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# Changes to Handicapping system - Australia, your thoughts

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Curious on peoples thoughts on changes being made to the Aussie handicapping system, I believe they come into force in September 2011.

Background

Australia recently (April 2010) adopted a very similar handicapping system to the US. Basically it is the average of your 10 best of your last 20 rounds multiplied by .96 . We also have a simplified course rating system that works out a "true" par for the course...

For example a monster par 72 may be rated as a 75 so to reach scrach you only need to shoot 75.... Like wise an easy course with a par of 69 may be rated as a 66 to to be scratch you need to shoot 66.

Changes

I have just read that they are going to now calculate handicaps based on your best 8 of your last 20 and the average is multiplied by 0.93

There are another couple of minor amendments but that's the crux of it.

The rational given is that the current system favours high cappers over low in competitions and that the changes will address this.

My question is, will it? What do you think?

From my point of view I can see that most peoples handicaps will drop. And that higher handicappers (like myself) will drop more, but is it really fairer?

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I agree with your assessment.     The math alone tells you that you're going to drop the handicap for any given golfer by throwing out a couple higher scores and then multiplying the remaining average by a slightly lower number.    But as you point out, the math also suggests that the reduction from old to new methods will be greater for a higher handicap player.    One thing that distinguishes a typical low handicap golfer from a higher index player (aside from higher scores) is a greater variability in their scores.

As an example, I made up two different players and gave some examples of what they'd shoot below.    Let's assume that the course rating is 72 for each player.     As you can see, the new system will drop the low index players handicap by a 1/2 stroke, while the higher handicap player drops by over a stroke.

 Score Differential Score Differential 74 2 85 13 76 4 88 16 76 4 88 16 77 5 88 16 77 5 89 17 78 6 90 18 78 6 91 19 78 6 91 19 78 6 91 19 79 7 93 21 79 7 94 22 79 7 96 24 79 7 96 24 80 8 97 25 80 8 97 25 81 9 98 26 81 9 98 26 82 10 100 28 83 11 101 29 83 11 103 31 Old Way 4.9 16.7 New Way 4.4 15.6

So you're correct in assessing how the new method will end up lowering handicap for all, and it will lower it more for the high handicapper.   Which brings us to your question - is it fair?    If the purpose of the change is to make it better for low handicappers in competition, this will do what is intended.   The higher handicapper will lose some of their stroke advantage determining their net score, so the low handicapper will better off in a tournament situation.

A side advantage is that everyone's vanity handicap will be better as well, especially a high handicapper who can claim they dropped a full stroke off their index without doing a thing!

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• 4 weeks later...

So we are now 3 days away from this change taking place.

For me, my handicap will go from 12.6 to 11.6.

But the very reason they are introducing the change perplexes me. MOST clubs (if not all that I'm aware of) have graded competitions.

I'll give the example of Tea Tree Gully (where I play).

C grange 27-36

On any given day, you are only competing directly against those in your own grade. Basically I don't see the argument that the high handicappers win everything because of the HC system. I mean let's face it, C graders shot ridiculous scores under the OLD incremental system every day of the week!!

But either way the change takes place officially on wednesday (21st sep) and I wonder if we'll see a real change in scoring distribution.....

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We have the grades, but only for stroke rounds. At my club only 1 single marker has won a saturday competition this whole year so far. Example: One guy off 20 shot 50 points in the competition on saturday. The greens had just been cored and sanded so naturally all the high cappers play better. But If I was to win I'd have to shoot 8 under the card. I'm telling there is no possible way I could do that. The system is flawed

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This is a really interesting topic in terms of the effect the handicaps will have on results in club competitions.

As was stated earlier, if all competitions were played in grades then the handicapping issue wouldn't be much of a problem. The A Graders would battle it out amongst themselves with a relatively lower score taking out the competition (obviously a generalisation) while the B and C Graders also have their own competition where huge scores (40+ points) are routinely racked up. This is fine, aside from the awarding of balls to participants who have not placed in the competition (generally those with 33 points or more).

I can see both sides of this. I usually play in the Saturday competition which is graded and so events being scooped by higher handicappers doesn't affect me too much. I do however look at the results from the Wednesday professionals' competitions at my club which are not graded, and it has literally been months since an A Grader has won it. Under the system it is a huge disadvantage to have a low handicap when trying to win these non-graded tournaments.

Natuarally it is not always practical to run events in grades, particularly at small country clubs which have small competition fields but this in turn means there is little chance of a low handicapper winning unless they have a career round, even then that might not be enough. I recently played in a monthly medal at a coastal course and while I was not eligible to win not being a member, I was quite confident that my nett 64 would be competitive (Par 72 - ACR - 68). I came 5th and was the only A Grader anywhere near contending.

I am still sceptical about whether or not this new change will have much of an impact on making things 'fairer'. I feel somewhat disadvantaged by having lost strokes off my handicap for having done nothing (8.6 - 7.9) while I'm sure higher handicappers feel even harder done by. A solution had to be looked into and Golf Australia has done that, fingers crossed it works or lays the groundwork for future tweaks to handicapping methodology.

I think the system will have more relevance when the slope indexes are introduced to Australia as is it in the States. It must also be noted that this handicapping system is primarily focused upon stroke events rather than stableford which is by far the most common form of competition in Australia, a fact that I feel was neglected prior to its adoption. The winning scores across the grades certainly even out when it's a stroke event rather than stableford or par.

I'll certainly have a keen eye on if this impacts upon scoring across the grades and hopefully it results in a fairer golfing experience for all. At this stage, and it must be noted I'm yet to play with my new handicap, I am still somewhat sceptical.

Interesting to hear what others think.

Cheers.

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Originally Posted by Clambake

A side advantage is that everyone's vanity handicap will be better as well, especially a high handicapper who can claim they dropped a full stroke off their index without doing a thing!

We don't have vanity handicaps in Australia.

Handicaps are determined by competition rounds only. You can't post scores in non competition rounds.

That is why when Aussies meet American golfers who claim to play off 8, it's really closer to 20, and a 5 marker is usually someone who here couldn't play to 15. I'm talking about players who manage their own handicaps and never play competition rounds.

Regarding the OP, we don't have the slope/true par component yet.

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Originally Posted by Lofty Lefty

So we are now 3 days away from this change taking place.

For me, my handicap will go from 12.6 to 11.6.

But the very reason they are introducing the change perplexes me. MOST clubs (if not all that I'm aware of) have graded competitions.

I'll give the example of Tea Tree Gully (where I play).

C grange 27-36

On any given day, you are only competing directly against those in your own grade. Basically I don't see the argument that the high handicappers win everything because of the HC system. I mean let's face it, C graders shot ridiculous scores under the OLD incremental system every day of the week!!

But either way the change takes place officially on wednesday (21st sep) and I wonder if we'll see a real change in scoring distribution.....

The problem is that your club still has too much spread in each grade.  When a large group of players with a spread of 12 or 13 strokes is in direct competition, then the nod goes to the higher handicappers, because the probability is greater that one or 2 of them will post exceptional scores.  The lower one's handicap is, the more consistent his scoring tends to be, and the less variation in any individual score.  The higher handicappers simply have more wiggle room for improvement.

Look at your A grade:  A scratch golfer is unlikely to better his handicap by more than a couple of strokes, while it's not that unusual for a 12 handicap to shoot 4 or 5 under his index - advantage 12 handicap.  In your B grade:  I've seen legitimate 25 handicappers have a day when everything works and shoot 10 under, but that's almost unheard of for a 13 handicap - again the advantage goes to the high end of the spread.   When competing against a large field the odds are great that at least one of those high handicappers will shoot a life changing round and put the mid or low cappers in the field out of the running.

The USGA system was designed to work best in match play where two players go one on one, or four players go two on two.  When you start to play stroke play with a sizable field, then you have to narrow the differential between players in a given flight to minimize the chance of that rare, random exceptional round skewing the final results.  My club usually has 6 flights in a stroke play tournament, with typically no more than 3 or 4 strokes maximum between the best and weakest golfers in each flight.  The exception is the sixth flight which usually starts about 26 and goes to 36 (36 is the highest handicap we allow in the club).  When handicaps get that high, there is randomness to scoring that means anyone can win on any given day.

In our match play events, we "wheel" off the low cap, meaning that the lower handicap plays scratch and the higher handicap is given the difference between their caps.  This is also how the system was designed to work best.

No handicap system is going to work perfectly in every situation.  They can only be designed to cover the needs for the most likely scenarios, then allow for some modifications to address the commonest variations.  For the USGA system that means flighting stroke play competitions.  Any competition which isn't flighted properly is going to leave open the possibility of allowing that random great round to spoil the overall success of the tournament.

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Well the changes have come in and I dropped 1 stroke... 23 to 22... I thought it would have come in more than that.. maybe I just play consistently cr@p :)

Funny thing is I from what I can remember I have only shot better than my new handicap twice in about 15 rounds so it sure ain't me winning the tournaments.....

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The basic problem boils down to simple math.

Higher handicaps have a greater probability of shooting 4-6 shots less than their handicap than a low handicap and higher handicaps out number low handicaps 5 to 1.  Mix those two equations together and what you get is net golf that seems impossible for a low handicap to compete. Is it fair?  I suppose but the current system in the states does not fully account for the probabilities.  I think the safest net event is half handicap.  This seems to bring every one closer.

I avoid this by not playing net golf.  At our club if your not shooting low 60"s net you haven't a chance.

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Its the same with the system in Ireland, when players from the US come over. Their is quite a gap between handicaps to be honest and often comes a quite a shock for local players when the end up out with a 10 thats an 16 in our system and vice versa. Its not that the US system is flawed or anything its just different.

Originally Posted by Shorty

We don't have vanity handicaps in Australia.

Handicaps are determined by competition rounds only. You can't post scores in non competition rounds.

That is why when Aussies meet American golfers who claim to play off 8, it's really closer to 20, and a 5 marker is usually someone who here couldn't play to 15. I'm talking about players who manage their own handicaps and never play competition rounds.

Regarding the OP, we don't have the slope/true par component yet.

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We don't have vanity handicaps in Australia.

Handicaps are determined by competition rounds only. You can't post scores in non competition rounds.

That is why when Aussies meet American golfers who claim to play off 8, it's really closer to 20, and a 5 marker is usually someone who here couldn't play to 15. I'm talking about players who manage their own handicaps and never play competition rounds.

Regarding the OP, we don't have the slope/true par component yet.

That's pretty cool. I wonder if the biggest benefit in that sort of honesty is that it forces honest putting. I've played with people who mention they keep a handicap, but don't putt out a full 20% of the time. They pick up short putts, take gimme's, etc. I've wondered how many strokes higher their handicaps would be if they were weren't guaranteed a 2-putt on every hole (allowing them to jam short, breaking first putts). They'd probably play to their handicap with woods and irons, but I've thought for a while that lot of handicaps are based purely off that part of the game and don't reflect putting ability. It's easier to 3-putt than we'd like to think. Anyway... digression. But that sort of system sounds kind of nifty.

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Originally Posted by B-Con

That's pretty cool. I wonder if the biggest benefit in that sort of honesty is that it forces honest putting. I've played with people who mention they keep a handicap, but don't putt out a full 20% of the time. They pick up short putts, take gimme's, etc. I've wondered how many strokes higher their handicaps would be if they were weren't guaranteed a 2-putt on every hole (allowing them to jam short, breaking first putts). They'd probably play to their handicap with woods and irons, but I've thought for a while that lot of handicaps are based purely off that part of the game and don't reflect putting ability. It's easier to 3-putt than we'd like to think.

Anyway... digression. But that sort of system sounds kind of nifty.

Absolutely.  You know you've earnt your score. I've missed 18 inch putts and I've three putted from 6 feet on really treacherous fast greens.  They all count.

The idea of someone knocking your putt away when it's 3 feet away just doesn't make sense to me.

The only disclaimer I'll make is this: Most of the competitions in Australia are stableford. That means that if you have a miss (2 over your handicap for that hole) the computer scores it as 2 over your handicap when it could be more. We have stroke rounds once a month and the scores are higher, usually, because you don't pick up when you've had a miss because there are no misses.  36 points (even with your handicap in Stableford) may not equate to nett 72 (on a par 72 course)

I have played with several visiting American and Canadian players and they'll play in the comp, say they're off 13 and have no idea how to mark a card or score. Then you see that they can't break 110. Weird.  This is waht happens when people go home, log onto a computer handicapping system and think "Oh that putt was a gimme and that one I left in the bunker doesn't count and I'm counting that as a 2 putt etc. etc." In our system someone else marks your card and it is submitted in the clubhouse usually via a computer terminal and most clubs have a scrolling screen with the scores. Best way to play, IMO.  But.....golf is affordable in our country - membership of decent clubs might run at a fair bit less than \$700 per year in most towns.

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