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

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33 minutes ago, tdiii said:

In any event, I'd like to understand how a 13.4 differential doesn't increase one's index of 12.0. I mean, I suppose a score higher than that could be dropped off the 10 best of the last 20, but I don't understand why it is very likely to lower the handicap.

You don't need any score to drop off at all.  It's really quite simple.  It's only 1.4 higher than his handicap.

Go look at your handicap and compare it to the highest of your 10 best.  I would be shocked if at least one of them wasn't more than 1.4 higher than your handicap.  As an example, I am a 4.8, so 1.4 higher is 6.2. THREE of my ten best are higher than 6.2.  12 handicaps are generally even more sporadic than 5 handicaps, so I'd go so far as to say that I would bet that the VAST MAJORITY of 12 handicaps out there would actually be helped by a 13.4 differential. (Obviously not counting those whose 20th oldest score is one of their 10 best and 13.4 or lower)

EDIT:  Just looked up a random 12.0 handicapper on GHIN and their 10 best are 10.3, 13.4, 13.0, 14.8, 16.2, 10.3, 14.3, 12.6, 9.8 and 10.8.  If none of those fell off when the 13.4 was posted, their 12.0 would become 11.7.

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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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3 hours ago, tdiii said:

My club has lots of older players.  Also, I play annually in a five round tourney at Fall River Mills up near Lassen in NorCal which has several older players (none of whom are members at my club).  I mention Fall River as the course is very long (7,000 yards, 7,400 from the tips).  In any event, I see older players who play forward tees at their home courses and have indexes in the 8-16 range, but cannot seem to play close to their indexes when forced to play moderately long courses.  It doesn't negatively impact me, as it is like a vanity handicap so if we compete I benefit, but my experience is that the handicap system does not seem to account enough for length, at least with older golfers who are lucky to hit it 220 off the tee.

I agree for the most part with this, depending on the layout of the "long" course.  We shorter hitters often do not gain much of an advantage being accurate on a long course.  We can't fly the hazards off the tee.  Instead of a 7 iron, we are hitting fairway woods for approach shots.  If I regularly play a shorter course, the only time I may be called upon to hit a fairway wood is on par 5's or to layup off the tee on short par 4's.  Put me on a course where a fairway wood or hybrid is used on most of my second shots and my game is going to get seriously stressed.  I can play to a 7-8 handicap most of the time on a 6,000-6,300 yard course.  Put me on a 7,500 yarder with a decent amount of greenside bunkering and some cross hazards and I am pretty sure I won't beat my handicap 20-25% of the time like I might on shorter courses.   Maybe I would surprise myself but I doubt it.

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10 hours ago, Jeremie Boop said:

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..

I do think the system is pretty good considering the challenges. However, I think it's likely you're right.

The USGA got the model of the 'scratch' player pretty well, but I don't think they had much broad / deep data on bogey golfers and compared to Brodie's typical bogey golfer, the USGA version is much more accurate  in distance control and dispersion both off the tee and on approach.

The slope formula very heavily weights distance (~90% according to Dean Knuth) as the primary variable in scoring difference. Now that we have some of Broadie's big data, it's clear that while distance is still the bigger factor in scoring, accuracy / consistency does make a significant contribution - certainly more than ~10%. Lost balls and wild shots are much more of a challenge for higher HCPs (depending on the course).

The slope system does at least try to take obstacle factors and lesser accuracy for higher handicappers into account, but when it does so it applies a pretty unrealistic expectation for the Bogey golfer (vs. a large statistical sampling of 'typical' bogey golfers' actual skills) whereas the accuracy expectations for scratch players are pretty on target.

10 hours ago, No Mulligans said:

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.

See below.

10 hours 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.

I agree. See the top post. Are you maybe playing the shorter courses more conservatively and not using your distance advantage enough?

6 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

When there are disagreements over whether the USGA handicap system is slanted toward lower or higher handicaps, I go by what Dean Knuth said:

"Although handicaps are supposed to equalize matches, it's not always true, is it?

Unfortunately not. The scale is tipped in favor of the better player.

The way the formula works, for every six strokes difference in handicap, the better player has a one-stroke advantage, because the lower handicapper is more likely to play at or near his handicap than the high handicapper.

In a match between an eight handicapper and a 14 handicapper, the better player is giving away six strokes, yet the odds are still 60-40 that he will win the match.

Why?

As we explained in part one ("Handicaps 101," Apr., p. 97), the USGA set up its system to favor better players. Its philosophy is that handicaps should be based on potential rather than average ability.

Back to the math. In part one, when we told you how to figure your handicap, it was explained that after determining your differentials, using course rating and slope, the result is multiplied .96. To be truly equal, the result would have to be multiplied by 1.07. The lower number keeps the advantage with the better player.'

Of course, when one gathers a large group together, the best net score is more often put up by a high handicapper because their scores are more variable.  In a field of 40 with 20 scratch players and 20 25-handicappers, one of the 25 handicappers will have a good day and shoot a net score in the mid 60's while the scratch players will be grouped around "72".  That is why most larger field events flight the event to avoid scratch players having to compete directly with the 20+ handicapper.

Here's some more:

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ANOTHER REASON TO ASK FOR MORE STROKES

You would think that a golfer with a course handicap of 12 would have a decent chance of beating a scratch golfer, provided he was given his full 12 shots. But that golfer has only a 25-percent chance of winning, says Dean Knuth, former director of the USGA's handicap department.

"The USGA set up its system to favor better players with a built-in 'bonus for excellence,' " Knuth says. "It's a philosophy that handicaps should be based on potential rather than average ability."

For every six strokes in handicap difference, the better player has a one-stroke advantage, Knuth says. So in a match between an 8 and a 14, the 8-handicapper has a 60-percent chance of winning. You might want to remember that before wagering.

https://everyonesapundit.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/why-handicap-indexing-favors-better-golfers/ (I like the trimmed mean idea)

http://www.ongolfhandicaps.com/2013/10/usga-war-on-sandbagging-part-iv-usga-to.html (the snark in this one is pretty funny, but not sure how accurate all the assertions are)

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2 minutes ago, natureboy said:

I agree. See the top post. Are you maybe playing the shorter courses more conservatively and not using your distance advantage enough?

The shorter courses tend to have more gimmicky holes that keep the driver out of your hands.

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My personal opinion with what's wrong with the American handicap system starts with and is embedded in inaccurate Course Ratings!

There's other things like how GB only counts Tournament scores. I like that but unfortunately American golf is not exactly set up the way they are so invoking that system would mean many would remain handicap-less or their handicap would be based on 1-2 rounds per year.

But getting back to course ratings, I've always thought they were sketchy at best! My old home course is the classic example. The USGA puts a lot of emphasis on distance(as they should) but it gets lost on how a course actually plays.  Looking at our Regional PGA Junior Tour tournament scores my former home course was near the top 2-3 out of 20ish in our area in difficulty, yet it was among the easiest in "Course Rating"! I like using the juniors scores because they play "actual stroke play tournament golf" not scrambles, shambles, or any other B.S. crap that inhabits American golf these days. And these are the kids that end up playing college golf so they would absolutely smoke the average golfer!

The lowest winning score recorded over the past 12 years there has been Even Par, where the average winning score on most other tracks has ranged from -1 to -3 under par. Like I said, it has one of the easiest ratings in our area, and at 6500 yards, on paper you would think it would be a pushover, but it has a number of tight holes that take Driver out of your hands. It plays very much like Harbor Town in that respect but my personal opinion is because it is not a highly esteemed Country Club or designed by a recognized architect, the USGA gave it an easier course rating.

It is an excellent course that is kept in immaculate condition or else it wouldn't be in their tournament rotation, the vast majority of their courses on the Tour are high end Country Clubs so you don't get in unless you are a quality course! A few years back I was out there when they were re-evaluating the ratings. It was two old guy's in their 70's-80's that couldn't hit the ball out of their shadow and they just drove the course, didn't even play it.

I just thought "What a joke" having two old hackers making an evaluation!!!! The handicap system in general is OK but course ratings are total garbage in my opinion!

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11 hours ago, natureboy said:

The slope system does at least try to take obstacle factors and lesser accuracy for higher handicappers into account, but when it does so it applies a pretty unrealistic expectation for the Bogey golfer (vs. a large statistical sampling of 'typical' bogey golfers' actual skills) whereas the accuracy expectations for scratch players are pretty on target.

I've done a little research on the web, and I've never seen the formulas used to actually determine the Course and Bogey golfer rating.  I do know that the raters fill out a rather detailed worksheet for each hole, detailing both true length, effective playing length, and obstacles.  Exactly how all the data is converted to Course and Bogey ratings isn't available to the general public, as far as I've seen.  If you have a resource to show the validity of your claim, that the USGA is unrealistic, please let us all review it.

10 hours ago, Parker0065 said:

I just thought "What a joke" having two old hackers making an evaluation!!!! The handicap system in general is OK but course ratings are total garbage in my opinion!

After reading a bit about how the Course ratings are produced, I don't see a real problem with two older guys do the rating.  Many of the factors included in the rating worksheet involve simple distances, easily measured by anyone with a laser and/or GPS. While some of the evaluations are somewhat subjective, most are multiple choice (is the stance in a landing zone Moderately Awkward or Significantly Awkward?).  With appropriate training, the age of the raters shouldn't be a big issue.  In a perfect world, I think someone familiar with the course should ride with the rating team, to point out factors that the rating team could otherwise miss.  I wonder if @iacas would want to comment on this, I know he's a qualified course rater.

An interesting website I've found that gives you an idea of what the rating process involves is at:

They're trying to sell their software, which they claim simplifies the rating process to a large extent, but they discuss many, or maybe all, of the factors that are considered.

One last thing, I think distance affects different players differently.  Again, the handicap system applies a statistical evaluation of a huge population to individuals.  Most of those individuals will vary from the statistical "normal", so there will inevitably be inequalities.  To expect a difference in distance, or in any of the other variables involved, to have the same effect on every golfer is completely inappropriate.

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The handicap calculation for many players simply does not reflect a "current players potential" due to their score history which often may have scores used in their calculation. Many will have rounds played over two years ago in the calculation.

I would like to see the USGA consider having a date limit, 18 months and use less rounds in the calculation, 13 or 14 rounds used.

Then the H index would move or trend to a players recent scores in a timely manner.

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13 minutes ago, Club Rat said:

The handicap calculation for many players simply does not reflect a "current players potential" due to their score history which often may have scores used in their calculation. Many will have rounds played over two years ago in the calculation.

I would like to see the USGA consider having a date limit, 18 months and use less rounds in the calculation, 13 or 14 rounds used.

Then the H index would move or trend to a players recent scores in a timely manner.

I think that makes sense for players who don't play many postable rounds. Would you reduce the percentage of scores used in the calculation if the player has fewer scores within the date limit, i.e. 3 rounds of 10 postable, 1 round of 5 postable, etc?  If so, it kind of penalizes a player if he can't post regularly, although the current system may also penalize him by basing his HI on really old data.

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13 hours ago, natureboy said:

The USGA got the model of the 'scratch' player pretty well, but I don't think they had much broad / deep data on bogey golfers and compared to Brodie's typical bogey golfer, the USGA version is much more accurate  in distance control and dispersion both off the tee and on approach.

You're wandering deep into the circular logic again. If you change the USGA's definition and increase the slope as you wish for it to do, all you're going to do is make a guy who was an 18 into a 16, which will even further skew the data from what you're suggesting. The opposite would make more sense (still not enough to pursue, IMO): if you make the course slope easier (lower), the wild 18 handicapper will become a 21 or something.

Besides, the definition of a USGA "bogey golfer" and a Broadie "90s golfer" are not the same.

13 hours ago, natureboy said:

The slope formula very heavily weights distance (~90% according to Dean Knuth) as the primary variable in scoring difference. Now that we have some of Broadie's big data, it's clear that while distance is still the bigger factor in scoring, accuracy / consistency does make a significant contribution - certainly more than ~10%. Lost balls and wild shots are much more of a challenge for higher HCPs (depending on the course).

I disagree and I think the USGA's rating system gets it right. You keep expressing your opinion couched in what you think are presented facts, but at the end of the day you make a bunch of guesses at how often a golfer sprays the ball to get 40 yards off the fairway (or whatever).

Distance is far and away the determining factor. Distance affects accuracy, too, because players of all abilities hit it closer with a wedge than a 5-iron.

13 hours ago, natureboy said:

The slope system does at least try to take obstacle factors and lesser accuracy for higher handicappers into account, but when it does so it applies a pretty unrealistic expectation for the Bogey golfer (vs. a large statistical sampling of 'typical' bogey golfers' actual skills) whereas the accuracy expectations for scratch players are pretty on target.

Broadie's bogey golfer data sample is not as large as you seem to believe, and I'd caution you against stating things you have no inherent knowledge of as fact. Two such examples here: you have no idea how much "trees" are weighted for bogey golfers over scratch golfers in the final formulas, and second, you have no idea how much data Broadie has, how it was collected, etc. His Golf Metrics data is surprisingly thin.

Contrast it, for example, with data from ShotsToHole.com, and you'll see fairway hit percentage remains almost a constant. This supports the idea that bogey golfers are not as wild as you continue to insist that they are. Part of it is that they hit the ball shorter distances, and it's easier to be "more accurate" at shorter distances, but that's a very real part of it.

13 hours ago, natureboy said:

I don't. Handicap is not a measure of your average or mean, but more of your potential. Golfers only best their handicap about 20% of the time.

12 hours ago, Parker0065 said:

My personal opinion with what's wrong with the American handicap system starts with and is embedded in inaccurate Course Ratings!

Uh oh!

12 hours ago, Parker0065 said:

But getting back to course ratings, I've always thought they were sketchy at best! My old home course is the classic example. The USGA puts a lot of emphasis on distance(as they should) but it gets lost on how a course actually plays.  Looking at our Regional PGA Junior Tour tournament scores my former home course was near the top 2-3 out of 20ish in our area in difficulty, yet it was among the easiest in "Course Rating"! I like using the juniors scores because they play "actual stroke play tournament golf" not scrambles, shambles, or any other B.S. crap that inhabits American golf these days. And these are the kids that end up playing college golf so they would absolutely smoke the average golfer!

I'm the captain of my local course rating group, and have been doing course ratings for ten years.

Without any knowledge of what courses you're talking about specifically, you're either a) wrong, or b) guilty of having some biased course raters. I'd lean toward a, but you never know.

Some courses - for a certain class of player - play tougher for certain groups. Junior golfers might not be used to scruffy lies or severely sloping greens or hardpan or whatever - things that you might find on a second-tier course that really aren't considered (sloping greens are, but not heavily) in a course rating. Just as you can have two courses with identical ratings: one wide open and long, another shorter but with many hazards - that suit different types of players.

12 hours ago, Parker0065 said:

The lowest winning score recorded over the past 12 years there has been Even Par, where the average winning score on most other tracks has ranged from -1 to -3 under par. Like I said, it has one of the easiest ratings in our area, and at 6500 yards, on paper you would think it would be a pushover, but it has a number of tight holes that take Driver out of your hands. It plays very much like Harbor Town in that respect but my personal opinion is because it is not a highly esteemed Country Club or designed by a recognized architect, the USGA gave it an easier course rating.

Tight holes are considered and weighted. Perhaps the juniors aren't adept at playing tight courses? I know many of the juniors here are very much in the "smash it and find it and smash it again" mentality.

I doubt that the local rating team is biased, but it could happen. Why not contact the local golf association and see what they have to say? And, heck, before you get too far ahead of yourself… are you sure it was rated by the same group? Some courses get course ratings from other groups, or even make them up themselves. They shouldn't, but it happens.

12 hours ago, Parker0065 said:

It is an excellent course that is kept in immaculate condition or else it wouldn't be in their tournament rotation, the vast majority of their courses on the Tour are high end Country Clubs so you don't get in unless you are a quality course! A few years back I was out there when they were re-evaluating the ratings. It was two old guy's in their 70's-80's that couldn't hit the ball out of their shadow and they just drove the course, didn't even play it.

I just thought "What a joke" having two old hackers making an evaluation!!!! The handicap system in general is OK but course ratings are total garbage in my opinion!

That's not really relevant. You don't have to play a course to rate it.

1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

I've done a little research on the web, and I've never seen the formulas used to actually determine the Course and Bogey golfer rating. I do know that the raters fill out a rather detailed worksheet for each hole, detailing both true length, effective playing length, and obstacles.  Exactly how all the data is converted to Course and Bogey ratings isn't available to the general public, as far as I've seen.  If you have a resource to show the validity of your claim, that the USGA is unrealistic, please let us all review it.

Nor has @natureboy. And the formula itself changes over time, as do the limits to what we consider a "2" or a "4" or whatnot.

1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

After reading a bit about how the Course ratings are produced, I don't see a real problem with two older guys do the rating.  Many of the factors included in the rating worksheet involve simple distances, easily measured by anyone with a laser and/or GPS. While some of the evaluations are somewhat subjective, most are multiple choice (is the stance in a landing zone Moderately Awkward or Significantly Awkward?).  With appropriate training, the age of the raters shouldn't be a big issue.  In a perfect world, I think someone familiar with the course should ride with the rating team, to point out factors that the rating team could otherwise miss.  I wonder if @iacas would want to comment on this, I know he's a qualified course rater.

The rating team doesn't need someone else on the crew to point out things. We consider and see everything. After all, for the bogey golfer, we have to consider the entire corridor of the hole - everything from tee to green. For the scratch golfer, we just consider landing spots.

Our course rating was questioned at a local favorite CC here in the Erie area by some members who wanted it to be ranked as tougher than we found it to be. They appealed, so WPGA sent out a rating squad full of the top people. They got the same rating as we got. They appealed again. The USGA sent out a rating squad. You can guess what happened: same rating (I think the slope differed by +1 for one set of tees, -1 for another).

We're a good team, and if we were hampered by a "local knowledgeable guy" he'd just tell us about how that one time he couldn't chip up this steep bank and it took him five tries to get on. We've already seen it and considered it, and given it the weight it deserves. He'd just be lobbying for the course rating to be higher.

Which is odd, because if anything, I'd want my course rating to be lower: my handicap would "travel" better. People take a weird delight in belonging to a "difficult" golf course.

1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

An interesting website I've found that gives you an idea of what the rating process involves is at:

Looks like it's a few years old. Our sheets have a LOT more info on it than that.

1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

They're trying to sell their software, which they claim simplifies the rating process to a large extent, but they discuss many, or maybe all, of the factors that are considered.

I'd question that claim.

1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

One last thing, I think distance affects different players differently.  Again, the handicap system applies a statistical evaluation of a huge population to individuals.  Most of those individuals will vary from the statistical "normal", so there will inevitably be inequalities.  To expect a difference in distance, or in any of the other variables involved, to have the same effect on every golfer is completely inappropriate.

Absolutely.

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16 minutes ago, iacas said:
2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

An interesting website I've found that gives you an idea of what the rating process involves is at:

Looks like it's a few years old. Our sheets have a LOT more info on it than that.

I'm not surprised that their samples aren't complete, but even those incomplete data sheets are pretty eye-opening as far as how many different factors go into the rating process.

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34 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

I'm not surprised that their samples aren't complete, but even those incomplete data sheets are pretty eye-opening as far as how many different factors go into the rating process.

Thanks for posting this, it is eye opening and knowing that it is even more comprehensive is only more so.

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4 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

I've done a little research on the web, and I've never seen the formulas used to actually determine the Course and Bogey golfer rating.  I do know that the raters fill out a rather detailed worksheet for each hole, detailing both true length, effective playing length, and obstacles.  Exactly how all the data is converted to Course and Bogey ratings isn't available to the general public, as far as I've seen.  If you have a resource to show the validity of your claim, that the USGA is unrealistic, please let us all review it.

First off, a caveat. Don't read into my statement any connotations from the word 'flaw' in the thread title. Also my use of the word 'unrealistic' was poor. A better statement of my intended meaning would be that the accuracy profile for the bogey golfer model the USGA uses 'does not reflect the actual typical bogey golfer' as well as it could now that we have better data samples from which to draw a more accurate picture of 'average'.

I think the HCP system is very good. I think the implementation of the slope system improved it even more in accuracy (portability of HCPs). I think the folks doing the course rating are being helpful to golf in general and are diligent and thorough in their efforts to be objective. I think Dean Knuth did a fantastic service and a bang-up job given the information available at the time. That said, I think that even a good system can be improved / tweaked when new or better data becomes available.

Here is Dean Knuth on the Scratch / Bogey rating. (source: http://www.popeofslope.com/courserating/whatsin.html)

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The rating is basically a yardage formula for the scratch player with a slight adjustment for his obstacles. That is, about what a scratch player should be expected to score on a given course...

Length counts for about 90 percent of the final number...

The formulas in Section 13 of the 2012-2015 USGA Course Rating Manual do not indicate a significant change from Knuth's era. The outputs (in expected shots) of the effective playing length formulas give numbers of 70.4 and 92.5 strokes for scratch and bogey respectively. The outputs for the obstacle factors give adjustments to the base distance rating of 1.1 and 2.9 strokes for scratch and bogey respectively. That's more in the 10% ballpark for the obstacle factors isn't it?

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Again, the handicap system applies a statistical evaluation of a huge population to individuals.  Most of those individuals will vary from the statistical "normal", so there will inevitably be inequalities.

Yes that's a good point. There will never be a perfect correlation of the average or 'typical' to any individual. However, when they built the accuracy models, the USGA team had limited resources / time. If you go to Dean Knuth's site on the formulas and history you will see that they used one amateur tournament to develop the scratch profile, and from what I read a considerably smaller team of bogey golfers and a relatively limited number of courses / holes. Mark Broadie's database on golfer skills relative to score / HCP is much larger than what the USGA had available at the time (see below).

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2008: The Golfmetrics database currently contains almost 40,000 shots representing about 500 rounds of golf from over 130 golfers on six courses in tournament and casual play primarily during 2005-2007. Golfer ages in the database range from 9 to 70 years and the scores range from 64 to 120. PGA and LPGA TOUR pros, club professionals, and amateur golfers are included.

2016: The Golfmetrics effort was begun nearly fifteen years ago and its database of over 100,000 amateur golf shots allows the accurate benchmarking of golfers of all skill levels.

2 hours ago, iacas said:

Besides, the definition of a USGA "bogey golfer" and a Broadie "90s golfer" are not the same.

True, a 20 HCP would likely average in the range of ~ 93 on a 'typical course'. The expected 2/3 shot dispersion width (one std deviation of degrees offline) for a 20 HCP on a typical course for Broadie is significantly larger than the USGA bogey model as described in the Accuracy Table on page 12 of the 2012-2015 USGA Course Rating Manual.

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A male bogey golfer is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty. He can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two shots at sea level.

But according to Broadie a typical 20 HCP doesn't really average 200 yards of the tee. If you go by expected tee distance then the 'model bogey' falls around the 90 shooter mark. The expected degrees offline for the USGA bogey model is significantly smaller / tighter than Broadie's value here too.

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I disagree and I think the USGA's rating system gets it right.

For the most part it's a great system. Doesn't mean it can't be improved.

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Broadie's bogey golfer data sample is not as large as you seem to believe,

See response to DaveP above. It's definitely larger than the one the USGA used to establish the model scratch and bogey golfer neither of which appear to have been updated since formulated by Knuth.

Quote

Contrast it, for example, with data from ShotsToHole.com, and you'll see fairway hit percentage remains almost a constant.

That's likely due to fairway taper in course design reflecting the historic knowledge that shorter hitters / less skilled golfers are also less accurate, or if they face a too tight fairway they may be adjusting (on average) by clubbing down.

The difference in both distance and accuracy between skilled & less skilled golfers is actually reflected in the USGA accuracy expectation for scratch and bogey models. The magnitude of the difference just isn't as large as it should be to reflect the more realistic 'average' bogey golfer profile we have in the era of 'big data'. The USGA didn't have a large data pool available to them (of typical average / player characteristics) at the time they formulated the models, so their smaller sample size of players and courses likely skewed their numbers a bit (not a ton).

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I doubt that the local rating team is biased

I would agree.

Edited by natureboy
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9 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

Would you reduce the percentage of scores used in the calculation

Yes I would like to see them consider a set timeframe of score history. As an example a players 20 score history had 10 rounds posted in 2015, 7 rounds in 2014 and 3 rounds in 2013 are used. Now under a new guideline in the spring of 2016, have only the 10 rounds played in 2015 count towards their calculation and build similar as a new player to the system as they post new scores until they reach 20 total and then calculate thereafter.

I also feel reducing the calculations to 13 or 14 past rounds, greatly enhances a players current potential versus the wider spread using 20 rounds. Then the timeframe gap is reduced and their index would reflect recent or current scores. The index would most likely trend up and down in a broader range based on scores recently played. A player would most likely see their index change 2 or 3 strokes up and down month to month through the season.

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In a one on one situation, I don't have an issue with the current handicap system in general. And, in tournaments, if the field is flighted...I am ok with that too.  But, in a larger field not flighted, in most cases, the lower handicap guy has little to no chance of winning.  We found it necessary to break my tournament league into flights because we were losing all the single digit players.  Does that mean there is something wrong with the handicap system...I don't think so.  I just think there is more room for a higher handicap player to shot under par than there is for a single digit player.

Where I think many player get screwed on their handicaps is in the course ratings.  I play very often at a club that has 5 sets of tees.  It originally had 4 and new tee boxes were created to lengthen the course then the course was rerated.  Very few players play the tips (blacks).  Some play the Blues, most play the whites, then Seniors (gold) and forward tees (red) get play.  With the addition of the new tee boxes, the white tees got moved back on a number of holes increasing the length and it was reflected in the slope rating going up from 125 to 130.  But, many people complained about the extra length since more play the whites than any other tees.  So, the course has moved the white tees up considerably on a number of holes making it easier to shoot a good score.  So, you are playing a course that maybe should be rated 124, 125, maybe 126.  Instead, you are getting it posted to your handicap as playing a 130 slope rated course.  This creates a handicap that does not travel very well for the majority of the players.  This is not a fault of the handicapping system.  Just the way some courses have their setup compared to how the course was rated.

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7 hours ago, natureboy said:

A better statement of my intended meaning would be that the accuracy profile for the bogey golfer model the USGA uses 'does not reflect the actual typical bogey golfer' as well as it could now that we have better data samples from which to draw a more accurate picture of 'average'.

Once again, it's cyclical. If you change the definitions of bogey golfer, you change everyone's index. A bogey golfer is someone with about a 20 index. They average about 95 or 96.

If you increase the slope, as you want to do, those 18 index players will become… 17s. Or 16s. It'll go in the wrong direction from what you're arguing.

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

That said, I think that even a good system can be improved / tweaked when new or better data becomes available.

Might all be moot in 2018 or 2020. I don't imagine they're going to make a big change prior to that.

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

Yes that's a good point. There will never be a perfect correlation of the average or 'typical' to any individual. However, when they built the accuracy models, the USGA team had limited resources / time. If you go to Dean Knuth's site on the formulas and history you will see that they used one amateur tournament to develop the scratch profile, and from what I read a considerably smaller team of bogey golfers and a relatively limited number of courses / holes. Mark Broadie's database on golfer skills relative to score / HCP is much larger than what the USGA had available at the time (see below).

It's not necessarily smaller than what the USGA has available to them now. They've been doing handicapping for quite some time. And again, if you change the slope, you're changing which golfers fit into the "bogey golfer" group.

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

True, a 20 HCP would likely average in the range of ~ 93 on a 'typical course'. The expected 2/3 shot dispersion width (one std deviation of degrees offline) for a 20 HCP on a typical course for Broadie is significantly larger than the USGA bogey model as described in the Accuracy Table on page 12 of the 2012-2015 USGA Course Rating Manual.

You're not reading that chart properly. They're not saying that it's the zone into which players will hit their shots - it's saying that's the zone into which you have to consider where they'll hit their shots.

You continue to miss the point that there's a limit to what you can consider. Though a bogey golfer who hits the ball 280 but everywhere exists, I'm sure, you can't rate courses for that guy based on what he might do. A tree two fairways over has no bearing on the hole that golfer is supposed to be playing.

It's why you can't consider the duffs and bad shots when building a Shot Zone. You'd never create a Game Plan, and you'd never come up with a course rating.

You just consider the stuff that's reasonably close to the hole you're playing. Sometimes a wild miss results in… being in the middle of another fairway. Should the course slope go down for the bogey golfer in situations like that? No.

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

See response to DaveP above. It's definitely larger than the one the USGA used to establish the model scratch and bogey golfer neither of which appear to have been updated since formulated by Knuth.

The system is updated frequently, as are the weights, calculations, definitions, etc.

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

That's likely due to fairway taper in course design reflecting the historic knowledge that shorter hitters / less skilled golfers are also less accurate, or if they face a too tight fairway they may be adjusting (on average) by clubbing down.

Sounds like you're just trying to justify away something. I don't see fairways tapering narrower as you move from 150 to 250 yards. No… Shorter hitters are more accurate hitters if you measure it by fairways hit, and why not, because fairways pretty well tend to avoid trees, bunkers, and even rough.

I misspoke, too: shorter hitters actually hit more fairways:

2-4 handicaps: 61%
10-14: 66%
20-24: 72%

7 hours ago, natureboy said:

The difference in both distance and accuracy between skilled & less skilled golfers is actually reflected in the USGA accuracy expectation for scratch and bogey models. The magnitude of the difference just isn't as large as it should be to reflect the more realistic 'average' bogey golfer profile we have in the era of 'big data'. The USGA didn't have a large data pool available to them (of typical average / player characteristics) at the time they formulated the models, so their smaller sample size of players and courses likely skewed their numbers a bit (not a ton).

I still contend that your'e reading that chart incorrectly. Again, you can't consider the big misses. What if the big miss puts you in another fairway? Do you lower the slope? No, because you'd never finish rating a course if you had to consider everything within 250 yards in any direction.

You've yet to demonstrate that the course rating system is in need of an improvement. All you've got is a hunch (which seems to be backward - increasing slope would have the opposite effect of what you want) and data from Broadie that isn't even the same as the data you're trying to compare it to.

Just as before, in the blog comment thread, I'm done with this unless you actually come up with a compelling argument. "According to Broadie, 20 handicappers miss by more than what the USGA says" is not one.

18 minutes ago, RickK said:

So, you are playing a course that maybe should be rated 124, 125, maybe 126.  Instead, you are getting it posted to your handicap as playing a 130 slope rated course.

That's the course's fault, not the fault of the ratings system. They should put the tees where they say they will.

The system update in 2018 or 2020 would take care of that, too.

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(edited)
Quote

If you increase the slope, as you want to do, those 18 index players will become… 17s. Or 16s. It'll go in the wrong direction from what you're arguing.

Slope is all about portability. Some players who play home courses that have tougher that average obstacles for bogey golfers may get a bump more correctly reflecting their skill relative to the general population of bogey golfers. And a few players primarily playing very easy courses will get dinged slightly relative to most golfers at their HCP who play average difficulty courses.

The average Index number for each handicap won't shift, because the average players make up the bulk at any given HCP and adjustments get made both above and below the mean. It will just increase the accuracy and therefore portability for some golfers whose home courses mask slightly better skill and some whose home courses slightly exaggerate their skill. I expect making the corrections would even slightly address a built-in opportunity for a savvy sandbagger.

Quote

And again, if you change the slope, you're changing which golfers fit into the "bogey golfer" group.

Likely just shifting a few within the HCP group who don't properly belong with the 'average' population. Some get elevated, some get reduced. Bulk of the average population stays put and it evens out.

Quote

You're not reading that chart properly. They're not saying that it's the zone into which players will hit their shots - it's saying that's the zone into which you have to consider where they'll hit their shots.

The chart is labeled "Accuracy Table" - Men and [Women] (Dimensions of Expected Landing Area 2/3 of the Time - in Yards). The area between one standard deviation above and below the mean has a cumulative probability of ~ 68% of the expected results, which is basically equivalent to the USGA 2/3 = 67%.

Broadie's 'Degrees Offline' is the number of degrees representing one standard deviation of shot dispersion off centerline. To convert it to a width you just use a little trig for the lateral deviation offline at the expected average distance and double it (to reflect deviation above and below the mean / left & right of center) to get an expected landing area width. You can do the inverse to convert the USGA landing area into a right triangle degrees off line. They are fundamentally measuring the same thing, one with an angle, one with a width.

Quote

You continue to miss the point that there's a limit to what you can consider. Though a bogey golfer who hits the ball 280 but everywhere exists, I'm sure, you can't rate courses for that guy based on what he might do. A tree two fairways over has no bearing on the hole that golfer is supposed to be playing.

It's why you can't consider the duffs and bad shots when building a Shot Zone. You'd never create a Game Plan, and you'd never come up with a course rating.

That's a straw man argument. Just like when you build your shot zones you ignore the extreme outliers and focus on the expected average around which most of the values fall.

The issue is not that the USGA isn't properly looking at all possible shots by all possible golfers. The shortcoming in the model is that the 'expected landing area' specifically chosen to reflect where 67% of the bogey golfer's shots are expected to fall does not accurately reflect the real-world average bogey golfer population. It understates the expected landing area width by ~ 50% off the tee. Even for a 90 shooter on a 'typical course' - which would be equivalent to a 16 HCP - the USGA width is too narrow by ~ 8%.

Quote

I misspoke, too: shorter hitters actually hit more fairways:

2-4 handicaps: 61%
10-14: 66%
20-24: 72%

That's interesting. I haven't yet seen a large data set with that kind of trend. Is that from Shots To Hole?

Quote

Again, you can't consider the big misses. What if the big miss puts you in another fairway? Do you lower the slope? No, because you'd never finish rating a course if you had to consider everything within 250 yards in any direction.

I'm only considering the parameter or expected shot envelope the USGA deliberately chose. The choice of a landing area that would contain 2/3 of expected shots certainly seems to have been intentional in capturing the shot probability between one standard deviation above and below the mean.

If the USGA was focused strictly on a width measurement, why reference the expectation of it containing 2/3 of the shots or any fraction of shots at all?

Your 250 yards example is the same straw man argument. We are talking about one standard deviation above and below the average for the large general population of bogey golfers, not the rare shot or even the average for an individual. That's an extremely rare outlier. Even typical 113 shooters keep almost all shots within ~ +/- 25 degrees offline and 100 yards +/- centerline. You discard consideration of that low likelihood just like when you build your shot zones.

Edited by natureboy
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On 21 April 2016 at 6:14 PM, 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.

Disagree.

Handicap system is great because it allows for a level playing field. I have friends that are high teen handicappers and I'm pretty sure if there was no stableford system they wouldn't want to play with me because I'd win all the time.  There are loads more reasons why it's such a great system.

You would also find way less people playing the game if they could never win anything because they are 'bad golfers'

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(edited)
On April 21, 2016 at 11:32 AM, 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 disagree, but I don't have much experience to back that opinion.

As a shorter hitter, I think it's easier for me to drop my handicap playing on shorter tees - even with the rating and slope being lower. But put me on longer course against someone with a similar HI who can hit farther, and I think he or she has the advantage. Whatever advantage I might have with accuracy, I'd likely lose having to lay up more often. Maybe statistics say otherwise????

So while I like the handicap system just the way it is, the course ratings seem too high for shorter tees, and not high enough for longer ones. The rating difference does not seem relative to the difficulty.

Edited by JonMA1
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