New Kid on the Block
Every four years I prepare an article on important revisions to the USGA Handicap System. The article coincides with the quadrennial changes that occur as the USGA refines and modifies the system based upon research, user input and advancements in technology.
Some of the changes during my tenure have been profound (T-score reduction process), others controversial (Internet score posting). This year’s changes are neither, but merit explanation.
The first involves the USGA’s decision to require all golf clubs in the United States to become “licensed” to issue a Handicap Index.
What does this mean?
Basically it is “legalese” for, “every four years your club will have to fill out some minimal paperwork verifying that you are issuing handicaps properly.”
Beneath the surface, however, this step is significant.
In recent years, hundreds of websites have surfaced offering to perform handicap calculations and purporting to issue “official” handicaps. In reality, these handicaps are not official.
There is a lot more to a handicap than just math. And not every handicap earns the right to be designated as a Handicap Index. There have to be checks and balances in place to ensure that scores are posted properly and that handicaps are accurate . . . in other words, there has to be a club in which the members know each other and have an opportunity to play golf with each other. Collectively known as “peer review,” such elements compose the backbone of handicapping.
Many websites represent collections of strangers living hundreds or thousands of miles apart with no knowledge of each other and no peer review¾yet they claim authenticity. Such claims tend to weaken or dilute the meaning of what is a true Handicap Index. The licensing program, in effect, identifies the contenders and weeds out the pretenders.,/
The licensing agreement consists of a checklist of handicapping requirements. Clubs must be able to verify each statement in the affirmative¾anything less than a perfect score indicates non-compliance.
One recent checklist addition is a requirement that a club representative has successfully completed an accredited Handicap Seminar. It seems that the success of the NCGA Handicap Certification Program (and that of other associations) has not gone unnoticed and now represents an important component of handicapping.
What does all this mean to an individual golfer?
Not much. But you can rest comfortably, secure in the knowledge that every club issuing a Handicap Index is exercising the same level of care and diligence as your own club.
The second major change for 2006 involves the definition of a golf club and illustrates how the Handicap System adapts to an ever-changing world.
In prior years, there was a single, broad, all-encompassing definition of a golf club in place. Beginning in 2006, golf clubs are now broken down into three varieties or types.
Type 1s are the traditional golf clubs that play out of a particular golf course. In NCGA terms¾regular clubs.
Type 2s are clubs without real estate where the members are known to each other via business, fraternal, ethnic or social organization. This is the associate club program that the NCGA has championed for years.
Type 3s are a brand new club designation in which the membership, in general, has no prior affiliation and where the recruiting and enrollment of members is performed by solicitation to the general public (via Internet, newspaper, etc.). At first glance, these clubs resemble the website clubs I referenced above, but with some pronounced distinctions which will be obvious as the NCGA enters into the Type 3 arena.
For Type 1 and Type 2 clubs, peer review is somewhat natural. After all, Type 1 clubs have the advantage of a golf course that draws the members together and allows them to interact, and the members of Type 2 clubs are typically known to each other both on and off the course in business or social settings.
For Type 3 clubs, peer review will prove more challenging. I have often described the role of the NCGA as that of a dating service in establishing Type 3 clubs. For the most part, we are bringing strangers together and making initial introductions. It is then up to these individuals to take the necessary steps to transform this diverse collection of golfers into an authentic club that plays together and practices peer review. Because of these unique challenges, Type 3 clubs will be held to a higher peer-review standard than Type 1 or 2 clubs. Members will be required to post a minimum of three rounds per year with fellow members including one round in a club-sponsored event.
The key to Type 3 success will be an NCGA/GHIN-supplied interactive website where individuals can join on the spot, log-in and out at their convenience, sign up and pay for club tournaments, seek out fellow members for games, log their round stats, etc. Each website is easy to access and easy to administer. In the long run, the NCGA expects to open Type 3 sites in all metropolitan areas in an effort to attract brand new members, and in the long run, pass them on to existing Type 1 and 2 clubs.
So how does Type 3 impact existing clubs?
It should have little to no effect as we are targeting golfers who will be brand new to the NCGA. One significant by-product of all this effort is the same interactive website platform infrastructure being developed for the Type 3 clubs will be made available to any and all NCGA clubs. Just imagine the possibilities for your club!
Type 3 will be a win-win for all NCGA clubs!