Learning Center

 

Handicap adjustment when competing from different tees

 

How does a tournament committee make competition fair when golfers play from different sets of tees or men play women from the same set of tees?

Don't player handicaps make play fair?

It is important to note, right at the start, that golf handicaps level the playing field when competing from the SAME tees. Comparing scores posted from the same tee is analogous to comparing apples to apples (unless it is mix-gendered competition). Handicaps in golf, though, do not level the playing field when players golf from different sets of tees or from the same tee with different Course Ratings (i.e., men and women's ratings). Comparing scores from different sets of tees or different Course Ratings is like comparing apples to oranges.

Making play fair

In order to make competition from tees with different Course Ratings fair, an adjustment to players' Course Handicap must be made. An upward adjustment in handicap for players playing from tees with higher Course Ratings or a decrease in handicap for player playing from tees with lower Course Ratings can be applied.

Rule of thumb

When golfers compete while playing from tees that have different Course Ratings, either add OR subtract strokes...

Handicap adjustment when competing from different tees

Two-player example

In this two-player competition, Fred plays from the Blue tees and Tom plays from the White. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the USGA recommends adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, Fred is playing from the Blue tees with the higher Course Rating of 71.3, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to Fred's Course Handicap of 12.

Blue Course Rating - White Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
71.3 - 68.7 = 2.6 rounded to 3

Item Fred Tom
Tee Blue White
Index 11.2 16.7
Slope Rating 125 116
Course Rating 71.3 68.7
Course Handicap 12 17
Handicap Adjustment (option 1) +3 0
Playing Handicap (option 1) 15 17
Handicap Adjustment (option 2) 0 -3
Playing Handicap (option 2) 12 14

If you have a tournament with, say, 100 players and 88 play from the Blue tees (like Fred) and 12 play from the White tees (like Tom), it may be less work for you to adjust the 12 players' handicaps than the 88 playing from the Blue tees. In such a case, the USGA says you can adjust the 12 White tee players' Course Handicaps downward by 3 strokes. The effect is the same.

 

Three-player example

In this three-player competition, Fred plays from the Blue tees, Tom plays from White and Dave plays from Gold tees. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the USGA recommends adjusting the Course Handicap of the players playing from the tees with higher Course Ratings. In this case, Fred and Tom playing from the Blue and White tees with the higher Course Rating of 71.3 and 68.7, so you would add the differences in Course Ratings (rounded to nearest whole number) to Fred and Tom's Course Handicap of 12 and 17.

Blue Course Rating - Gold Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
71.3 - 66.3 = 5

White Course Rating - Gold Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
68.7 - 66.3 = 2.4 rounded to 2

Item Fred Tom Dave
Tee Blue White Gold
Index 11.2 16.7 21.2
Slope Rating 125 116 108
Course Rating 71.3 68.7 66.3
Course Handicap 12 17 20
Handicap Adjustment (option 1) +5 +2 0
Playing Handicap (option 1) 17 19 20
Handicap Adjustment (option 2) 0 -3 -5
Playing Handicap (option 2) 12 14 15

In a tournament situation where you have many players, you can determine what the most efficient route to adjust handicaps would be: adjusting handicaps of player playing from higher Course Ratings, or lowering the handicaps of players playing from tees with lower Course Ratings. The effect is the same. In the above three-player example, if we chose to lower the handicaps of players playing the two sets of tees with the lower Course Ratings (White and Gold), then Fred's playing handicap would remain at 12, Tom's would lower to 14 and Dave's would lower to 15.

 

Men and women competing from same tees with different Course Ratings

In this two-player competition, Fred plays from the Blue tees and Tom plays from the White. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the USGA recommends adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, Fred is playing from the Blue tees with the higher Course Rating of 71.3, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to Fred's Course Handicap of 12.

White Course Rating for women - White Course Rating for men = Difference in Course Rating
72.8 - 68.7 = 4.1 rounded to 4

Item Fred Jane
Tee White White
Index 11.2 16.7
Slope Rating 116 119
Course Rating 68.7 72.8
Course Handicap 11 18
Handicap Adjustment (option 1) 0 +4
Playing Handicap (option 1) 11 22
Handicap Adjustment (option 2) -4 0
Playing Handicap (option 2) 7 18

In summary...

If your event includes two sets of tees or women and men competing from the same tee which has different Course Ratings, either add strokes to the players playing from the higher Course Rating (increase their handicaps) OR subtract strokes from the golfers playing from the lower Course Rating (decrease their handicaps).

If your event includes more than two sets of tees or includes players playing from more than two different Course Ratings, then keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the lowest Course Rating and add strokes, or increase handicaps for players playing from higher Course Ratings. Alternatively, keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the highest Course Rating and subtract strokes, or decrease handicaps for players playing from lower Course Ratings.

Find the above information at USGA.org in the Handicap System Manual, Section 3-5, "Players Competing from Different Tees or Men and Women from Same Tees."

League Manager (online), Tournament Manager (online) and Tournament Manager (desktop) simplify the task of adjusting handicaps when your event includes players playing from different Course Ratings.