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Excerpts From The Handicap Stroke Allocation Guide
Golf and handicapping.
Golfs handicap system is unique among outdoor sports. It provides a widely accepted method for fair competition between players with very different skills. As developed by the USGA, these rules adjust the scoring to match the relative abilities of the players. This helps make golf fun for everybody.
If I played tennis with Pete Sampras and he had one arm tied behind his back, he'd still beat me like a rented mule. There's no way to change the rules of tennis so that a set between the two of us finish somewhere other than 6-0.
If Sampras and I play golf, however, our handicaps make it easy for us to play together. We each have a fair chance to win.
Handicapping in golf gives every player an opportunity to keep up with a better player. Of course, being given a stroke or two (or six or seven or more) wont guarantee a win. Nor should they. The USGA handicap system is intended to equalize competition. It wont fix things so less skilled golfers will always win. On the other hand, almost any golf competition should be much more enjoyable for everybody, if the handicaps are honest.
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Section 1.3 Using handicaps in competition.
The primary purpose of handicap stroke allocations is to make an equitable distribution of handicap strokes throughout a golf course. A fair distribution gives the higher handicap player a chance to tie or match the lower handicap player. The USGA handicap system already gives a slight statistical advantage to the lower handicap player. Therefore, its important to have the hole-by-hole stroke allocations as fairly distributed as possible.
For example, Figure 1-1 shows a detail from a typical scorecard. If I have a 10 handicap, and Im playing a 16 handicapper, I must give him 6 strokes toward his score. He takes a stroke off his gross scores on the holes marked 1 through 6 on the handicap line.
If he bogeys the sixth hole and I par it, the stroke he receives makes us even for the hole. We compete without any handicap strokes on the other twelve holes.
Its important, therefore, to make sure these handicap strokes are used where the less skillful golfers need them the most, in games like Nassau.
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Section 2.0 The varying approaches to handicap stroke allocations.
When asked what their scorecards handicap stroke numbers mean, most golfers respond in two ways:
I assumed these numbers mostly reflected relative difficulty, before I learned the USGA allocation system. I did think it was strange that the odd holes were on one side and the even numbers were on the other, but thats about all the thought I ever put into it.
Based on my discussions with club pros and others, golf clubs use several different methods to do these stroke distributions. Some are good. Others are just not helpful for most of their members.
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Section 2.12 What's wrong with the Committee-based, non-statistical method.
There are several valid arguments against adopting the committee-based, non-statistical method.
First, the make-up of the committee is critical, and probably overlooked. It would be remarkable if a golf committee reflected the full range of the playing abilities of the club membership. If it doesnt, there will likely be problems with the committees results, if not supported by appropriate statistics.
Human nature explains the problem. It is hard for people to refrain from emphasizing their own personal experiences when asked to make decisions affecting others. For golf committees, it is especially difficult to keep the entire membership in mind when asked to rank the 18 holes of their home course. Their task is nearly impossible if they have no basis to rank the holes other than their own playing history.
If either duffers or scratch golfers dominate the committee, their choices will most likely fail to meet the needs of all members. This failure may not be intentional, but it is a likely result.
Second, without available statistical data, how should the committee decide which hole should be ranked first for close competitions, where the golfers are separated by a single handicap stroke? The USGA Manual suggests somewhat lamely that the committee should use its best judgment to make such decisions for the first six stroke holes. Other than appeals to common sense, however, the non-statistical method gives no clue how to make these distributions. The answers to these questions are rarely so obvious as to make the choices simple, in the absence of valid performance data.
In any event, performance data are now readily available for this purpose. They should therefore be used. The committee or club professional can easily obtain a statistically valid, large sample of recent actual scores. The scoring data will greatly assist the handicap allocation process, if used correctly with the help of personal computers and available software applications.
Crunching the numbers alone is not enough. For reasons that are discussed in Chapter Nine, the existence of valid performance statistics wont eliminate the additional need for discretion and a sense of fairness. Those two qualities are still necessary. With good data, however, the correct allocation conclusions will be easier to achieve and defend. The USGA recognized this fundamental fact when it endorsed the use of statistical methods in making handicap allocations.
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