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What flaws do you think there are in the handicap system?


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I think it's fair to say that everyone would agree that a handicap system is brilliant. It allows poorer inexperienced players to play against better players, and have a reasonable chance of winning. However, it dawned on me the other day that the system is flawed, and seriously needs looking at. We have competitions at my club where we have to play off of seven eighths or three quarter handicap. Apparently this is because it makes it easier for the better players. Well, if we have to play about with the handicap system, it surely can't be right in the first place. The guys I play with are all knocking shots off of peoples handicaps (not officially) because the same people keep winning friendly games. 

 

The question is, what changes would you make to the system ? 

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I personally think the system is fantastic, and I'm not sure I'd change much about it. I think the issue with the system comes more from the players gaming it than the system itself. A club that inclu

I think distance is a little too heavily weighted. When I play a shorter courses rated 69-70 I don't shoot 5 shots better than courses rated 74-75, more like 3 shots. It's not much but I could change

No. Now I can say definitively that you are way off. We consider a significantly larger area. Pretty sure it was 120 yards and is now 100. Read down farther in the 2012-2015 manual you've found o

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I personally think the system is fantastic, and I'm not sure I'd change much about it. I think the issue with the system comes more from the players gaming it than the system itself. A club that includes proper handicap review and sets up its competitions correctly shouldn't have a problem with the system being unfair.

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47 minutes ago, paininthenuts said:

The question is, what changes would you make to the system ? 

There are several variations of a golf handicap system operating around the world.  I can only speak to the version operating in the USA.

As @DeadMan said, most of the problems arise from the players themselves.  Selective posting, failure to use ESC, and little or no knowledge of the Rules of Golf all lead to issues with the accuracy of the handicap indexes produced.

Things I would consider would be:

1. Reduce or eliminate the "Bonus for Excellence"

2. Include a factor for weather conditions (assuming such a system could easily be implemented for a small cost and no input from the individual golfer)

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I like what we have here in the U.S.A.. I can't speak for the rest of the world.

Actually, the only problem I see is how some folks use it incorrectly. Some don't bother to adjust their hndcp when playing different courses. 

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I think distance is a little too heavily weighted. When I play a shorter courses rated 69-70 I don't shoot 5 shots better than courses rated 74-75, more like 3 shots. It's not much but I could change my handicap a stroke either way depending on my ratio of long/short course play. 

Edit: Reading back on what I wrote I could just as well interpret it as a testament to the handicap system's accuracy. One can't expect something with so many variables to be more accurate than a stroke or two either way.

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The bonus for excellence doesn't make sense to me.  Why go to the effort to create such a refined handicap system and then adjust it for a bonus for excellence?

Just to make sure the better players win more frequently?  That's not what a handicap is suppose to be about.

And, it's not a very big deal as the small difference it makes doesn't come into play very much.  It's nonsensical and almost insignificant.  Just eliminate it.

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6 minutes ago, SavvySwede said:

I think distance is a little too heavily weighted. When I play a shorter courses rated 69-70 I don't shoot 5 shots better than courses rated 74-75, more like 3 shots. It's not much but I could change my handicap a stroke either way depending on my ratio of long/short course play. 

Edit: Reading back on what I wrote I could just as well interpret it as a testament to the handicap system's accuracy. One can't expect something with so many variables to be more accurate than a stroke or two either way.

I've mentioned a few times before about how "easy" my league course is at 66.4/110. However, my scores on that course are no different than when I play any other course that's rated much more difficult comparatively. For example, my other most frequently played course is 70.2/121. I mostly shoot in the low/mid 90's at both courses, but because the league course rating is so low it skews my overall handicap because my expected scores are 5 shots different. The main reason I don't shoot any better is there are a lot more places to lose a ball at the "easier" course than the "harder" course, so errant shots aren't as penalized. The shorter course also isn't maintained as well, having rock hard greens which are extremely difficult to hold even on good approach shots and fairways which have grass that's almost as long as the rough, etc. The league course is over 500 yards shorter though, so it's rated much lower. This is partially why I don't always agree that playing forward is going to make a course play easier. Depending on the player, length isn't necessarily an issue, direction is. In answer to the OP, I don't really think there is anything that needs changed. I just think that some courses ratings may not be reflective of it's actual difficulty depending on the person playing and/or the condition the course is in..

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34 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

There are several variations of a golf handicap system operating around the world.  I can only speak to the version operating in the USA.

As @DeadMan said, most of the problems arise from the players themselves.  Selective posting, failure to use ESC, and little or no knowledge of the Rules of Golf all lead to issues with the accuracy of the handicap indexes produced.

Things I would consider would be:

1. Reduce or eliminate the "Bonus for Excellence"

2. Include a factor for weather conditions (assuming such a system could easily be implemented for a small cost and no input from the individual golfer)

Whats the bonus for excellence?

And I agree with #2 and think that its a brilliant idea that they are considering doing that.  I remember from the "handicap changes" thread that that topic came up and they were talking about adopting some sort of daily handicap factor at each course to help normalize everything.

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44 minutes ago, SavvySwede said:

I think distance is a little too heavily weighted. When I play a shorter courses rated 69-70 I don't shoot 5 shots better than courses rated 74-75, more like 3 shots. It's not much but I could change my handicap a stroke either way depending on my ratio of long/short course play. 

Edit: Reading back on what I wrote I could just as well interpret it as a testament to the handicap system's accuracy. One can't expect something with so many variables to be more accurate than a stroke or two either way.

Probably more a rating quirk. We get killed in CO because of effective playing length due to altitude. I have to play at near 7000 for a tee rating at par. I don't get around as much as I used to but I didn't and don't play better or worse going from 6500 to 7000.

I don't sweat funny weather days because it all evens out. That windy day that runs the strokes up is offset by the perfect day when I play at my best.

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14 minutes ago, Golfingdad said:

Whats the bonus for excellence?

And I agree with #2 and think that its a brilliant idea that they are considering doing that.  I remember from the "handicap changes" thread that that topic came up and they were talking about adopting some sort of daily handicap factor at each course to help normalize everything.

The bonus for excellence is the factor the USGA system uses to reduce the raw average of your best 10 differentials, which is 0.96.  Its pretty inconsequential, amounting basically to one stroke for every 25 handicap index strokes.

The "course rating for the day", or whatever it might eventually get called, might be similar to the Competition Scratch Score (CSS) used in England.  I just read a bit of their procedure, and my head started to spin around :w00t: like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist, so I stopped :surrender:.  Essentially, they take all of today's scores by players with proper handicaps, and do some kind of statistical hocus pocus to backfigure what the course rating for today should have been in order to produce a "normal" distribution of scores.  It seems like a kind of self-perpetuating deal that would make changes to handicaps pretty slow.

As far as the USGA Handicap System, I think it works reasonably well if managed and enforced properly.  Of course some players will semi-consistently shoot lower net scores on a course that is (pick one or more) longer, shorter, harder, easier, has more water, has more trees, etc.  as compared to his normal course.  That's simply a problem with the application of a statistical system based on a huge population to each individual within the population.  

 

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2 hours ago, paininthenuts said:

Apparently this is because it makes it easier for the better players. Well, if we have to play about with the handicap system, it surely can't be right in the first place. The guys I play with are all knocking shots off of peoples handicaps (not officially) because the same people keep winning friendly games.  

It's more about how handicaps are best designed for match play. 20 scratch players lose to 20 18 handicappers more than 50%. The higher handicappers have more variability in their scores.

1 hour ago, bkuehn1952 said:

1. Reduce or eliminate the "Bonus for Excellence"

2. Include a factor for weather conditions (assuming such a system could easily be implemented for a small cost and no input from the individual golfer)

1. Why? It's 4% and helps account for holes where a bad golfer makes an 8 or something.

2. It all evens out. And… this is coming. ;-)

1 hour ago, SavvySwede said:

I think distance is a little too heavily weighted. When I play a shorter courses rated 69-70 I don't shoot 5 shots better than courses rated 74-75, more like 3 shots. It's not much but I could change my handicap a stroke either way depending on my ratio of long/short course play.

I don't think it is. Distance has a huge impact on scoring. The numbers consistently bear that out.

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2 hours ago, paininthenuts said:

I think it's fair to say that everyone would agree that a handicap system is brilliant. It allows poorer inexperienced players to play against better players, and have a reasonable chance of winning. However, it dawned on me the other day that the system is flawed, and seriously needs looking at. We have competitions at my club where we have to play off of seven eighths or three quarter handicap. Apparently this is because it makes it easier for the better players. Well, if we have to play about with the handicap system, it surely can't be right in the first place. The guys I play with are all knocking shots off of peoples handicaps (not officially) because the same people keep winning friendly games. 

 

The question is, what changes would you make to the system ? 

No changes. It's fair as it is, and the 3/4 handicap is fair as well. It makes complete sense. Higher handicaps have a lot more strokes to play around with.

EDIT: Just read Erik's response.

1 hour ago, bkuehn1952 said:

There are several variations of a golf handicap system operating around the world.  I can only speak to the version operating in the USA.

As @DeadMan said, most of the problems arise from the players themselves.  Selective posting, failure to use ESC, and little or no knowledge of the Rules of Golf all lead to issues with the accuracy of the handicap indexes produced.

Things I would consider would be:

1. Reduce or eliminate the "Bonus for Excellence"

2. Include a factor for weather conditions (assuming such a system could easily be implemented for a small cost and no input from the individual golfer)

I noticed that Game Golf seems to include weather conditions in the reports when conditions are less than optimal.

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I feel like distance should make more of a difference. The difference in rating at my home course between the blues and the whites is 71.5 to 70.1. Yet I shoot way better scores when all of my approach shots are 30 yards or so closer to the green on each hole when I play the whites.

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I haven't really "embraced" the handicap system but, from my outsider's perspective . .it's too complicated.  It's too difficult to establish and maintain (have to belong to a club or some kind of hc service).  People can easily cheat it with selective posting or by not knowing/following the rules, etc.   I think there is an unspoken understanding that there is cheating going on at nearly all handicap tournaments . .even if the prize is just a sleeve of balls, lol. 

Plus I can't rationalize the reason for it, in the first place.  Let's create a way so bad golfers can beat good golfers.  Hmm.  That's odd to me.  The rare times I play for money it's never very much money and I always offer to play "straight up" even if I'm totally going to lose.  If the other guy happens to know my game and wants to give me some strokes . . ok.

I'd rather just play off scratch and lose all the time. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Rainmaker said:

I haven't really "embraced" the handicap system but, from my outsider's perspective . .it's too complicated.  It's too difficult to establish and maintain (have to belong to a club or some kind of hc service).  People can easily cheat it with selective posting or by not knowing/following the rules, etc.   I think there is an unspoken understanding that there is cheating going on at nearly all handicap tournaments . .even if the prize is just a sleeve of balls, lol. 

Plus I can't rationalize the reason for it, in the first place.  Let's create a way so bad golfers can beat good golfers.  Hmm.  That's odd to me.  The rare times I play for money it's never very much money and I always offer to play "straight up" even if I'm totally going to lose.  If the other guy happens to know my game and wants to give me some strokes . . ok.

I'd rather just play off scratch and lose all the time. 

I think you'll find that where there's an active Handicap Committee, there's relatively little sandbagging, although there's always a bit of friendly banter aimed at the winner.  The problem is that the people who are supposed to enforce the rules isn't "them", its US.  An employee of a golf club can, and should, be on the committee, but its really run and chaired by members.  Too often, very few members care enough to do the work required to make the system work correctly.  They get what they deserve, in my opinion.

And the system isn't intended to allow a poorer player to beat a better one, but to allow them to compete against each other fairly.  My wife has beaten me once straight up, in 20 years of playing together, but with our handicaps, we almost always play a tight match when we play, and that makes it more fun.

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23 minutes ago, Rainmaker said:

I haven't really "embraced" the handicap system but, from my outsider's perspective . .it's too complicated.  It's too difficult to establish and maintain (have to belong to a club or some kind of hc service).  People can easily cheat it with selective posting or by not knowing/following the rules, etc.   I think there is an unspoken understanding that there is cheating going on at nearly all handicap tournaments . .even if the prize is just a sleeve of balls, lol. 

Plus I can't rationalize the reason for it, in the first place.  Let's create a way so bad golfers can beat good golfers.  Hmm.  That's odd to me.  The rare times I play for money it's never very much money and I always offer to play "straight up" even if I'm totally going to lose.  If the other guy happens to know my game and wants to give me some strokes . . ok.

I'd rather just play off scratch and lose all the time. 

This is more or less what I thought three years ago.

The handicap system is designed to make betting more equitable. This way more experienced golfers can be pushed to their limits as with new golfers. They can both enjoy a hard earned victory against each other.

You can play straight up, just against people of your own skill level. For instance, skins is mostly played without handicaps against other people with similar handicaps.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

1. Why? It's 4% and helps account for holes where a bad golfer makes an 8 or something.

ESC accounts for the high scoring holes. The 4% is just an adjustment to weight the system in favor of the better player.  Why does the system need to be weighted in favor of anyone?  When the USGA talks about the handicap system they always tout how it makes it possible for players of different abilities to compete against each other. The USGA never mentions it is a system weighted in favor of better players versus less skilled.

And for those that dismiss it as "only 4%" or an insignificant number, then we agree.  Since it is insignificant and only 4%, get rid of it.

 

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1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

The bonus for excellence is the factor the USGA system uses to reduce the raw average of your best 10 differentials, which is 0.96.  Its pretty inconsequential, amounting basically to one stroke for every 25 handicap index strokes.

==============

I'm sorry, that's just a different language !!

 

6 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

ESC accounts for the high scoring holes. The 4% is just an adjustment to weight the system in favor of the better player.  Why does the system need to be weighted in favor of anyone?  When the USGA talks about the handicap system they always tout how it makes it possible for players of different abilities to compete against each other. The USGA never mentions it is a system weighted in favor of better players versus less skilled.

And for those that dismiss it as "only 4%" or an insignificant number, then we agree.  Since it is insignificant and only 4%, get rid of it.

==================================

And that's my point. If a handicap system is meant to be correct, why should anyone play around with it ?

6 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

 

 

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