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I post scores, including solo rounds, to a website that calculates an unofficial handicap. They use the USGA formula but it does not qualify as a "club" so the index is not official. I also post rounds that qualify for posting to our state association and have an official USGA handicap. The current official index is 8.2 while my unofficial one is 6.7. I play a fair number of solo rounds when I can't rope someone into playing or no one is available to join at the course. I play by the Rules or, if I am practicing, I don't post in either venue. For me, the solo posting ban has keep my index a bit higher. All year I have sort of eyeballed the difference. At times the difference has been negligible and rarely more than a couple 10th's off. After Labor Day my solo round percentage increases as fewer friends want to play in blustery weather or are busy with other activities. The gap has widened. My guess is that the difference exists now because when I play in the summer, many times it is a competition at a more difficult venue. My solo play tends to be on more user friendly courses. While the rating and slope is supposed to take into account the differences, the system is not perfect and I am also intimately familiar with the "friendly" courses. Finally, clearly I don't have ice water in my veins and competitive nerves probably takes its toll at times. Anyone else have any observations to share?
There are not a lot of games one can play solo. Solitaire in cards, I suppose. Video/online games where one doesn’t need a human or computer-based opponent. One can run or ride a bicycle to beat one’s best time but I wouldn’t think most of us would consider those types of activities as a game. Most games need an opponent in order to create a contest. So golf and bowling are somewhat unique in that one’s opponent is not a person but a standard, par in the case of golf and “300” for bowling. In some ways I suspect the loner’s ability to play the game of golf was one of the attractions for me. I dabbled in bowling for a while. Just me against 300. Still, bowling had a lots of strikes against it. It was played inside, often in smoky venues. One alley looked pretty much like another and there wasn’t a whole lot to the game other than staying behind the line and rolling a ball. Or at least that was the way it seemed. I also dabbled with tennis a bit. The funky scoring system was sort of cool. 15, 30, 40 (40? Shouldn’t it be 45? Never mind). Unlike many sports, tennis only required one other person. Unfortunately, that one other person had to be able to hit the ball back with the same degree of competence for the game to be any fun. Ultimately I settled on golf. Golf was played outdoors and had lots of rules and different situations, unlike bowling. With golf I did not need a competent partner in which to exchange shots like tennis requires. I believe Annika Sorenstam once admitted that she gave up tennis for golf primarily because she could play golf alone. I totally understand this mindset. No team or opponent is needed like so many sports & games. Just you, the course and par. Playing with a group of golfers is enjoyable. Tournaments are fun, too. But I am just as comfortable teeing it up solo. My wife thinks I am a bit odd, going off to play golf alone. Of course she has learned that even when I play with golf buddies, the conversations tend to stay with golf. She used to ask a lot of questions about my playing partners and the conversations predictably went something like this: Her: Is Bob married? Me: I don’t know, probably. Her: What is his wife’s name? Me: I don’t know. Her: Does he have kids? Me: I don’t know. Her: Where do they live? Me: Near the course, I think. Oh, his index is 11.3 and he had a hole-in-one two years ago. The latest wrinkle with solo golf is one can’t post truly solo efforts. I am okay with that and most of the time I pair up with someone anyway. Based on early results, eliminating true solo rounds has made me more competitive and kept my handicap index up. Those other seniors better watch out and keep their hand on their wallets!