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chasm

US vs British Handicaps

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I spent the last couple of weeks playing with a few friends who were over here on a golfing trip. Their handicaps ranged from 9 upwards, all maintained under the US system. Of the eight of them, only one could regularly play to within five shots of his stated handicap. Using the Stableford system, he and I were regularly scoring in the thirties, but everyone else was in the twenties most of the time. And the thing that struck me about this was that they clearly thought it was perfectly normal - the fact that I was scoring in the thirties prompted a lot of good-humoured stuff about my being a sandbagger, despite the fact that at no point did I score better than net par figures. This got me thinking about whether there is something in the differences between the US and British systems that might account for it. As I understand it, in the States you put in cards every time you play. Over here, only competition scores (played understrict rules, obviously) count for handicap purposes. Any thoughts on whether that might give rise to different results?
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Perhaps when here, they cheat. Roll their balls, mulligans, gimmes. Theoretically, isn't the SSS applied every time you play? I know when I played North Berwick the SSS was 83 or so, and I scored a 75. It was the most proud 75 I believe I've ever shot, largely because of the SSS that day.
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I spent the last couple of weeks playing with a few friends who were over here on a golfing trip. Their handicaps ranged from 9 upwards, all maintained under the US system.

Of the eight of them, only one could regularly play to within five shots of his stated handicap. Using the Stableford system, he and I were regularly scoring in the thirties, but everyone else was in the twenties most of the time. And the thing that struck me about this was that they clearly thought it was perfectly normal - the fact that I was scoring in the thirties prompted a lot of good-humoured stuff about my being a sandbagger, despite the fact that at no point did I score better than net par figures.

This got me thinking about whether there is something in the differences between the US and British systems that might account for it. As I understand it, in the States you put in cards every time you play. Over here, only competition scores (played understrict rules, obviously) count for handicap purposes. Any thoughts on whether that might give rise to different results?

The HC index in the US is calculated from the average of your best rounds (x .96), so it is more your potential than your average.

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The HC index in the US is calculated from the average of your best rounds (x .96), so it is more your potential than your average.

Yes, and golfers should only better or equal their handicap 20-25% of the time.

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Perhaps when here, they cheat. Roll their balls, mulligans, gimmes. Theoretically, isn't the SSS applied every time you play? I know when I played North Berwick the SSS was 83 or so, and I scored a 75. It was the most proud 75 I believe I've ever shot, largely because of the SSS that day.

Yes, the SSS applies. The difference from the par score isn't usually quite that huge, though, it must have been blowing a gale. I wondered about the gimmes and mulligans. I guess if a lot of cards go in under non-competitive conditions, some people are going to have handicaps that reflect slightly optimistic scores. North Berwick was one of the courses we played on the trip. Probably the most difficult, I thought, even though conditions were good. EDIT. Sorry, it's the CSS (competition scratch score) that is used, because that's the one that varies with how the course plays on a given day. So, my home course is par 70 with a SSS of 71, but the CSS might vary from the high 60s on a nice day to the mid 70s in foul conditions.

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This got me thinking about whether there is something in the differences between the US and British systems that might account for it. As I understand it, in the States you put in cards every time you play. Over here, only competition scores (played understrict rules, obviously) count for handicap purposes. Any thoughts on whether that might give rise to different results?

Given the fact that the handicaps are computed under completely differently procedures and include different rounds I can't imagine why they would be comparable at all.

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Given the fact that the handicaps are computed under completely differently procedures and include different rounds I can't imagine why they would be comparable at all.

Obviously I don't expect the handicaps to be comparable, necessarily. But I would have expected any golfer, on whichever side of the pond, to play within a couple of shots of his handicap fairly frequently. My American playing partners didn't seem to share that expectation.

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Obviously I don't expect the handicaps to be comparable, necessarily. But I would have expected any golfer, on whichever side of the pond, to play within a couple of shots of his handicap fairly frequently. My American playing partners didn't seem to share that expectation.

Again, it's potential here. See the anti-handicap thread. Those are your 20% and 75% markers (the 0.96 multiplier hurts the low end).

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I am not familiar with the British system, but think vanity handicaps are pretty common in the US- many players don't play as well under the pressure of competition and/or don't follow the rules as much during their casual rounds.  Last summer, there were a number of guys in my Men's League with lower indexes who regularly shot higher than me in competition.

Also, some people don't play so well away from their home course, especially when they are driving on the wrong side of the road.  My dad has always been pretty competitive at his local courses playing most of his rounds with at least a small bet, but at a new course, he seems to rarely play to his handicap.

In terms of expectations of US players, I am not sure, but only a minority would play Stableford regularly enough to know that a score in the 20s is pretty weak.

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Had dinner with a 25 yr veteran of the PGA last night and he said that the Stableford is the best way to have an accurate handicap but getting the USGA to change things is like getting a woman to admit they were wrong/change

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Obviously I don't expect the handicaps to be comparable, necessarily. But I would have expected any golfer, on whichever side of the pond, to play within a couple of shots of his handicap fairly frequently. My American playing partners didn't seem to share that expectation.

My rule of thumb for stableford is as follows - and most Australia/Brits would agree.

36  =  Very happy.

37+ = very very happy

31 -35  = Not super unhappy, but an average round with missed opportunities

30 - at least it's not 29.

Less than 30 - embarrassing, but so what.

In our system, your handicap is what you live and die by every round. It defines each and every score you have.

From what I see of some US players, it seems separate from what they actually do - Like calling rounds practice rounds and not counting them, or never breaking 80 but claiming a handicap off 5.

They come out here, shoot 98 and say they're off 8. It's a joke. And you spend half the round explaining rules to them.

The biggest giveaway on a site like this is where people ask how to get from 2 to a + handicap, or say how stoked they are to have played their first ever par round, but reckon they're off 1.

It's almost as if the  handicap does not connect to their daily play.

As for the OP - if someone thinks that 2 foot putts are gimmes and that it "saves time" not to putt out, I'd love to see them with an 18 inch sidehill putt with a good score going. :-)

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[QUOTE name="chasm" url="/t/76084/us-vs-british-handicaps#post_1027459"] Obviously I don't expect the handicaps to be comparable, necessarily. But I would have expected any golfer, on whichever side of the pond, to play within a couple of shots of his handicap fairly frequently. My American playing partners didn't seem to share that expectation.[/QUOTE] My rule of thumb for stableford is as follows - and most Australia/Brits would agree. 36  =  Very happy.  37+ = very very happy 31 -35  = Not super unhappy, but an average round with missed opportunities 30 - at least it's not 29. Less than 30 - embarrassing, but so what.

i agree [quote]As for the OP - if someone thinks that 2 foot putts are gimmes and that it "saves time" not to putt out, I'd love to see them with an 18 inch sidehill putt with a good score going. :-) [/quote] Yes, speaking as a poor putter, if I was given every putt under three feet my handicap would drop a couple of strokes. I understand the points about handicaps representing one's current potential rather than one's average performance, but that's true over here, too. One gets cut twice as much for a sub-par score as one gets back for an over-par score, so one's handicap always tends to be close to one's best performances - one's best performances in competition, that is.

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The other point to remember is the difficulty of the course. US handicaps are adjusted by the ratings of the course to be played.

So, I think, if your US friends play relatively easy courses at home and your track in the UK is hard, then in the UK you play a tough course your handicap will be more realistic on the harder course. In the US the handicap system would adjust for this, over here not so much.

For example 2 players both off 8, one a member at Birkdale, one at a wide open course with few bunkers or other hazards. They rock up at Carnoustie, I know which one I'd be putting money on to have the most points.

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The other point to remember is the difficulty of the course. US handicaps are adjusted by the ratings of the course to be played. So, I think, if your US friends play relatively easy courses at home and your track in the UK is hard, then in the UK you play a tough course your handicap will be more realistic on the harder course. In the US the handicap system would adjust for this, over here not so much. For example 2 players both off 8, one a member at Birkdale, one at a wide open course with few bunkers or other hazards. They rock up at Carnoustie, I know which one I'd be putting money on to have the most points.

Yes, I buy that to some extent. However, because UK handicaps are mainly based on scores in competition, and because the CSS rather than the stated par figures are used to make adjustments, our handicaps too reflect how easily or difficult a course is playing. Having said that, I do take your point. We were playing some pretty tough links courses...

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Quote:

Originally Posted by chasm

Obviously I don't expect the handicaps to be comparable, necessarily. But I would have expected any golfer, on whichever side of the pond, to play within a couple of shots of his handicap fairly frequently. My American playing partners didn't seem to share that expectation.

Again, it's potential here. See the anti-handicap thread. Those are your 20% and 75% markers (the 0.96 multiplier hurts the low end).

And the handicap one takes to the course is modified from his index based on the course slope and rating.  The system breaks down when there is no rating to adjust to.  Every course that uses the USGA handicap system has a rating and a slope that modify the handicap index.  When those numbers are not available as in the UK, then how does a player really know what his course handicap is? One's index can easily be increased by 2 or 3 strokes when converted with the course handicap formula on a difficult course.

Originally Posted by chasm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wansteadimp

The other point to remember is the difficulty of the course. US handicaps are adjusted by the ratings of the course to be played.

So, I think, if your US friends play relatively easy courses at home and your track in the UK is hard, then in the UK you play a tough course your handicap will be more realistic on the harder course. In the US the handicap system would adjust for this, over here not so much.

For example 2 players both off 8, one a member at Birkdale, one at a wide open course with few bunkers or other hazards. They rock up at Carnoustie, I know which one I'd be putting money on to have the most points.

Yes, I buy that to some extent. However, because UK handicaps are mainly based on scores in competition, and because the CSS rather than the stated par figures are used to make adjustments, our handicaps too reflect how easily or difficult a course is playing.

Having said that, I do take your point. We were playing some pretty tough links courses...

Many players here establish a handicap playing predominately one or two courses.  For mid to high handicap players those handicaps often don't travel well, even on USGA rated courses, because they were established on a course that the player knows well.  He knows the pitfalls to avoid, and he knows when he can let it out.  On a new course in a different country, it's only logical to assume that he's going to be nervous.  He may become indecisive, overly cautious, and may look as if he just picked up the game last week.  Come over here with him and play his course and you may well see a completely different player.

To summarize, handicaps don't travel well because the two systems aren't compatible, and the whole experience can be a bit unnerving, which can add to that effect.

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My rule of thumb for stableford is as follows - and most Australia/Brits would agree.

36  =  Very happy.

37+ = very very happy

31 -35  = Not super unhappy, but an average round with missed opportunities

30 - at least it's not 29.

Less than 30 - embarrassing, but so what.

Is it mainly stableford which are the handicapping rounds in Britain? What about 'Straya, down under, as they say?

I have to say that as a relative beginner golfer, I'm not exactly happy... about those sub-36 points rounds...

more like:

37+ Happy, because it was well played round. It also lowers handicap somewhat.

32 - 36 Satisfied, because it was well-enough, average but still quite well-played round. No major mistakes you could say. Handicap stays same.

below 31 it starts to raise the handicap already. But what can you do except bite the bullet? Do  better next time ! :-D

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Is it mainly stableford which are the handicapping rounds in Britain? What about 'Straya, down under, as they say?

Shorty will have to answer for Australia, but in the UK, no, it isn't mainly stableford. I'd estimate that about two-thirds to three-quarters of my club's competitions are medal play.

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Yes, I buy that to some extent. However, because UK handicaps are mainly based on scores in competition, and because the CSS rather than the stated par figures are used to make adjustments, our handicaps too reflect how easily or difficult a course is playing.

Having said that, I do take your point. We were playing some pretty tough links courses...

But CSS is only applicable for calculating handicap. It makes no difference on the shots receivable in the game.

At a UK course if you both play off 8 and you turn up at the same course you're both getting 8 shots, it doesn't matter how hard/easy your home course is. In the US there will be an adjustment to modify the shots received based on the difficulty of the home course

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