Handicap Committee

Questions and Answers About Handicapping

The Handicap Committee is responsible to the golf club for all aspects of the USGA Handicap System, including the computation of the USGA Handicap Index. The following questions and answers on a variety of handicapping topics are intended to assist the Handicap Committee in developing procedures that follow USGA guidelines. For further information, contactthe MSGA.

Q. Who can serve on the Handicap Committee?

A. Under USGA guidelines, the Handicap Committee is comprised of a majority of fellow golfers (members)of the club. They are there to maintain the integrity of the Handicap System and to provide peer review. Club employees may serve on the Committee, however, they may not serve as Chairmen.

Q. How often should the Handicap Committee meet?

A. The Committee as a whole should meet before the start of the season to review The USGA Handicap System manual and to establish procedures for turning in scores. The Committee should also plan a seminar or annual notice to members outlining the score posting procedures and the responsibilities of the Committee for posting penalty scores or adjusting Handicap Indexes. During the season, the Committee should meet as needed to review scoring records (including tournament scores) and resolve complianceproblems.

Q. How many members should the Committee have?

A. At least three, with one person having responsibilityfor overseeing the posting of scores and the updating of members' USGA Handicap Indexes.

Q. What are our primary responsibilities?

A. The accuracy of the USGA Handicap System is dependent on complete scoring records which are available for peer review. You are responsible for seeing that players turn in all acceptable scores for peer review.

Q. Does the Handicap Committee have to calculate USGA Handicap Indexes?

A. Handicap computations are the responsibility of the Handicap Committee, and individual golfers cannot compute USGA Handicap Indexes. Many clubs use a computation service from their regional or state golf association to perform the periodic revisions of Handicap Indexes. The output of such services must be reviewed for accuracy by the Handicap Committee.

Q. May a Handicap Committee require returning of scorecards from players before allowing a score to be posted?

A. No. However scorecards may be requested from time-to-time if the Handicap Committee wishes to sample the accuracy with which golfers are adjusting scores. In any case, the club cannot take punitive action regarding the scoring record or the Handicap Index if a scorecard does not accompany a score.

Q. What scores can be used for handicapping?

A. A golfer is required to post scores whenever he plays at least 7 holes. If 7 to 12 holes are played, then that score shall be posted as a 9-hole round. If 13 or more holes are played, it shall be posted as an 18-hole round.

Q. When is a score unacceptable?

A.  All of the following are unacceptable scores: A score is unacceptable when:

  • When a player plays alone
  • Fewer than 7 holes are played
  • Made on a golf course in an area in which an inactive season established by the governing golf association is in effect
  • A majority of the holes of the course are not played in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf
  • The length of the course is less than 3,000 yards for 18-holes
  • Types or maximum number of clubs are less than 14, for example, in a competition that allows only iron clubs
  • Scores are made on a course with no USGA Course and Slope Rating
  • A player carries or uses non-conforming clubs or uses non-conforming balls
  • Artificial devices (as defined under Rule 14-3) are used during the execution of a stroke.

Q. If a player does not finish a hole or is conceded a stroke, what should the player record?

A. The player shall record his "most likely score."

Q. What is the "most likely score" a player should record on a hole that is not finished or that is conceded?

A. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in his best judgment, the number of strokes that the player would need to complete the hole from that position more than half the time. For example, a player lies five when he picks up on the green. The player will record a score of five plus the number of putts the player thinks he or she would have taken. This "most likely score" is subject to reduction under the Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) procedure. For example, a player may record a "most likely score" of eight, but if the player's Equitable Stroke Control maximum is seven, then seven is the score that shall be turned in for handicap purposes.

Q. Should a "most likely score" score be recorded on a hole not finished in a best ball event?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the hole scorea player would record on a hole that is not played or is not played under the principles of the Rules of Golf?

A. The hole score is par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to receive on the hole. For example, a player with a Course Handicap of 10 receives handicap strokes on the first 10 handicap stroke holes. Suppose the player quits after playing 13 holes. For any of the holes 14-18 that are handicap stroke holes for this player, the player shall record a score of par plus one. For any hole on which the player receives no handicap strokes, the hole score shall be recordedas par.

Q. How often are USGA Handicap Indexes revised?

A. USGA Handicap Indexes are revised no less often than once a month and no more often than once everytwo weeks during the playing season as determined by the authorized golf association..


Q. What happens to the scores at the end of the season?

A.  A player's scoring record shall be maintained continuously from year to year. The scores made in a new playing season (or calendar year) shall be added to those of the preceding playing seasons (or calendar year) to make up a scoring record.

Q. Can the Handicap Committee adjust a player's Handicap Index?

A. Yes. It is the Handicap Committee's responsibility to assure that a player's Handicap Index reflects his or her potential ability. When the scheduled Handicap Index revision does not reflect potential ability, the Handicap Committee should adjust it.

Q. What circumstances should result in an adjustment to a Handicap Index?

A. Under the following circumstances, it will be necessary for the Handicap Committee to make adjustmentsto the player's Handicap Index:

  • Improving faster than the System can react
  • Numerous away scores change Handicap Index
  • Temporary disability (local handicap only)
  • Failure to post
  • Player manipulates round.

Note:The committee is not limited to making changes in these cases only.The Committee must invite a response from the player, in person or writing. The USGA Handicap System manual provides details about these circumstances

Q. What should the Committee do if a player inadvertently fails to postan acceptable score?

A. The Handicap Committee may post the score and/or post a penalty score.

Q. How does the Committee arrive at the penalty score?

A. If the score not posted was unusually low, the Committee will post a penalty score equal to the lowest handicap differential in the player's scoring record. For an unusually high score, the Committee does the reverse.

Q. What Ratings does the Committee assign to a penalty score?

A. The Ratings that applied to the round on which the lower or higher differential was based.

Q. How long should an adjustment to a HandicapIndex remain in effect?

A.  As long as the Handicap Committee determines. At each revision, the Committee should compare the modified Handicap Index to the Handicap Index the player would have received using Section 10-2 computation methods.

Tournament Scores

Q. What is the purpose of the "Tournament Score " procedure?

A. To identify players who excel in competition well beyond their current USGA Handicap Indexes.

Q. How should a player post a tournament score?

A. The tournament score, when posted, should be identified by a "T."

Q. What is the effect of a tournament score on a player's USGA Handicap Index?

A.  A player whose scoring record includes two or more tournament scores that are exceptionally (three or more strokes) lower than his or her USGA Handicap Index will be subject to a reduction in Handicap Index. If your club uses a computation service, the adjustment is probably done automatically. If not, the Handicap Committee must follow the procedure shown in the manual. After a Handicap Index has been reduced, the Committee can further reduce or override the reduction of a Handicap Index. A USGA Handicap Index reduction for exceptional tournament scores is calculated at each handicap revision and may vary from revision to revision based on factors outlined in Section 10-3.

Q. What qualifies as a "Tournament"?

A. The committee in charge of a competition announces before play whether the competition will result in a "tournament score" when posted. Tournament scores are generally reserved for competitions that, in the judgment of the committee, are significant in the traditions, schedules, formats and membership of the club. Weekly play days should not be designated as tournament scores.

Q. Can the Handicap Committee withdraw a player's USGA Handicap Index?

A. Yes. Repeated failure to follow System requirements can result in a withdrawal of a Handicap Index.As with the adjustment of a Handicap Index, the Committee must invite a response from the player, in person or in writing. The Committee sets the conditions for reinstatement of the Handicap Index.

USGA Handicap Index in Competition

Q. Should the Handicap Committee make recommendations to Tournament Committee about Handicap Indexes in competition?

A. Yes. It should follow USGA guidelines in recommending that:

  • USGA Handicap Indexes be used in order to enter competitions.
  • When a USGA Handicap Index is required for entering a competition, the player shall submit his Handicap Index in effect on the date of his entry.
  • USGA Handicap Indexes in effect on the date the competition begins will be used at the start of competition.
  • When a competition spans a handicap revision period, each competitor should use his USGA Handicap Index in effect at the time each round is played.
  • Players with more than one USGA Handicap Index shall use the lower Handicap Index when competing with players from more than one club.

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