USGA releases changes to handicap system

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In addition to revising the Rules of Golf for the upcoming year to stress simplicity, the USGA also released changes to their handicap system on Monday that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The changes, which will affect approximately 10 million golfers, focus on several different aspects of the game, including the new anchoring ban and playing alone.

“The USGA handicap system is constantly evolving to ensure that the system works for the game today and tomorrow,” said Steven Edmondson, the USGA’s managing director of handicapping & course rating, in a release. “As we examine the game domestically and globally, these revisions support the integrity and reliability that millions of players around the world expect of this system. We continue to explore substantive changes as we work toward a world handicap system in the years ahead.” 

According to the USGA press release, there will be six significant changes:

• Definition of a tournament score: Additional guidance is provided to Committees conducting competitions regarding the definition of a tournament score, placing greater emphasis on “significant events.” The definition excludes fundraising events and regular league play, in favor of designated competitions such as a member/guest or club championship, local amateur tournament or national qualifying and competition. (Section 2: Definitions)

• Adjusting hole scores: A revised decision provides clarity for acceptable scores in limited situations where the player has not played a hole(s) under the Rules of Golf, but his or her score would be sufficiently accurate for handicap posting purposes. Three areas covered under the examples include: 1) where the Local Rule is not in effect, but a player chooses to use a Distance Measuring Device or preferred lies; 2) where a player does not wish to cause undue delay; or 3) where the situation is outside of the player’s control, such as an incorrectly marked golf course.  (Section 4: Adjusting Hole Scores)

• Posting scores when a player is disqualified: To improve alignment with the Rules of Golf, the revised Handicap System is clearer about what scores are acceptable when a player is disqualified. In general, a score is acceptable for handicap purposes even when a player fails to hole out, or apply a Rule that affects the rights of another player. If the disqualification breach is determined to provide an advantage for the player, the score is deemed unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

• Anchoring and posting: A new reference concerns a player who anchors the club while making a stroke during a round and fails to apply the appropriate penalty or an adjusted hole score (Section 4-2). Since the score would not be reflected as playing under the Rules of Golf, it would be unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

• Playing alone and necessary peer review: To further support the key system premise of peer review, scores made while playing alone will no longer be acceptable for handicap purposes. This change underscores the importance of providing full and accurate information regarding a player’s potential scoring ability, and the ability of other players to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a posted score. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

• Committee responsibilities: In an effort to assist the Handicap Committee with its responsibilities, this revision addresses a player with a temporary disability or permanent disability who has a Handicap Index that is no longer reflective of his/her current potential ability. In the particular instance cited, the Committee will no longer assign a local handicap (denoted with the letter “L” for local use only), but instead will issue a (temporary) modified Handicap Index (denoted by the letter “M”). This change supports the portability of a disabled player’s handicap, so that it can be used outside the player’s home club. (Section 8-4c: Handicap Index Adjustment by Handicap Committee)

For more information on the changes and the USGA handicap system in general, click here.