Handicapping The Unhandicapped

Will It Occur, And If So, How Much?

The USGA Handicap System is well recognized and widely accepted by golf clubs throughout the country. However, this Handicap System is based on a player's most recent series of scores, and therein lies a problem that besets many tournament committees, particularly those who organize convention and resort events. Not everyone who wants to play golf has a USGA handicap.

How should a committee determine a fair handicap or allowance for novice or occasional player who do not have USGA Handicap Indexes?

How can a committee give everyone a chance to win net prizes at the annual company tournament?

The questions are good ones because the concept of a one-round handicap is deceptive. Why? Because the information gained from a single round of golf is not sufficient to evaluate any player. Any one score can be as much as 10 strokes different from a player's true golf handicap. When a player who has no score history shoots 100 there is no way to determine whether that score was a poor round of a good player or a good round of a weak player.

That's why there is no substitute for score history, which is the basis of the USGA Handicap System. It's based on the best 10 differentials from a player's last 20 scores.

A differential is determined by subtracting the USGA Course Rating from the adjusted gross score, then multiplying the resulting value by 113, then dividing this result by the corresponding USGA Slope Rating and rounding off to the nearest tenth.

When not everyone has a USGA handicap, here are four ideas to help handicap the unhandicapped:

Second Best Score System

The USGA has developed a simple estimator of a player's ability called "Second Best Score System" or "Second Best Handicap" for short. Second Best Handicap is not a substitute for the USGA Handicap System, but it can produce acceptable results and is a reasonable system for handicapping the otherwise "unhandicapped."

To create a player's Second Best Handicap, the tournament committee simply asks each unhandicapped player to submit his three best scores made on a regulation course (with par of 68 or more) in the last 12 months. Combine these scores with any previous scores that the player has made in your tournament in the past two years.

The player's Second Best Handicap is the second best score he or she has given you minus 70 for men or 73 for women.

For example, if a male player submits scores of 92, 96 and 98 and he had scored 90 in your tournament last, his Second Best Handicap would be 92 (second best score) minus 70 (for men).

There is a special qualification for beginners or players who can submit only one score. Subtract 74 from that score for a man's Second Best Handicap, or subtract 77 for a woman's Second Best Handicap.

If necessary, nine-hole scores can be combined to produce an 18-hole scoring history.

If a player has never played, the Second Best Handicap is not appropriate. The committee should assign a maximum of 36 strokes for men, or 40 for women. Some allow a maximum of 50 strokes, which generally gives three strokes on each hole except for par-3 holes.

Modified Peoria System

Another alternative is to use a hole score selection system, often called the "Peoria System." Under this system, a player learns his handicap after the round is completed. The committee secretly selects a par-3 hole, a par-5 hole and four par-4 holes from an 18-hole course. The par-4s should be representative in length and difficulty with two chosen from the front nine and two from the back nine.

A modified Peoria handicap then is calculated by adding the player's strokes over par on the six selected holes, and multiplying that number by 2.8. This will be the player's allowance to be deducted from his gross score. The maximum hole score for allowance purposes is three over par on par-3s and 4s, and four over par on par-5s.

Example: A player scores 98 for a round. She is 11 over par on the six selected holes.
11 x 2.8 = 30.8 = 31 allowance
Net score is 98 - 31 = 67

The "Official Callaway System"

The Callaway System is a so-called "one-round" system or "worst-holes system" that compresses the spread of gross scores when converted to net scores. It produces a result such that the player with the lowest gross score almost always becomes the low net score winner. Most players with higher gross scores end up with net scores within a few strokes of the winner so that most players can feel competitive.

By the Callaway System, a player's allowance is determined after each round by deducting the scores of the worst individual holes during the first 16 holes. The table shows the number of "worst hole" scores he may deduct and the adjustment to be made, based on his gross score.

For example, if his gross score for 18 holes is 96, he turns to the table and opposite that score finds that he may deduct the total for his three worst holes scored on holes 1 through 16 inclusive. Thus, if he has one 9, one 8, and a 7, his deduction totals 24. Further adjustment is then made according to the table below each column. For the sample score of 96, the deduction is reduced by 2 strokes, resulting in a final allowance of 22. Thus 96 minus an allowance of 22 equals a net score of 74.

Score Deduct
-- -- 70 71 72 no holes and adjustment
73 74 75 -- -- 1/2 worst hole and adjustment
76 77 78 79 80 1 worst hole and adjustment
81 82 83 84 85 1-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
86 87 88 89 90 2 worst holes and adjustment
91 92 93 94 95 2-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
96 97 98 99 100 3 worst holes and adjustment
101 102 103 104 105 3-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
106 107 108 109 110 4 worst holes and adjustment
111 112 113 114 115 4-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
116 117 118 119 120 5 worst holes and adjustment
121 122 123 124 125 5-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
126 127 128 129 130 6 worst holes and adjustment
Adjustment to Deduction Maximum Handicap - 50
-2 -1 0 +1 +2  

  1. No hole may be scored at more than twice its par.
  2. Half strokes count as whole.
  3. The 17th and 18th holes are never deducted
  4. In case of ties, lowest handicap takes preference.

Scheid System

The Scheid System is a "worst holes" system for large unhandicapped events that is designed to give all golfers an equal chance, with a range of scores up to 151.

Score Deduct
-- -- 72 73 -- -- -- no holes and adjustment
-- 74 75 76 -- -- -- 1/2 worst hole and adjustment
-- 77 78 79 -- -- -- 1 worst hole and adjustment
-- 77 78 79 -- -- -- 1 worst hole and adjustment
-- 80 81 82 83 -- -- 1-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
-- 84 85 86 87 -- -- 2 worst holes and adjustment
-- 88 89 90 91 -- -- 2-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
-- 92 93 94 95 -- -- 3 worst holes and adjustment
-- 96 97 98 99 -- -- 3-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
100 101 102 103 104 -- -- 4 worst holes and adjustment
105 106 107 108 109 -- -- 4-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
110 111 112 113 114 -- -- 5 worst holes and adjustment
115 116 117 118 119 120 -- 5-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
121 122 123 124 125 126 -- 6 worst holes and adjustment
127 128 129 130 131 132 -- 6-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
133 134 135 136 137 138 -- 7 worst holes and adjustment
139 140 141 142 143 144 -- 7-1/2 worst holes and adjustment
145 146 147 148 149 150 151 8 worst holes and adjustment
Adjustment to Deduction  
-3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3  

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