HANDICAPPING
The Global Impact of USGA Handicapping and Course Rating January 23, 2017 By Scott Hovde & Eric Lahman, USGA

Handicap and Course Rating seminars are conducted by the USGA around the globe. (USGA)

Imagine you’re on a long-awaited golf trip to Scotland, and while playing a round you wonder if your score can be posted back home to your scoring record. Good news, it can, because the USGA Course Rating System is widely utilized across the globe.

For decades, the USGA Handicap department has shared its Course Rating and Handicap expertise with international golf associations on six continents. Most recently, 2016 Course Rating Calibration seminars were conducted in Europe (Spain), Asia (Hong Kong) and South America (Peru), in addition to special training sessions for the Kenya Golf Union, Japan Golf Association and Argentina Golf Association. The aim of this training is to provide a greater service to golfers worldwide by reinforcing accuracy and consistency in the use of these systems.

The calibration seminars are generally conducted every two to four years in each region to provide an opportunity for licensed golf associations to attend and ensure they are applying the system correctly. Associations send their experienced course raters to these multiday seminars that include a written test, on-course evaluation and classroom discussions with USGA staff and committee members who often assist with these seminars. In 2016, more than 280 attendees representing 40 golf associations participated.  

Global handicap outreach has included printing critical materials in multiple languages. (USGA/John Mummert)

By making connections around the world, the USGA is able to establish strong relationships with the international associations and provide ongoing support. Often, the associations seek assistance on particular issues they encounter while rating a course or ask the USGA to audit completed Course Rating forms and provide useful feedback. In addition, the USGA supports and assists several of the golf associations to translate our publications into their native language.

The USGA Course Rating System is regarded as the global standard. The system has evolved over the years and suggestions for improvements and clarification often come through feedback and questions we receive at seminars, and ongoing correspondence. Similar to updates to the Rules of Golf, this feedback is taken into consideration by the staff and the USGA Course Rating Committee who are dedicated to Course Rating. This committee is comprised of volunteers from the U.S. as well as international representatives, which helps to provide feedback on the application of the system on a variety of courses worldwide.

As we move toward a world handicap system, having all courses rated under the USGA Course Rating System will be beneficial toward that end goal. Not only will a world handicap system assist with the ability to post scores on courses around the world, but it will also create handicaps that are portable from country to country.

For more information and content, visit the Handicapping section of our website.

Eric Lahman is the manager, handicap and course rating administration for the USGA. Email him at elahman@usga.org. Scott Hovde is the assistant director, handicap and course rating administration. Email him at shovde@usga.org.

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