Mythbusters – Part 1
Over the course of the next two magazines I am going to address some of the most common misconceptions golfers cling to regarding handicap-related issues. These misconceptions are popular “wives’-tales” that the masses just won’t let go.
Let’s start out with one of the biggies.
“The higher the Slope, the tougher the course” or, worse yet, “the higher the Slope, the better the course.”
Unless you work for a marketing firm or are a sadist, the second statement can easily be dismissed. Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The first statement has taken on a life of its own, however.
For some strange reason, people have latched on to the Slope Rating as the sexier, “tell-all” number when it comes to determining course difficulty. In reality, it is the Course Rating that carries greater clout.
A Course Rating and Slope working in concert are designed to predict the scores that golfers of different handicaps will fire from a particular set of tees. The Course Rating serves as the anchor by setting the standard for the scratch golfer.
All Slope indicates is proportionately how much more difficult the set of tees play for a higher handicapper versus the scratch. Or, to put it another way, how much of the trouble on the course tends to “gang up” on the higher handicapper. Without the Course Rating as a base, a Slope Rating alone doesn’t tell the full story.
For pure difficulty, a high Course Rating/low Slope combination beats a low Course Rating/high Slope every time (72.8/114 is tougher than 67.8/127 at every handicap level). To illustrate how much sway the Course Rating holds, it takes more than 22 units of Slope to have the same impact as a single stroke of Course Rating for a 5-handicapper. For a 20-handicapper, it takes almost 6 units of Slope to equal a stroke of Course Rating.
Another common myth is the old “the #1 stroke hole is the most difficult hole on the course.”
Maybe “yes,” maybe “no.”
Most golfers are surprised to learn that the ranking of the holes is actually designed for match play, not stroke play. This helps explain why one nine is issued the odd-numbered allocations (typically the front) and the other the even . . . to evenly distribute strokes in a match.
The goal of stroke allocation is NOT to rank the holes most difficult in relationship to par, but rather, to identify the holes where a high-handicapper most needs a stroke in order to secure a “half” in a match with a low-handicapper. Coincidentally, they can be the most difficult holes, but not always.
Consider, for example, a 230-yard, par three that even the best of golfers find difficult to par.
How does the hole play for the high-handicapper?
Though the high-handicapper cannot reach the green in regulation, it might just require a simple pitch and two putts for a routine bogey.
Is the hole difficult? You bet.
Does the high-handicapper need a stroke here to gain a tie? Probably not. The handicap stroke probably generates a “win” meaning that there are other holes where the stroke is needed more. The par three described should actually be assigned a rather modest ranking.
If your course has acted properly, you might have noticed a couple of other match-play influences in the rankings. For example, even if your 18th hole is crying out for a stroke, the ranking should be downplayed. Why? Think about it ¾ how many matches ever reach the 18th hole? It would be a shame for such a pivotal stroke to never have an opportunity to have a bearing on a match. The same would be true for a 9th hole (due to 9-hole matches). Similarly, ranking the first hole too high should be avoided because of the potential impact on a sudden-death playoff (awards the stroke too soon).
Two myths shattered, many more to go.