Of handicap and quarrels


Mugove Chigada
The handicap system maybe one of golf’s good virtues but a source of controversy as well.

Despite efforts by many to stay true to the game, many will testify they have had an emotional conversation after a game about someone’s handicap.

It happens when one believes the system has done little to level the playing field.

So, often you get to play a partner that leaves you with many questions than answers after they post an astonishing score.

Although there is always a formula to come up with the handicap, there will always be debate after the last hole.

Tom Irwin was not far-fetched when he said the “handicap system is a source of arguments and barrier to social mobility”, according to the National Club Golfer.

There was also debate recently when Larry Fitzgerald won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, in Pebble Beach, California, finishing at 41 under par.

The perspectives are rather interesting, given these were Hall of Famers who may not be consistently playing.

Golfdigest could not have put it better when they give a description of how the American Football player at Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League won.

“Larry Fitzgerald didn’t just win the pro-am portion of the AT&T, he ran away with the title like a wide receiver waltzing into the end zone for a touchdown after the defensive back covering him fell down,” wrote Alex Myers in Golfdigest.

He added it was astonishing he finished seven shots clear of second place, teaming up with Kevin Streelman.

“First off, congrats, Larry. But to the victor of a tournament using the USGA handicap system comes the inevitable skepticism of your handicap index.”

So for all you rivalry at your respective golf club, you will naturally point to the handicap if you are coming second to the same player at every turn or worse, having someone winning by a big score. Not an excuse for some poor show though.

The whole argument though takes a new twist when you look at research that has been done in the past.

In as much as you think your partner at 10 must move to 6, where your handicap has been calculated to, the reality is you may just be having a bad game but actually have an advantage as the better player.

A research carried out in 2001 concluded that the better golfer will always have an unfair advantage.

“The idea behind the handicap system is obviously to give players an equitable chance of winning. So if two players with different handicaps played 100 games, each should win 50,” Larry Kupper, who conducted the research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was quoted by Newscientist.

The system whereby the last 20 scores at the club was taken and then 10 lowest scores considered to come up with an average, was problematic at that time.

“We found that if a golfer is more variable, the average you get from the best 10 calculation is farther away from the player’s typical ability.

“The handicap you get will be more optimistic, because the system reflects a player’s potential rather than their real ability,” Kupper explained.

At Pebble, the argument was that Fitzgerald won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after he entered as “a 13 course handicap for the event” instead of the 10.6. It is scenario that gave him a chance to get the astonishing score.

“A person’s handicap index is calculated by taking the 10 best/lowest differentials in that sample of 20 and then multiplying that average by .96. Whether this is the best way to assess a person’s playing ability is a different question,” Golfdigest wrote.

It is something you have to live with. And the true golfers have always pointed out that it is one’s responsibility to make sure they play off of the correct handicap.

Feedback: Email — chigadam@gmail.com. Twitter — @mugovechigada


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