample club by-laws and for information on how to form a club. Remember that peer review must exist. That means that members have to have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play golf with each other, as well as review scores posted and the handicap committee has to have a reasonable opportunity to provide its necessary peer review oversight requirements.

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