No Executive Privilege
Recent newspaper articles profiling the golf habits of corporate executives have again placed a national spotlight on the USGA Handicap System.
It seems that the scoring records of some very high-profile CEOs were examined by reporters to reveal round after round posted while their companies were in the throes of financial ruin.
It is not my place to decide whether such play was right or wrong. It is my place to explain the dynamics of handicapping and the perceived conflict between an individual’s right to privacy versus the “peer review” requirements of the USGA Handicap System. It is also my place to explain peer review as it relates to the NCGA.
In its simplest form, peer review is the ultimate check and balance within the system that truly gives handicapping a backbone and integrity. A portion of peer review includes the unalienable right that we all possess to review the scoring records and handicaps of those we play with to ensure that all is in order.
The reporters who wrote the exposés took advantage of some of the tools of peer review to perform their dirty work. They likely visited an NCGA-like website and performed a last-name look-up to discover the scores.
Were these reporters exercising their peer review rights?
Of course not. The accuracy of the Handicap Index and posted scores was the last thing on their minds.
Should the scope of peer review somehow be reined in due to the abuse of a few reporters?
An even more resounding “NO.” Take away peer review and you take away the heart and soul of handicapping.
Legal opinion puts any debate to rest. If you want a Handicap Index, you must expose your scoring record to the review of others. If you are not willing to expose your scores to the review of others, you cannot have a Handicap Index. The choice is simple.
So how does peer review work at the NCGA?
Fellow club members and officials of tournaments you participated in are entitled to complete access, as is anyone who can supply your NCGA/GHIN number during the handicap look-up process on the NCGA website.
New for 2008, those that do not have your NCGA/GHIN number and must resort to last-name look-up will receive an abbreviated view of your record (full access minus the day of the month of each round and golf course name).
As long as there is a Handicap System, peer review is here to stay.
As most Handicap Chairmen are aware, updates to the USGA Handicap System occur every four years — 2008 is such a year.
Typically the changes are minor and represent little more than refinements of long-established policies.
All-in-all, the changes for 2008 are not earth-shattering; the slight change in the details of scoring records displayed under peer review as stated above, a better way to combine nine-hole scores, a more palatable way to determine the stroke holes on a course, etc.
There is one clarification that I am very partial to.
Language has been added to make it clear that clubs have the power and responsibility to suspend score posting when course or weather conditions dictate.
Let’s face it, some courses play to their ratings year-round, others do not. Those that don’t should stop score posting until suitable conditions return. To continue posting would only distort handicaps, probably to unreasonably high levels.
And what goes up must come down. Most golfers whose handicaps go way up in the winter, come way down in the summer, meaning that they enjoy a stretch of time where they outperform their handicap with great regularity and at great profit. No golfer is entitled to such an advantage (as confirmed by a new 2008 handicap decision addressing unwarranted seasonal fluctuations in handicaps).
Other highlights for 2008 include the following:
• A new NCGA Handicap Manual covering 2008-2011 is currently in production and will be distributed to all clubs in early 2008.
• A web-based NCGA Handicap Certification Seminar alternative is in the works. All clubs will be required to complete an NCGA Handicap Certification Seminar in person (or complete the online alternative) between 2008 and 2011. Complete details will be forwarded to all clubs.
• All clubs are required to complete a USGA Handicap License Agreement between 2008 and 2011. A web-based means of completing such a license agreement is in development.