HANDICAPPING
Among Her Peers

A dozen women met every week for their spirited matches, and the camaraderie of their competition was evident on and off the course. Despite their varying abilities and individual Handicap Index®, they were able to compete fairly in every format from singles to team events.

One Saturday early in the season, the women gathered after playing to post their scores and discuss their round. The newest member of the group, Kathy, apparently did not post her score. When a few of the women asked her about this, Kathy responded that because it was a casual round she did not have to post it, and besides, she computed her Handicap Index on her home computer. The conversation shifted and the matter went without discussion.

Kathy had made two incorrect assumptions: that she did not have to post every score, and could compute her own Handicap Index. Both assumptions are at the core of the regulations under which a Handicap Index is computed.

A Handicap Index reflects a player's potential ability. Although we might like to regulate which scores are used to determine a Handicap Index, the only valid reflection of a player's potential comes from the posting of all acceptable scores.

Many golfers are aware that a Handicap Index is issued to a player by a club, be it a course or a "club without real estate," such as a league or social organization. A key component of every club is peer review, which is the ability of players to gain an understanding of a player’s potential ability and to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a score that has been posted.

Think for a moment that a Handicap Index is similar to a letter of introduction presented by a stranger you meet at the first tee. In essence, the club that person belongs to vouches for the accuracy of the Handicap Index. Some people may snicker at that analogy, but it is one of the tenets by which strangers accept each other's Handicap Index in good faith and play a friendly and equitable game.

In that vein, Kathy errs in not posting every score, even those she considers casual. But an error of similar magnitude was made by the other 11 women. It was their responsibility, as members of the club that issues Kathy's Handicap Index, to make sure she posts accurately and promptly. The women should alert the Handicap Committee of her failure to post. The Committee would be responsible for making sure Kathy is aware of the guidelines for posting and adjust her Handicap Index if necessary.

More from the USGA