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Golfer1987

The Average Golf Handicap Hasn't Improved for the Last 30 Years (Anyone have data on this)

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I have read a lot of golf websites and talked to golf instructors who make the claim that the average handicap hasn't improved for the last 30 years. However, I have not been able to find any data that supports this claim. Does anyone have any data on this? Thanks!

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The data actually says the opposite. I've often cited an article from Golf Digest that says something like the average handicap is dropped two strokes in the last 15 years. The article is a few years old at this point, but I believe handicaps would still have dropped.
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The data actually says the opposite. I've often cited an article from Golf Digest that says something like the average handicap is dropped two strokes in the last 15 years. The article is a few years old at this point, but I believe handicaps would still have dropped.


Interesting. I don't suppose you can find a link by any chance?

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Interesting. I don't suppose you can find a link by any chance?

I was on my phone. It's linked to several times on this forum.

Found it with the first link in the first search.

We are getting better. And equipment technology is the reason.

Either that or we're in the midst of one of the most curious coincidences in the 500-year history of our game. First, to the evidence about us. The USGA is unequivocal about average golfers: Despite decades of naysayers and experts alike suggesting that the average handicap is not dropping, has not dropped and never will drop, the fact is, it has. Let's say that again: The average handicap of all golfers -- men, women and children -- has decreased consistently for the past 15 years. The average handicap today is two strokes better than it was in the early 1990s, according to research provided to Golf Digest by the USGA's Golf Handicap & Information Network (GHIN). This decrease coincides with a remarkable decade of equipment innovation that has brought us titanium drivers in every shape and size, game-changing hybrids and oversize putters.

Source: http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/hot-list/hotlistevolution_0902

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I was on my phone. It's linked to several times on this forum.

Found it with the first link in the first search.

Source: http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/hot-list/hotlistevolution_0902

I wonder if there's any correlation with the advent of the ability to post scores via the Internet and a subsequent reduction in the quality of the peer review process too......

.....in other words, could there be more vanity handicaps out there now than there were previously?

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You may be thinking that lower handicaps mean better players all around. You may be quite mistaken. 30 years ago golf was much cheaper, life was easy going and  folks enjoyed their time out on the links. So even the worst golfers had fun. Now the game is costly, more competitive and much easier to lose face (look foolish) if playing poorly. Result: the poor players are dropping out and slowly the handicaps rise because one end of the spectrum (high H'caps) are disappearing. Naturally in the statistical scheme of things the appearance will be that golf is getting easier.

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I was on my phone. It's linked to several times on this forum.

Found it with the first link in the first search.

Source: http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/hot-list/hotlistevolution_0902


Brilliant. Thanks and apologies for being dumb and not simply searching myself! :doh:

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You may be thinking that lower handicaps mean better players all around. You may be quite mistaken. 30 years ago golf was much cheaper, life was easy going and  folks enjoyed their time out on the links. So even the worst golfers had fun. Now the game is costly, more competitive and much easier to lose face (look foolish) if playing poorly. Result: the poor players are dropping out and slowly the handicaps rise because one end of the spectrum (high H'caps) are disappearing. Naturally in the statistical scheme of things the appearance will be that golf is getting easier.

The counter-argument to that is that many of those people that may have given up the game because its as "cheaper" didn't have handicaps anyway.

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I read an article several years ago concerning these matters.

It began with the popularity of the game and the increase of annual rounds played throughout the US, early 90's?

I believe Nicklaus commented that with the introduction of new players and with the growth of number of rounds played,

the average handicap decreased. He also attributed it to tougher new course designs, social outings of the new players,

Client golf outings, introduction of kid programs, and the aging golfer were many factors considered.

He also commented on the equipment changes, clubs, balls, etc, were also factors of improving the average golfers abilities.

It was just an overall statistic which the golf industry analyzes for marketing improvements.

If they were to categorize players with the number of years playing the game, it would certainly provide more accurate figures.

The most notable data apparent to everyone who has played the game for many years, has been the increase costs of green fees, equipment, etc. to play golf over the past 15 years.

Club Rat

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I can only speak to my own experience, but there's no doubt in my mind at least that the improvement in equipment has helped reduce average scores, particularly for high handicappers like myself. I believe I've mentioned in other posts that this summer was my first summer back playing the game after a 15 year or so layoff. If I recall correctly, back then my bag consisted of a set of Spalding Executives (SW to 2i) and my woods (Driver, 3W, and 5W) were actually made of, get this, wood (haha). When I decided to start playing again this year, I went out and got a set of TM Rocketballz (3H, 4i to AW), TM Rocketballz Stage 2 Driver and 3W, and a 56 degree Titlelist Vokey Wedge. My "good" shots with the old clubs were really not signficiantly different then they are now today with the new clubs, the difference of course being the "bad" shots with the old clubs were REALLY REALLY bad while I find the mis-hits with today's clubs are usually still reasonably playable. For me, the advent of the hybrids has also been a tremendous help (my 3H has become one of my favorite clubs to hit). I probably couldn't put an exact number on how many strokes the newer clubs have saved me since I've returned to the game but I think I can safely say they have indeed helped (and will continue to help) me reduce my scores. I've often thought about finding/buying a set of those old Spaldings and playing a couple of rounds with them just to see.
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The counter-argument to that is that many of those people that may have given up the game because its as "cheaper" didn't have handicaps anyway.

well, the counter argument to that argument would be that only in America, land of the Free, you have golfers who are not required to keep aand maintain a hc and still be allowed to play. I think in europe most places a handicap is mandatory to play on a course. If you havent improved handicap by returning your score cards, then obviously you would have maximum handicap possible when youre only starting out with golf. This i assume, would be counted for statistical purposes...

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well, the counter argument to that argument would be that only in America, land of the Free, you have golfers who are not required to keep aand maintain a hc and still be allowed to play.

I think in europe most places a handicap is mandatory to play on a course. If you havent improved handicap by returning your score cards, then obviously you would have maximum handicap possible when youre only starting out with golf. This i assume, would be counted for statistical purposes...

Huh? :-\

I've played golf all over the world and have only been asked to provide evidence of a handicap once.  It was in the U.S.

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I'd think this is consistent with any recreational sport.  I'd be curious to compare golf to bowling in that I'd expect they are similar in terms of performance improvement over time.

Golf handicaps, like bowling averages for individuals should look like an inverse bell curve.

  • Players start with a high handicap and progress over time to a lower one until the effects of age or injury cause their handicap to go back up or they are forced to give up the game with removes their handicap from being factored in.
  • Handicap overall is cyclical in that new golfers with higher handicaps replace the lower handicap older players
  • Handicaps would likely be consistent with changes to demographics and population trends.
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well, the counter argument to that argument would be that only in America, land of the Free, you have golfers who are not required to keep aand maintain a hc and still be allowed to play.

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It is the economy...and both adults in a family working now that is causing handicaps not to drop. People just don't have the time anymore to work on their games like we used to. Also golf prices are rising..substantially in my area...lessons/ equipment/ and round and membership prices. All this leads to less playing and practicing..which is why no one is really improving. The game of golf Is becoming its own worst enemy. ...it is truly alienating the middle and lower classes...very very very sad
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Well, I didn't mean  to insult America or anything like that, or American golfers for that matter.

It just seemed to me to be a very stark contrast in "golfing philosophy" that's all. And yes, I do indeed appreciate modern golf clubs too, even if they come from America hehe :D

I think in many European countries there exist many regular golf courses (not like special hotel resort golf courses) which have handicap requirement in the mid-range handicap.

My understanding at least for my country's golf situation, Finland (probably same as in Sweden). You must basically have an existing handicap (Golfer's green card) to play on a golf course  (specific beginner par3 courses may be exceptions to the rule).

The way that a local player, beginner gets a handicap to start out with, is that he/she takes a golfing practical exam together with a rules test, and he/she must pass both. Then the beginner golfer gets a "green card" (funny, I know). It's like a Golfer's driver's license, nationally. (but also when you improve to mid-range handicap, you can usually play inside EU, with this kind of handicap, on foreign golf courses)

Usually these are small courses ran by golf instructors, at probably most local golf clubs in the country. I would assume that a foreign player in this country would indeed be normally admitted to play at local course, if he/she has a handicap from their own country (which means they are not total beginners off-the-street, with golf club first time in their hands)

All in all, I do actually find it a little bit funny to talk about whether average golfer has improved in skills over the years (i.e. whether average handicap has improved). Especially if it's true, that only 20% of American golfers even have a registered handicap to begin with .

It feels, almost semantics in a sense. How good is the average golfer? Has the truly average golfer gotten better with improved technology? (when you count all the golfers: the kids, wives, seniors and non-regular ameteur golfers, some of whom don't have registered handicaps in America?)

Is American handicap system truly representative of average golfer at all, if so few golfers have handicap to begin with?

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Well, I didn't mean  to insult America or anything like that, or American golfers for that matter.

It just seemed to me to be a very stark contrast in "golfing philosophy" that's all. And yes, I do indeed appreciate modern golf clubs too, even if they come from America hehe :D

All in all, I do actually find it a little bit funny to talk about whether average golfer has improved in skills over the years (i.e. whether average handicap has improved). Especially if it's true, that only 20% of American golfers even have a registered handicap to begin with.

It feels, almost semantics in a sense. How good is the average golfer? Has the truly average golfer gotten better with improved technology? (when you count all the golfers: the kids, wives, seniors and non-regular ameteur golfers, some of whom don't have registered handicaps in America?)

Is American handicap system truly representative of average golfer at all, if so few golfers have handicap to begin with?

Glad you appreciate our modern golfing equipment and by no means have you insulted the American Golfers. The Japanese have contributed considerably along with many European countries.

Golf in the US was in the early years considered a "rich mans" hobby. It consisted of only a few exclusive private golf clubs and they mainly catered to the wealthy.

Through the years, many men have desired to play the game and along came the public links to accommodate these players. Sons and daughters then became involved while learning and playing along with their fathers.

Thus began the growth and popularity of the game in the US which created the vast production and sales of equipment and development of many types of golf courses.

What I have found in many of the new modern players, is they miss the importance of becoming a "student of the game"

Sure many will know who Bobby Jones or the history behind the Masters, but they have skipped over the true aspect of the "Great Gentleman's Game"

For those of you who know what I am speaking about, I salute you and wish everyone else the best along their golf journey.

Club Rat

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Glad you appreciate our modern golfing equipment and by no means have you insulted the American Golfers. The Japanese have contributed considerably along with many European countries.

Golf in the US was in the early years considered a "rich mans" hobby. It consisted of only a few exclusive private golf clubs and they mainly catered to the wealthy.

Through the years, many men have desired to play the game and along came the public links to accommodate these players. Sons and daughters then became involved while learning and playing along with their fathers.

Thus began the growth and popularity of the game in the US which created the vast production and sales of equipment and development of many types of golf courses.

What I have found in many of the new modern players, is they miss the importance of becoming a "student of the game"

Sure many will know who Bobby Jones or the history behind the Masters, but they have skipped over the true aspect of the "Great Gentleman's Game"

For those of you who know what I am speaking about, I salute you and wish everyone else the best along their golf journey.

Club Rat

Interesting historical perspective. So, what is "the true aspect of the "Great Gentleman's Game"? Or is it one those, "If you have to ask, you'll never understand" things? How does one become a student of the game?

It doesn't seem surprising that the average HC hasn't changed much over the years given that only 15% of golfers have ever taken a lesson. And, according the the Golf Evolution website, only a small portion of those golfers actually improve. I've heard a lot about how modern swing methods and equipment haven't helped and we should go back to the "old school" methods, but another way of looking at it is that modern golfers aren't utilizing modern technology to their full advantage (i.e. being able to record their swing).

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