April 2021 Clarifications

In the April update to the Clarifications of the 2019 Rules of Golf document (available here), two new Clarifications were released in relation to handicaps shown on a player’s scorecard, which is a requirement for players when playing in a net stroke-play competition (see Rule 3.3b(4)). Let’s take a look at what these two Clarifications say and why they were introduced.


Clarification 1

Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1 – National Association May Establish Meaning of “Handicap” Player Must Show on Scorecard:

Until further notice, a National Association (Authorized Association as defined in the Rules of Handicapping) may adopt a policy that establishes the handicap that players must show on their scorecard in a net-score stroke play competition. This handicap does not have to be the handicap described in Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1, which is the Course Handicap (as defined in the Rules of Handicapping). The options for the National Association are the Handicap Index, the Course Handicap or the Playing Handicap. If no policy is adopted by the National Association, the Course Handicap is the handicap the player must show on the scorecard, in accordance with Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1.


When the 2019 Rules of Golf were released, the Rules of Handicapping under the World Handicapping System were still being drafted. Given the timing, the Rules of Golf were unable to address new terminology included in the Rules of Handicapping and, as a result, the Rules of Golf were finalized with the requirement that the Course Handicap is the handicap that players must show on their scorecard.

With the release of the World Handicapping System came the term “Playing Handicap,” which caused confusion among the golf community as to which handicap is required to be shown on the scorecard. Additionally, there are regions around the world that do not use a Course Handicap.

Based on the above Clarification, the National Association (such as the United States Golf Association) in your region has the authority to decide which handicap players are required to show on the scorecard when playing in a net stroke-play competition. In the United States and its territories, the “Handicap” the player must show on his or her scorecard is the Course Handicap, as described in Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1.


Clarification 2

Interpretation 3.3b(4)/2 – Player May be Exempt From Penalty When Committee Provides a Scorecard With an Incorrect Handicap:

Until further notice, a National Association (Authorized Association as defined in the Rules of Handicapping) may adopt a policy that alters the provisions in Interpretation 3.3b(4)/2. With such a policy in place, it means that if a Committee provides a player with a scorecard containing the incorrect handicap and the error is not corrected before the player returns the scorecard, this will be treated as an administrative mistake by the Committee. This means that the player is not penalized if the incorrect handicap on the returned scorecard is the handicap provided by the Committee. There is no time limit for correcting the mistake.


Clarification 2 (above) relates to the confusion that is discussed under Clarification 1, but also touches on the reality of how competitions function at many golf clubs – that is, the golf staff preparing scorecards with handicaps as a courtesy to players.

In preparing scorecards, the Committee may, as a product of not being aware that Course Handicap is to be used, put the Playing Handicap on scorecards. This may potentially result in players returning a scorecard showing a higher handicap than they are entitled to and therefore being disqualified or showing a lower handicap and therefore not receiving the appropriate amount of handicap strokes.

Based on the above Clarification, the National Association (such as the United States Golf Association) in your region has the authority to treat these errors as administrative mistakes. In the United States and its territories, the USGA has adopted this policy, so that if a Committee provides a player with a scorecard containing the incorrect handicap and the error is not corrected before the player returns the scorecard, this will be treated as an administrative mistake.

However, in the case where a player makes a change to the handicap that was provided on the scorecard by the Committee (such as by crossing it out and writing a different handicap), this is not treated as an administrative mistake as the player has altered the handicap shown.

The allowances provided in both Clarifications are in effect until further notice as we (USGA) and our partner in governance (The R&A) continue to look forward to the 2023 revision to the Rules of Golf.

 

Click here to view the full list of Clarifications.