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Query the Handicap Expert

hdcpmanualHave a question on the USGA Handicap System you want answered? Have an argument that needs to be resolved? Did you get “sandbagged” last weekend and want to know what you can do about it?

The NCGA wants your assistance in providing more information on the USGA Handicap System.

Put the NCGA’s handicap experts to the test. Submit your question/situation below or by e-mail and receive a quick answer. The NCGA offers an online handicap certification seminar as well as live seminars each year.

More information on handicapping can be found in the USGA Handicap System manual.

Author: Scott Seward

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  • Earl Jackson

    Why can’t I post a score from a course that is in its “off-season”?

    • Jim Cowan

      I apologize for the delay in responding but I was unaware that this aspect of the site had been reactivated.

      Each State and regional golf association is charged with determining an active season for score posting and an inactive season. That is, the time period when, generally speaking, courses “play” to their ratings and when they do not. For much of the country, climate dictates this decision. For example, in my native Pacific Northwest score posting is not permitted from late November thru February due to the wetness of the courses. The feeling being that courses, as a rule, do not play to their ratings during this time and that posting scores could, therefore, skew a Handicap Index. So that is why you cannot post a score from an off-season course, even if you caught it on a nice day. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • gregory zorbach

    what does the “R” signify after two of my members’ GHINs?

    • Jim Cowan

      I apologize for the delay in responding but I was unaware that this aspect of the site had been reactivated.
      The goal of the USGA Handicap System is to issue a Handicap Index that best represents a golfer’s “potential” ability. “Potential,” for these purposes, is measured by a review of a golfer’s best 10 of 20 most recent rounds, AND, by a review of a golfer’s two best Tournament Scores of the past twelve months. Basically the System looks at the size of the gap between the current best 10 of 20 calculation and the average of the two best T-scores. If the System feels the gap is too wide, an automatic reduction kicks in (reduction to the best 10 of 20 number). This reduction is denoted by an “R.” This is how every handicap is computed in the country. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Rob

    what is the difference between posting using home versus away?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Whether a round has been denoted as “Home” or “Away” has absolutely no impact on the handicap calculation. Both scores are treated identically. The Home or Away designation just makes it easier for you, your Handicap Committee, and your fellow members to identify the rounds. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • frank

    can i edit a score that has been entered?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. I apologize for the delay in responding but the automatic alert feature when a new post has been recorded is not yet kicking in. You will need to contact your club to edit the score. They have the necessary means to perform any edits or deletions. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • skip

    I entered a score, but forgot to set the date, I played Jan 27, 2014, however the date recorded as today Mar 15. Is there a way to change that? Does it matter, other than others will think I was in Maui when I was not.

    • Jim Cowan

      Please see my response to the previous post. It does make a difference as it relates to the order that the score will eventually fall off. As you are probably aware, a handicap is based on your best 10 of 20 most recent rounds, so maintaining the correct chronological order of your rounds is important. Thanks again, hope you had a great trip! Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • David Allen

    I changed my home course last November, and now my handicap calculation does not update. It shows NH.
    Is it because I do not play with other members? (I am playing away courses).
    I am trying to keep a legitimate HC Index for club tournaments this summer.
    Thanks,

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your comment. We have several David Allen’s in our membership, so it took me awhile to zero in on your record. I just logged into our website with your number and last name and it displayed a current Handicap Index of 10.8. You should be able to see the same. You should also be receiving your eRevision on the morning of the 1st and 15th of each month displaying your current Index. If you do not receive such an eRevision for April 1st and/or you cannot see your Index when logging into our site, email me at jcowan@ncga.org and we will try to get to the bottom of the problem. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Phillip Sexton

    Jim:

    Our club just had a three club and a putter four ball tournament. Should those scores be posted? Everything was according to the Rules of Golf. Should we be posting any four ball scores. Thank you.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your comment. The three club and putter score represents one of the few times that a score cannot be posted. Here is a link to the Section of the USGA Handicap System manual that deals with those times you cannot post. You want Section 5-1e. http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Handicap-System-Manual/Rule-05/ The Handicap System absolutely requires the posting of standard four-ball (i.e., better-ball) rounds when a full arsenal of 14 clubs is permitted. Thanks again, I hope you had a fun tournament. Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • bill mann

    question how can I find my past golf scores for 2009, 2010, and 2011 my gin # 5688322 name bill mann

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your email. Your current club (and/or current golf association) can probably help you out. Generally speaking, GHIN has scores going back to the summer of 2008, assuming that your membership has been active that long. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • James Cadle

    Please define the term “low handicap index”. I’ve chased all over online, but cannot find a definition. Thanks, Jim.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your posting. I apologize for the extreme delay in responding but obviously the auto-indicator that a post has been left is not working. Low Handicap Index represents your low Index of the past twelve months. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • James Cadle

    Second question: How may I post hole-by-hole scores to NCGA?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Within eGolfer you can indicate that you want to post hole-by-hole scores. When in eClubhouse, go to My Game and then Post a Score. You then select HBH posting. You will be asked to enter the hole-by-hole data for the course as well (i.e., hole length, par, stroke holes, etc.). Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Adam

    I accidentally entered a score twice – how do I delete the duplicate?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. I apologize for the extreme delay in responding but obviously the auto-indicator that a post has been left is not working. You need to contact your club. They have the necessary means to perform such corrections/deletions. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Phillip Sexton

    Jim:
    Recently, several players in our group started playing from the senior tees (Silver). The rest of the players are playing from the middle tees (Gold) Based on the course rating there is a two stroke difference in tees. Does it make a difference to reduce the Silver tee players two handicap strokes rather than adjust the Gold Tee players an additional two strokes? Would this have any affect on the on games where the handicap for each hole is involved? Thank you.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. I apologize for the extreme delay in responding but obviously the auto-indicator that a post has been left is not working. You can add strokes to the Gold tee players or deduct them from Silver, either method will work. The stroke holes should not be impacted. Stroke holes are based on gender, not on the tees being played. Thanks again and congrats on letting people play from different tees in your games. Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Dan Erickson

    The committee at our club is attempting to deal with a “sandbagger” situation. Are you familiar with the Knuth point system? Your comments would be appreciated.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. I apologize for the delay in responding but obviously the auto-indicator that a post has been left is not working. Points system, like the Knuth system, are a good way to keep tabs on who might be performing too well in your tournaments. My main concern with such systems is that they call for a reduction in a golfer’s handicap when they accumulate too many points. Since we are dealing, potentially, with a person who is abusing the Handicap System, what is to prevent them from raising their Handicap Index by the amount of the reduction thereby still receiving too many strokes? I personally prefer examining tournament scores versus non-tournament scores. And I especially prefer reviewing a golfer’s “eligible T-scores” (T-scores recorded within the past twelve months). If they are playing to or better than their handicap at much more than a one in five clip in tournaments and/or if their average differential is significantly less than three strokes above their Index, you have a problem and should intervene. You can perform such reviews via the GHP Online Club website. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

      • Wei Mao

        Jim, what of the situation where someone posts TOO many T scores? I recently played in a tournament where the winning player had a score history with 19 T scores!

        • Jim Cowan

          Thank you for your post. It is not up to the individual whether to apply the T or not, it is up to the Committee in charge of the competition to determine whether the tournament is significant enough to warrant a T. So it is not a commentary on the golfer that his record is flooded with T’s, it reflects back on the club/committee conducting the tournaments. In general, the T should be reserved for major tournaments within the club structure, not routine weekly or monthly events of little consequence. Too many T’s is actually a bad thing. It dilutes the ability of the System to identify those golfers that always seem to save their very best play for just the most important tournaments. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

          • Wei Mao

            Thank you for your reply! In this particular circumstance, if a player has entered only 1 round himself, and lets his index be comprised of only scores submitted by the Committee (T scores), isn’t this a form of sandbagging? I noticed that even if he triggers a R, his reduction would be severely limited by the flood of T scores. Is that accurate? Thanks, in advance, for your service!

          • Jim Cowan

            If those are, in fact, his only rounds of golf, then he is doing nothing wrong. If he is playing other rounds of golf and not posting them, that is a different story and his Handicap Committee should consider the same sort of penalty actions that they would for any other golfer not posting all his scores. The fact that he has a lot of T-scores does make him less likely to suffer an automatic Reduction, period. Whether it is 19 T-scores and 1 non-T-score, or 19 T-scores and 50 non-T-scores does not change the dynamic, his T-score “counter” remains set at 19. And it takes two really low T-scores for a Reduction to kick in when a golfer has 19 in his counter. But if they are “legit” T-scores as designated by the committee in charge of the competition, he has done nothing wrong. Thanks – Jim Cowan

  • bob

    I have a friend who just moved and his club made his index inactive. Can he reactivate it through the new state association where he now lives so that he doesn’t have to start over to establish his index

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. If the area that your friend has moved to is served by the same handicap service that we use (GHIN), then he simply needs to inform his new club of his existing number and have them enter him onto their roster with this existing number. His scores will all still be there. If the state association uses another service, that association can contact our office and we can forward his scores to them for entry, or, he can simply re-enter his twenty most recent scores into their service. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Roland Coombs

    If all players move to a shorter tee with a lower course rating & slope how are handicaps adjusted?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. If all of you move forward, you simply adjust your Handicap Index to the new, lower Slope Rating of the shorter tees. No other adjustment is necessary, you will all see that your Course Handicaps have declined slightly (if at all). If only some of you move forward AND they are competing against golfers playing the longer tees, then the difference in Course Ratings between the two tees need to be taken into consideration. All those moving forward forfeit the rounded difference in the Course Ratings, or, those playing the longer tees add these strokes to their Course Handicaps. This will level the playing field if short and long tee players compete against each other. Thanks again and have fun playing the shorter tees! Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • MikeNDavis

    Does the NCGA maintain a handicap history of its members?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Our handicap service provider does maintain such a history going back a few years. It is dependent on you maintaining an active membership at the same club throughout that time period. Your club would have access to this info or you can email someone in our Handicap Dept. Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Tony de Alcuaz

    Is there a way to correct scores that are posted on the site? I entered two round with the incorrect dates.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. You will need to contact your club, they have the necessary means to perform such corrections. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Palmer Emmitt

    Why do I have an “L” next to my handicap? All of the explanations I’m finding say that L means “local handicap” when you have an index over 36.4, but that doesn’t apply to me (7.5). Why is mine an L and how does that affect me for tournament play?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. It depends on where you are seeing the L. Chances are you are looking at a Trend handicap. A Trend is an unofficial calculation made between revision dates based on your 20 most recent rounds as of that second. In other words, a calculation that includes the score you just posted. Such a calculation has no official status. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Bruce Hoffman

    We have a person who has moved to our area, Sacramento, and would like to join our golf club. He is moving from Nevada and currently belongs to the Northern Nevada Golf Association and has a handicap. Is he required to join the NCGA as a new member or can his membership from Nevada be transferred? If he needs to join the NCGA as a new member, how can be keep his current handicap?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Add him to your roster with his existing GHIN number. His scores/handicap will transfer over to your club. Thanks again. Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • David F

    We just played a course using their combo tees (some white and some blue). How do courses select which holes have which tee box? Do they need to be re-rated or can you adjust the rating based upon new yardage?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Normally the course, in concert with their membership, pieces the combo tees together. Often times they put together a package that results in a desired overall length (i.e., 5,800 yards). Or they opt for shorter tees on those holes that feature a significant “carry” over trouble on the tee shot. Or they opt for shorter tees on those holes that feature a significant dogleg (i.e., want to make sure their shorter hitters can reach the elbow of the dogleg). Some courses even mix up their combination of tees for esthetic reasons (i.e., allowing a White tee golfer to see a stunning view from the Blue tees). The issuance of a Combo tee rating does NOT usually require a visit to the course. In almost all instances we can piece the rating together from info in our files. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • gregory zorbach

    How do I delete an incorrectly posted score? I am the Handicap Chairman of our club and was interrupted while entering the adjusted scores for our club’s latest outing. Upon continuing, I posted the score for one member incorrectly (same last name as another member.)

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. It looks like your club uses the GHP-Online Club website to perform your roster transactions, etc. Highlight the member’s name within your roster (within GHP-Online Club) and select Score Maintenance. You can then spot the score in question, click Edit, and then change what needs to be changed. If you require assistance, phone our office (831-625-4653) and ask for Martin or Kate in the Handicap Dept. They will walk you through the process. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • BobG

    During a practice round of golf multiple balls may be played from various positions, putts picked up, and holes not completed. Essentially these rounds are practice and not played according the rules of golf. Is it required to post some sort of score from these practice rounds?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Such scores are not made in accordance with the principles of Rules of Golf, so the scores cannot be posted. However, a golfer needs to tread carefully here. If his Handicap Committee comes to the conclusion that the golfer is hitting multiple balls on holes just so he can avoid posting (i.e., starts hitting extra balls to avoid posting a good score), they can and should take penalty action against the player. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • dboake

    just set up an ncga account and entered scores dating back 1 year. handicap is listed as NH. when will my handicap be computed? thanks.

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. Handicaps are only updated/issued on the 1st and 15th of each month. Assuming you have a sufficient number of scores posted (a minimum of five), you will be issued a Handicap Index on July 1st. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • john

    how do I change an incorrect score I just posted

    • Jim Cowan

      Go down a couple of posts, the question has been answered several times. Thanks.

  • kyle

    I just joined the NCGA e-club and there is an upcoming stroke play qualifier tournament that I would like to play on 7/12 in Stevinson CA. I have entered my previous 8 scores from the last couple months however my GHIN # will not update until 7/15 as I understand it. Can I still play in the tournament and is there any way a manual update can be done before-hand so I will have an official handicap prior to playing in the tournament? Thanks

    • Sam Staton

      Hi Kyle,
      I run the eClub events and your situation comes up often. We always want club members to participate in events, so we would be happy to help you. We can run an update to your handicap using the scores you have posted for the event. However, since the event is this Saturday, you will want to contact me as soon as possible so I can get this taken care of before the event. You can ask for me directly by calling 831-625-4653.
      Thanks,
      Sam

  • V Lico

    In tournament play can the type (brand ) of ball be changed during a round?

  • http://ncga.org Ryan

    V Lico,
    Rule 15-1 requires that the player hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground on any specific hole. However, the player may change balls between the play of two holes without penalty. When the Committee has adopted the “One Ball” condition as specified in Appendix I, the balls a player plays must be of the same brand and model as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Balls. Otherwise, the player may change the brand of ball between holes.

    Ryan Gregg, Director of Rules and Competitions

  • Terry

    What is the maximum index for a player ???? Is this the same for a woman ????

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. The maximum Handicap Index for men is 36.4, for women it is 40.4. Of course, these max Handicap Index can convert to Course Handicaps much higher on courses with high Slope Ratings. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Jay Chatfield

    I accidentally posted the same score twice how do I remove the second score

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your email. You will need to contact your club (i.e., Handicap Committee at a traditional club; Membership Dept for eClub members). They have the necessary means to perform such corrections/deletions. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • pete barsamian

    How long do you have to post a score after you have played?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. The USGA Handicap System expects a score to be posted immediately after the round, ideally at the course that the round was completed. That is why the NCGA has installed score posting computers at virtually every course in Northern California. Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Lisa Symons

    Do tournament scores weigh more heavily in calculating the Index?

    • Jim Cowan

      Thank you for your post. The answer is yes and no. A USGA Handicap Index is intended to represent a golfer’s “potential” ability. “Potential,” for these purposes, is measured by a review of a golfer’s best 10 of 20 most recent rounds AND by a review of a golfer’s two best T-scores of the past twelve months. In performing the best 10 of 20 calculation, all scores are treated equally. But low T-scores do have the potential to have an impact on an Index long after they have worked their way out of a golfer’s 20 most recent rounds. Low T-scores can, in fact, impact a calculation for up to twelve months. Thanks again – Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping