Springfield, N.J. – In the 100 years since the United States Golf Association implemented the USGA Handicap System™ during a meeting at Baltusrol Golf Club on October 11, 1911, millions of golfers of all skill levels have used the system to play millions of matches at thousands of courses around the country.
When the USGA returned to Baltusrol to celebrate the Handicap System Centennial, keynote speaker Michael Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, recalled one particular match that took place nearly 20 years ago. He had visited The Greenbrier in West Virginia to interview Sam Snead, who was then in his 80s and was the resort’s pro emeritus.
Snead invited Bamberger to a match on the resort’s C.B. Macdonald-designed layout, now known as The Old White TPC. Snead was playing to a 4 handicap at the time, and Bamberger, who had a 12 handicap, recounted Snead’s gamesmanship and first-tee efforts to negotiate favorable terms for the match.
Despite Snead’s efforts, Bamberger made a net birdie on the par-5 17th hole to win the match, and the journalist remembered how disappointed the competitive Snead had been after losing. At Baltusrol, Bamberger marveled at how the Handicap System allowed an average golfer to play a fair match against a legend, one of the best players ever.
The 140 guests at Baltusrol traveled from all over the country to support this democratic ideal, one of the hallmarks of the Handicap System. It was a night to celebrate not only the USGA, but also the dozens of authorized golf associations that administer the Handicap System and conduct course ratings of thousands of courses for the benefit of millions of golfers.
USGA Handicap Committee Chairman Brigid Shanley Lamb, who is also a member of the USGA’s Executive Committee, praised the contributions of the associations, 50 of which were represented.
Special recognition went to the Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA) and the New Jersey State Golf Association (NJSGA), represented by their executive directors, Jay Mottola and Stephen Foehl, respectively. These two associations played key roles in the years leading up to the implementation of the USGA Handicap System. Leighton Calkins, the pioneer of handicapping in the United States and a member of the USGA Executive Committee, had tested his methods at both the MGA and NJSGA before the USGA adopted his system nationwide.
Another special guest was Dr. Lou Riccio, an original member of the Handicap Research Team, which the USGA formed in the 1970s to study and improve the inequities and inefficiencies of the Handicap System. One of the outcomes of their research was the Slope System, which allowed for the portability of a USGA Handicap Index® for the first time.
Also addressing the gathering were USGA President Jim Hyler, who offered a toast to the Handicap System, and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, who introduced Bamberger. In addition, many USGA staffers, as well as members of the USGA’s Executive, Handicap Procedure and Women’s committees, came together to mark the centennial, a special night in the long history of the USGA.
Hunki Yun is a senior writer for the USGA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.