USGA Handicap Seminars Provide Lively Educational Forum

By Joey Flyntz, USGA
March 5, 2014

Understanding the details behind the USGA Handicap System Manual, and any recent revisions to it, makes up a big portion of any Handicap Seminar, which generally runs for half a day. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

SEVERNA PARK, Md. – Come for the education. Stay for the complimentary breakfast and lunch. Leave more fulfilled than when you entered, but pay close attention throughout, because there will be a quiz.

The 2014 USGA Handicap System™ Seminar season began on Feb. 10 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and runs through May 20 in Little Rock, Ark., making 18 stops along the way. The Feb. 25 seminar at Chartwell Golf & Country Club in Severna Park, Md., attracted the largest crowd to date for 2014, an engaged group of approximately 70 registrants, including handicap committee members, PGA professionals, club representatives and casual golfers intrigued by the intricacies of calculating a Handicap Index®.

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Photos: Handicap Seminar at Chartwell G&CC

Registrants received a packet of USGA Handicap materials at the door, followed by a continental breakfast. Cindy Cooper, manager of handicap & club licensing for the USGA who has conducted dozens of handicap seminars since 2004, led the program.

The seminar focused on five major topics: calculating a Handicap Index, competing from different Course Ratings, adjusting hole scores, the handicap committee’s function at a golf club, and handicap allowances and allocation.

While much of Cooper’s presentation generated discussion, certain topics warranted detailed explanation, particularly Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap Manual – Players Competing from Different Tees or Men and Women from Same Tees.

Common examples such as adjusting a Handicap Index for an injured golfer, and players who perform better in tournaments were also popular discussion points. Joined by Lee Rainwater, assistant manager of handicap and Course Rating administration for the USGA, Cooper brought clarity to these issues through PowerPoint presentations, hypothetical scenarios and role play.

One such scenario involved a registrant from one side of the room explaining why his handicap should be adjusted due to higher scores resulting from recent wrist surgery. The other side of the room played the role of the handicap committee, which had to consider whether the injury could permanently affect performance or if it could be reasonably expected that the golfer would regain his previous form.

Richard Greenberg, the handicap committee chairman at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., found the real-life scenarios particularly beneficial.

“I learn a lot more from interacting and seeing something in person than from reading,” said Greenberg. “I thought she [Cooper] did a great job and I definitely know a lot more than when I came in here this morning.”

Tasked with simplifying material that can be intimidating to some, Cooper thinks the audience has gotten more knowledgeable since she started moderating these seminars.

“I’ve seen a big difference in the level of education,” she said. “You see a lot of people repeating the program who just have a better overall knowledge of the system before they come through the door. The questions are getting stronger and stronger – more intricate questions – as opposed to, ‘How do I get a Handicap Index?’”

One such repeat attendee is Yolande Campbell, the handicap committee chairman for the Southern Maryland Tri-County Chapter of the Executive Women’s Golf Association, as well as the tournament director for Wake-Robin Golf Club, the oldest African-American women’s golf club in the United States. It was Campbell’s third USGA Handicap Seminar.

“I just like to stay up to date with all of the changes,” she said. “It’s a good refresher course for me. It’s going to help me as far as setting up courses for my tournaments and verifying a player’s Handicap Index.”

Cooper’s presentation lasted approximately four hours, taking the seminar up to lunch time and quiz time. There was no reason to stress about the quiz – it’s open-book, multiple-choice and short answer, and working in groups is encouraged. Most importantly, ample time and reference materials are provided.

In order to remain licensed by the USGA Handicap System Licensing Program for Clubs™, a club representative must complete a handicap seminar before the end of 2015.

Your state golf association is a good source of information about upcoming handicap seminars. Matt Sloan, director of handicap & member services for the Maryland State Golf Association, played an integral part in attracting the large crowd to Chartwell. Although Maryland allows its clubs to complete the certification process online, Sloan recommends the live experience.

“I think the in-person interaction is much more helpful for gathering information,” Sloan said. “They get to have questions answered that they wouldn’t normally get to ask by doing it online. I think it’s really helpful for the people representing their clubs and the golf professionals.”

The registration fee for a USGA Handicap Seminar is $40, which includes reference materials, breakfast and lunch.

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at 

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