Our state association recently announced that the handicap reporting season has been extended to November 15. This came after they opened the reporting season early with a March 15 opening rather than the traditional April 1st date.
I am all for reporting as many scores as possible but extending the handicap reporting season, on both ends, seems like a bad idea. Certainly most courses in Southeast Michigan become playable by mid-March and remain so until mid-November. There is a big difference, however, between being playable versus being in decent shape. Early in the year the ground is extremely soggy, temperatures are barely above freezing, and the greens are slow & bumpy. Late October and November often sport similar conditions with aerated greens and reduced course maintenance. Many course’s bunkers look like a battle zone with deer tracks, leaves and water puddles. There are no tournaments played after September or scheduled prior to May in recognition of the rough conditions that exist early and late in the season.
These rough conditions often lead to what I call, “seasonal sandbagging.” Those of us who play regularly through November and then start early in March typically see our indexes rise. As an example, at the end of tournament season in 2015 my index was 7.3. By the first May tournament in 2016, my index was 9.4. Until the improved conditions allowed me to score better (and lower my index), I had a 2-3 shot advantage over competitors whose indexes reflected the fact that they started the season late and put their clubs away early.
Undoubtedly, the Golf Association of Michigan staff have their reasons for extending the reporting season. I remain unconvinced that reporting scores from March or November create a more accurate handicap index. Still, rules are rules so that 86 I will shoot in November will replace that 78 I carded in the last tournament at the end of August. And I will be that much more competitive in our first net event of 2017.