August 25, 1958

The Inequitable Equalizer

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The handicapping system I would like to suggest would be used only in pro-amateur and handicap four-ball play as follows. The handicap scale would range from 0 to 18, as it is not usual to give a player in partnership play more than one stroke per hole or to make a scratch amateur compete with a minus handicap. In order to determine the correct handicap you would average the number of pars and birdies made by the player in his previous 10 rounds. Starting with 18 points, a player would be docked one point for every par and two points for each birdie. Mr. A, our short-hitting friend, averages seven pars per round, so his handicap would remain the same as under the USGA system: 11. Mr. B, on the other hand, averages six pars and two birdies giving him a total of 10 points per round. This would lower his handicap to eight.

Under my system, the player's full handicap is always used. On this basis, Mr. A in the pro-amateur would have given his professional partner one net birdie and seven pars for a best-ball of 33 instead of 34. Mr. B with eight strokes would have still helped his pro with four net birdies and one eagle, with no change in their best-ball of 30. This does not make Mr. A and Mr. B even, but it helps to narrow the gap.

In the member-guest event, Mr. C being a comparable player to Mr. A has the same handicap under my system, but since they receive their full 11 strokes, their net best-ball is now 33. Mr. D, who averages the same number of pars and birdies as Mr. B, also has his handicap reduced to eight. Now their net best-ball has become 34. But they are, in match play, only 1 up on Mr. A and Mr. C, instead of 3 up.

The heart and soul of stroke play is consistency. Consistency plays little part in four-ball, best-ball play. Why, then, use a stroke play yardstick to determine a golfer's match-play handicap? When you have a steady partner and you have a good handicap it's not what you score but the birdies and eagles you shoot that win the match for your side.

Only one adjustment is necessary to make the system uniform throughout the country; for those who play regularly on a course that is under 6,200 yards, deduct two points from the score of birdies and pars; for those who play on a course in excess of 6,700 yards, add two points.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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