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Does US handicap system lead to slow play?

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Good article by John Paul Newport

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444508504577595520292184822.html

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Sorry, I disagree.  In fact, the sub-title is misleading.  The (old) article itself doesn't mention much at all about how the U.S. handicap system either promotes slow play, or makes golf less fun.  It talks about some of the differences in golf culture between golfers in different countries, specifically playing more match play and stableford in casual matches, but let's face it, that has nothing to do with the handicap systems in place.  In fact, he specifically acknowledges that any difference is cultural, maybe with a dose of ignorance for the system thrown in.....

The USGA handicap system allows players to pick up, too. For handicap reporting purposes, "equitable stroke control" provisions limit the number of strokes players may record for any hole, depending on their skill level. During match play rounds in particular, a player can pick up once he's out of a hole and record his "most likely score ," defined by the USGA as "the number of strokes already taken plus, in the player's best judgment, the number of strokes the player would take to complete the hole from that position more than half the time."

"The problem is that not even 5% of players actually know this ," said Steven Edmondson, the USGA's managing director for handicapping and course rating. Culturally, Americans are simply more inclined to finish out every hole.

"The question U.S. golfers always ask after a round is 'What did you score?'" noted Davis of the USGA. "In the U.K. and Europe, they ask, 'Who won the match?' Neither is right or wrong, that's just how things have been decade after decade."

If the purpose of the article is to inform people that there are different systems out there, then I guess he managed to do that.  But he failed miserably in any attempt to portray one system as better/faster/more fun than another.  Probably because none are......

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the premise of his article is more about the mentality of the US golfer than the actually handicap system. Most golfers don't keep a authentic USGA handicap anyways, they only give you what they think they shoot. Of course you can play rounds of golf that are not under USGA regulation, just don't be posting them towards your handicap.

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Players in the US aren't going to embrace the changes he recommends simply because they prefer stroke play.  Most of us, even when playing in a casual competition within our weekly fourball, still want that score against par - we want to have that finite number to compare against past and future rounds.  No matter the end result, most of us are still playing against the course as much as we are against our opponents.  That said, it still isn't necessary to play slowly to accomplish this.

There is also the mindset that we have paid to play 18 holes, not 80% or 85% of 18 holes.  We may complain about slow play, but I feel that we would hear more complaints if players were required to pick up 2 or 3 strokes before holing out just because our opponent or fellow competitor has hit his approach to 3 feet while our ball lies in the greenside bunker.

Third, most players these days grew into the game watching the pros play stroke tournaments on TV, and whether it's a realistic attitude or not, most want to be able to make some sort of distant comparison between themselves and what they see on TV.  This is more true the better a player becomes.  Once I broke 80, I could actually see across the gap, and it was in the back of my mind when I was playing well.  Not that I ever imagined that I would bridge that canyon between us, but at least I could see what was happening on the other side.

How does a player ever record a personal best when he's picking up half the time?  I can't imagine saying "I shot my lifetime low today, 73, and I only picked up 4 times."

Call it a mindset - call it a convention - but I see a very difficult road for any attempt to change that approach to the game.

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I think the article is off target in capturing what's really happening on most courses in the US.  One area where he's right is that most golf in the states tends to be stroke play while in Europe it's Stableford or match play.

I believe the authors numbers of how many golfers in the US maintain a handicap is off by 50% but I do agree many don't know about  ESC, which can lead to longer rounds than match play or Stableford.  I see many golfers taking as many swings as needed (10+) to get close enough to the hole for someone to give them a gimme.  Quite often these golfers games closer resemble field hockey than golf.

Overall I think a major part of the speed issue in the US isn't due to stroke play, it has to do with people not interested in maintaining pace of play because they prefer to socialize or don't know that they should be playing ready golf

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Stroke play tends to be slower than match play, but that is not the fault of the handicap system.  I disagree that only 5% (who have handicaps) know about ESC- there are certainly players who don't know their ESC numbers, but it is not uncommon to hear a guy pick up or take a putt and say that he has reached his max.  Much more than 5% with handicaps do this.

I have played in Australia and think it is a pretty good system- at most clubs, they have a Stableford comp at least once a week and it is these scores that make the basis of the players' handicaps.  Stableford allows you to pick up and still post a score.  For those who like a finite number to see how they did, they get one each comp (along with a stroke play score if they want it- regular if no pick ups and adjusted if there were pick ups)

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This makes about as much (and by much, I mean little) sense as those who claim that the Rules of Golf cause slow play.  My question is, since less than 20% of golfers maintain a handicap at all ( and a much lower percentage play by the actual rules) how is it that this minority of golfers are causing all of this slow play?  People serious or savvy enough to maintain a handicap and/or play by the Rules are the very ones who are most acutely aware of the slow play problem.  I would venture to guess that IF there was a way to measure it we would find that on balance the guys who play by the rules and maintain handicaps are the faster players.  And the bat it around to have "fun" while swilling beer guys are the slower players.

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Everyone seems to have a different opinion of what causes slow play but the suggested causes in this article aren't it. I do think they have a point in that ignorance plays a part and there certainly are times when picking it up makes sense. Personally I think it's down to ignorance, entitlement and stubbornness. If I get stuck behind a few slow groups and can see what is holding them up it almost always comes down to unskilled golfers playing the wrong tees chasing balls without any consideration to what it does to those behind them. Not once have I been stuck behind someone hitting 2-3 half decent shots that get them near a green.

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The article subject line is misleading as others noted.

But if US applies EU rules on tournament play (e.g, pick up ball after you can't score better than what ESC limits you to), can tournament move a lot faster?   Whenever I am ready to tee up, if there is a tournament in front of us, starter will say something like "there is a tournament in front so it will be slow."   And it's true.  Getting stuck behind a tournament means a 5 hour round.  Sure, some of you will jump up and down and claim it is not so slow but that is my perception, firmly rooted by personal experience.  So, the question I ask is ... why do you think tournament play is slower than normal four-some round?   What can speed it up?

( If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.   I am in the process of establishing an official handicap to join tournaments so that I can slow it down further :-D .  )

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The majority of people don't know the Rules of Golf, don't maintain a handicap and think they should play golf like the Pro's they watch on television.  They see the pro's taking their time, being methodical and believe that if they want to score their best that's what they should do as well.

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I don't think it is necessarily the handicap system that is at fault, I think that most people do not have any idea about ready golf.  We have far too many golfers (of limited ability and even some with ability), that cannot seem to comprehend that you don't drive the cart to one ball and both sit and wait for one person to hit and then drive to the next shot and both sit and wait to hit and so on and so forth.  If everyone was ready to hit when it was their turn or even when it's not your turn, play would speed up.

This topic is why I'm a member at a Country Club, I spent far too many years playing 5.5 hour rounds on the weekend or having to get up at the crack of dawn to beat the slow pokes on the course.  I'll pay the premium to play under 4 hours on the weekend and about 3.25 hours during the week. walking.

Driver: Titleist 913 D3 (9.5 0 ) – Aldila RIP 60-2.9-Stiff

Fairway: Titleist 906 F4 (15.5 0 ) with Tileist Graphite Design YS-6 FW+ Stiff

Hybrid: Titleist 910H (17 0 ) with Project X 6.0 steel shaft

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Wedges: Titleist Vokey SW (56 0 ) & LW (60 0 ) w/ Dynamic Gold S300 steel shafts, Cleveland GW (52 0 ) w/ Dynamic Gold S300 shaft

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The article subject line is misleading as others noted.

But if US applies EU rules on tournament play (e.g, pick up ball after you can't score better than what ESC limits you to), can tournament move a lot faster?   Whenever I am ready to tee up, if there is a tournament in front of us, starter will say something like "there is a tournament in front so it will be slow."   And it's true.  Getting stuck behind a tournament means a 5 hour round.  Sure, some of you will jump up and down and claim it is not so slow but that is my perception, firmly rooted by personal experience.  So, the question I ask is ... why do you think tournament play is slower than normal four-some round?   What can speed it up?

( If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.   I am in the process of establishing an official handicap to join tournaments so that I can slow it down further .  )

First of all, consider what the starter calls a tournament.  Often it's nothing more than a charity scramble with a bunch of bad golfers out for a party on the golf course.  If it's a true tournament, then it depends on the organization.  My Men's Club has its own pace of play policy, and it's rigidly enforced.  We hold a couple of tournaments each month on a busy public course, usually with a field of 144 players.  There are times when the last group will finish in more than 4½ hours, but since we instituted the policy, that is becoming more rare.  Any tournament which is run with no pace of play regulations is poorly managed, and the course which allows it also has management issues.

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I played in a charity scramble where if you finished under 4.5 hours, they deducted a stroke off your score. 4.5-5 hours you got zero, but over 5 hours was a penalty stroke.  Worked really well, as no group played over 5 hours.

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Yes because even our "match play" turns out to be stroke play because most players hole out even when the hole has been decided. Stroke play in US is slower than true match play played in GB.

As the article suggests, when we start asking "How was your match?" instead of "What did you shoot?" we will be on our way.

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First of all, consider what the starter calls a tournament.  Often it's nothing more than a charity scramble with a bunch of bad golfers out for a party on the golf course.  If it's a true tournament, then it depends on the organization.  My Men's Club has its own pace of play policy, and it's rigidly enforced.  We hold a couple of tournaments each month on a busy public course, usually with a field of 144 players.  There are times when the last group will finish in more than 4½ hours, but since we instituted the policy, that is becoming more rare.  Any tournament which is run with no pace of play regulations is poorly managed, and the course which allows it also has management issues.

I wish all others institute and execute on something like this. Apparently, that's not the case. Last Saturday, before my tee off (2:00 pm start), starter told me that a tournament is 5 or 6 holes in front of us. We soon caught up with them around 9th hole. Sorry to say, we could not finish our round. I don't think the last tournament group finished either. Meanwhile, I see number of non-tournament groups in front and behind us just leaving the course rather than sticking it out. By the time we decided to quit due to darkness, we were the last group who were not in tournament in front. If there were enough sunlight and we decided to finish, that would have been a 5+ hour round.

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I find this very interesting:

"The question U.S. golfers always ask after a round is 'What did you score?'" noted Davis of the USGA. "In the U.K. and Europe, they ask, 'Who won the match?' Neither is right or wrong, that's just how things have been decade after decade."

I'd love to be one of the "Who won the match?" guys.  But I think you'd have to be a certain type of golfer to do that here in the US.  Maybe someone who always plays with the same people or maybe at the same club all the time.  I would love to play a match of some kind against someone every time I went out, but that actually happens pretty infrequently for me.

1. Sometimes I play alone - can't really win that match (or lose?)

2. Sometimes I play with people the course pairs me up with.  These people rarely have a handicap, want to play a match against me, break 100, play from the right tees, play close to the rules,etc.

3. One of my my semi regular golfing buddies loves to play, but doesn't get to play much and his score is so high he rarely keeps it.  He doesn't have a handicap either.

4. Another guy I play with sometimes has a thing about golf really being the golfer against the course and doesn't really like to get involved in competitions.  I think he has a vanity cap and doesn't like to give away those strokes that will surely be the undoing of him.  I've heard others on this site with a similar opinion (minus the whole vanity cap thing).

Etc, etc.  Of course this is just my experience and I know many of you are in a very regular group.  But I live in the Atlanta area and am in my 40's.  Between my friend group's jobs, children, spouses, and the incredible sprawl of this town (some of my friends live 50+ minutes from my house) - it is hard to get together regularly to play with the same folks at the same place.  I'd think some others have this problem too.

And that thing about the article title that asks a question was interesting, too.

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