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Oregon Golf Association

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should I have a handicap? [Top]
A:It's the way players of varying abilities can compete with one another on an equal basis. Golf is one of the few sports that offers such an opportunity.


Q: Can I calculate my own handicap, using software on my home or office computer? [Top]
A:You can, but only for fun. It is not official. To have an official handicap index, the USGA requires that you belong to a group of golfers who regularly play together. Within that group, called a golf club, a process is at work called "peer review", by which the club polices its own members' scores.


Q: How do I become an OGA member? [Top]
A:The OGA is comprised of golf clubs, and an individual must join the OGA through one of these established clubs, or form a club of their own. Two types of membership are offered, Regular (a club at a golf course facility) and Associate (a club without real estate). An Associate club is a group of ten or more interested members (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) who play golf together regularly, have an established set of by-laws, and proper committees to ensure compliance with the USGA Handicap System.


Q: I belong to a group of golfers that gets together weekly and plays different courses around the area. We would like to acquire USGA Handicaps. How do we go about this? [Top]
A:As stated above, you would be referred to as an Associate club. Please contact the Handicapping Department at the OGA office (503) 981-4653 for an Associate Packet to be mailed to you containing the necessary information for your group to be recognized as an OGA member club.


Q: How often are Handicap Indexes updated on ghin.com? [Top]
A:Every Friday a.m., ghin.com is taken off line for maintenance. Scores are added, deleted, and Handicap Indexes are updated IF there has been a revision (re-calculation) since the last Friday. OGA members' handicaps are revised once a month from April through June, then revisions are done every other Friday until October. After that time, we are back to a once-a-month revision until the end of the season, which is typically the Friday of Thanksgiving week.


Q: Whom do I contact to correct an erroneous score that has been posted to my GHIN record? [Top]
A:: Please make a request directly to your club Handicap Chairman so that they may take the necessary steps to remove the score. Only they can perform maintenance on your scoring record.


Q: What is a multi-member? [Top]
A:A multi-member is a golfer who has membership at more than one club, whether private, semi-private, public or associate, or a combination. A golfer may be a member at more than one club in the OGA, or may be a member at more than one golf association on GHIN. Either way, that golfer must carry just one GHIN number. All scores will be contained on that one record, no matter where that golfer plays. The only exception to the "one GHIN number rule" would be if a golfer were carrying both an 18-hole handicap and a 9-hole handicap.


Q: Are scores made in best ball and match play rounds to be posted to my handicap? [Top]
A: YES, ABSOLUTELY! All rounds played in active season, in accordance with the Rules of Golf, are to be posted to your handicap. Here's how: FOR MATCH PLAY: if you concede a hole, the score for handicap purposes will be the number of strokes taken, plus one for the concession, or the number of strokes you most likely would have taken in finishing the hole (e.g., if you lay three, twenty feet from the hole, when your opponent concedes your next stroke, you would record a five for that hole for posting purposes). If you stop the match because one competitor has already won, record par plus any strokes you have coming on the remaining holes. You must play at least 13 holes in order for the score to be posted. BOTH MATCH PLAY AND BEST BALL: For holes played and completed, record the actual score. For holes played, but not completed, record the number of strokes taken, plus the number of strokes you most likely would have taken to complete the hole. That number is not to exceed your maximum allowable score on the Equitable Stroke Control chart.


Q: What is the definition of above mentioned phrase "most likely score"? [Top]
A: This is a determination that can only be made by you, the golfer, and should be the most reasonable assumption you can conclude about your own game. When an adjustment is necessary because you have not finished a hole, "most likely score" consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in your best judgment, the number of strokes that you would need to complete the hole from that position more than half the time.


Q. My club has a couple of temporary greens and or tees in place. Do I have to post my score? [Top]
A: If the Rules of Golf can be followed during reconstruction, scores should be posted. The club should notify the OGA to arrive at an adjustment to the regular course rating, and these temporary ratings can be put into the club's handicapping records.


Q: What about posting nine-hole scores? [Top]
A: THEY SHOULD BE POSTED! In fact, beginning in 1998, GHIN Electronic Option software allowed our members to post non-consecutive nine-hole scores. A player is no longer responsible to collect consecutive nine-hole scores and combine them for a postable eighteen-hole total. Individual nine-hole scores can now be posted, by the same procedure used to post eighteen-hole scores, with the corresponding nine-hole Course and Slope Rating. The software will store nine-hole scores for combination with other nine-hole scores as they are posted. Scores that are the product of combination will be reflected in your score history by the letter (C). Nine-hole Course and Slope Ratings have been provided to each club for the appropriate sets of tees, both in the software program and in our printed listing, which is delivered to clubs in March.


Q: When, if ever, should "Preferred Lies" (Winter Rules) be used? [Top]
A: The OGA and USGA do not endorse "preferred lies" (winter rules) and always recommend that the Rules of Golf be observed uniformly. As it states in the USGA Rules of Golf, "Ground under repair is provided for in Rule 25. Occasional abnormal conditions which might interfere with fair play and are not widespread should be defined accurately as ground under repair." However, it is our recommendation that if extreme conditions are pervasive and the Committee has determined that adopting a local "preferred lies" rule would "promote fair play or help protect the course" (USGA Handicap System Manual), such a rule should be in a detailed written form. A sign simply stating "Winter Rules Today" will not suffice! The OGA believes that there is much indiscriminate use of preferred lies in our district, and has hopes of providing education that will markedly curb its use. Please see the OGA documents "Guidelines for Preferred Lies", "Disadvantages of Winter Rules" and "How the OGA Designates an Inactive/Active Handicapping Season" found on the Handicapping page of the OGA web site, www.orgolf.org, for clarification on this issue. These documents are also distributed annually to club Handicap Committees and Golf Professionals.


Q: Why can't we post scores on the Internet? [Top]
A: Scores cannot be posted to your handicap over the web because this would undermine an essential element of the USGA Handicap System; "peer review." This peer review process not only deems it necessary for a club to encourage their membership to play together, it also allows the club Handicap Committee to oversee the posting of scores at a common location to be viewed by the membership. Posting over the Internet negates the integrity of peer review and is therefore not allowed.


Q: Why don't OGA members post scores year round? [Top]
A: The OGA has determined that there are distinct active and inactive handicapping seasons in our region. The rating of golf courses is done during a time of year when "normal" conditions are met (as closely as possible), and most of our golf courses do not accurately play to their ratings in the winter, or inactive season, due to "extreme" weather (long periods of rain, ice, snow, frozen ground, etc., prohibiting the use of maintenance equipment). This is the time period in which local scores are not acceptable for handicap purposes, and is typically December, January and February. You must, however, post all rounds played in Sunbelt states (those with a "year-round" season) to your score history regardless of where you maintain your USGA Handicap Index.


Q: Why does my USGA Handicap Index rarely seem to reflect how I play? [Top]
A: A USGA Handicap Index is based on your potential ability, not your average. You will probably only play to your Handicap Index about 20-25% of the time. It is when an individual is regularly "playing to their handicap" that the local handicap committee should investigate that golfer's score posting habits, because something clearly is amiss. In a competition, as well as in a casual game, it becomes very important to know the very best that players can be. If your USGA Handicap Index goes down, be proud! You're improving.


Q: What can I do, as a member of a club, about some of my golfing partners' casual attitudes regarding score posting? [Top]
A: Does your group have a written Handicapping Policy? The OGA recommends to all Club Handicap Committees that they take the time to initiate a policy to be distributed to all handicapped golfers detailing what is expected of them. It is our sincere belief that the more information you give, the more cooperation you get! This policy should outline fundamental player responsibilities for returning scores, and describe thoroughly how and why a Committee would attach penalties or adjust a golfer's USGA Handicap Index, should it be necessary, for those instances when a player in the club is not observing the spirit of the handicap system. If you do not know of such a policy at your club, be proactive! Talk with club officers about publishing a guideline for handicapping standards. The Handicapping Department at the OGA has a Sample Handicapping Policy that is distributed to all Handicap Committees to encourage its use--it's a good place to start. And if you're disturbed by a fellow player's attitude about the game, make an appeal to his sense of fairness. If that doesn't work, tell a club officer about what you witnessed; don't keep it to yourself! After all, golf is a game of honor, and we're all using the same handicapping system. It ultimately requires all of us to keep each other honest.


Q: Is there an easy explanation for Course and Slope Rating? [Top]
A: Although there are many factors involved in the USGA Rating System, here's a relatively simple interpretation: COURSE RATING: This is an indication of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions, based on yardage and other obstacles. It is denoted as strokes taken to one decimal place. SLOPE RATING: This is an indication of the relative difficulty of a course for golfers above a scratch handicap. The higher the Slope Rating, the more strokes the high-handicapper receives. On a course with a Slope Rating of 110, the course handicap of both the high and low-handicapper will be relatively close to their USGA Handicap Indexes, but as a Slope Rating reaches the 130's the low-handicapper's course handicap will be a stroke or so above his index, while the course handicap of the high-handicapper may be as much as five strokes higher than his index. On courses with higher Slope Ratings the high-handicapper needs more strokes to compete. High-handicap players should look closely at Slope Ratings when determining which set of tees to play. While Slope may also be of interest to the scratch player, the course rating is the best place to look to determine the degree of difficulty. A course of standard difficulty has a USGA Slope Rating of 113.


Q: The #1 handicap hole on our scorecard is not the hardest hole on the course. How do we re-handicap our holes? [Top]
A: This question requires a two-part answer. First, lets tackle the suggestion made by the first part of the question that the #1 handicap hole on the scorecard should be the hardest hole on the course. Hardest for whom? It seems impossible that any one hole could be labeled "the hardest" on any course given the varying abilities of a clubs' members. It is fitting that this question would follow one regarding Slope, because the principles of handicap stroke allocations very closely resemble those of Slope Rating. The #1 handicap hole on any golf course, assuming a proper stroke allocation study has been done, is the hole on which the high-handicapper most needs extra strokes in competition with a low-handicapper. This is generally not the most difficult hole on the course for the low-handicapper.

Let's address the second part of the question, and in doing so we'll illustrate how this is the case. Section 17 of the USGA Handicap System Manual is dedicated to describing the recommended methods for establishing the allocation of handicap strokes. Basically, it is recommended that about 200 score cards be collected by the club Handicap Committee for men and for women in each of two average handicap ranges (low average range: Men - 0-8, Women - 0-14, and middle-to-high average range: Men - 20-28, Women - 26-40). Clubs with a limited number of low-handicap players should use 200 scores from 25% of its players with the lowest Course Handicaps. These scores should not be adjusted for Equitable Stroke Control. The average score for each hole from each group should be computed. Then the difference in average scores between the low and middle-to-high groups should be determined. The holes should then be ranked 1-18 by the average score differences, with the #1 hole being the one with the largest difference. The USGA recommends that these rankings be modified so that the odd-numbered strokes are assigned to the holes on the first nine, and the even-numbered strokes to the holes on the second nine. Should a club wish to submit the collected score cards to the Oregon Golf Association, we will send them on to the USGA, who, for a fee of $50.00 will perform the stroke allocation analysis and provide you with a recommended allocation of handicap strokes. Generally speaking, middle to above average length par 4's and 5's which will have a stroke average of near par for low-handicappers, and a stroke average of between bogey and double-bogey for high-handicappers, have the greatest average score differences and are the lowest handicapped holes. Conversely, the holes with the lowest average score differences and the highest handicap stroke allocations are generally long and difficult par 3's, where the low-handicapper struggles to make par and the high-handicapper plays the hole as if it were a short par 4. It is easy to see how the comment that precedes this question could come quite naturally from many low-handicap players.


Q: Which course is more difficult: Course A with a Course Rating of 72.0 and a Slope of 120 or Course B with a Course Rating of 70.0 and a Slope of 130? [Top]
A: The answer to this question depends entirely on the ability of the person asking the question. For a high-handicapper, Course B is probably more difficult. Its higher Slope Rating probably means there are a number of long carries, perhaps over water, and a number of difficult bunkers. The low-handicapper has much less trouble with forced carries or trouble shots. The low-handicapper will have a harder time with Course A. Course A is probably long, and possibly tight. It presents difficulty for the high-handicapper as well, but without significant water or forced carries, does not pose as great a threat as Course A. As it turns out in this example the "bogey golfer" (17.5 - 22.4 index for men and 21.5 - 26.4 for women) will have very nearly the same score on both courses, but as either the player's handicap index or the Slope Rating increases, Course B will prove harder for the high-handicapper. Course Rating is the definitive indicator of difficulty for the scratch player and Slope Rating similarly so for all players above a scratch handicap. It is important to notice, however, that in this example Course and Slope Ratings for each course are given. This is because Course and Slope Ratings are relational, and a Slope Rating apart from its relationship to the corresponding Course Rating, is essentially meaningless.


Q: How are strokes given for two golfers playing in a match from different sets of tees, or for a man and a woman playing from the same set of tees? [Top]
A: Start with determining the Course Handicaps of each player. Then take the difference between the Course Ratings, with .5 or greater rounded upward (e.g., 73.5 - 70.9 = 2.6, rounded to 3). This figure is added to the Course Handicap of the golfer playing from the higher-rated set of tees because, of course, that is the more difficult set. The same principle is applied if the golfers involved in a match are different genders, because, even though they might be playing from the same set of tees, the Course and Slope Ratings will differ. Remember that this is not only just simple arithmetic, it's fair! Please be aware that additional strokes received under this procedure are to be disregarded when applying ESC for handicap purposes.


Q. What is the purpose of Equitable Stroke Control and how is it to be used? [Top]
A: The purpose of ESC is to downward adjust an individual hole score to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential scoring ability. Using ESC sets a maximum number of strokes that a golfer can post on any hole depending on the golfer's Course Handicap. First, start with your USGA Handicap Index. Next, go to the Slope (Conversion) Chart of the slope of the set of tees that you are playing that day. Go down the chart to find your current Handicap Index, and read across to discover your whole number Course Handicap. Take that Course Handicap against an ESC chart. If I'm a 15, the most I can take is a seven on any hole. Remember that ESC is for handicapping purposes only. You must apply ESC before that score is acceptable to your handicap.


Q. How is Equitable Stroke Control applied to the scores of a golfer who is establishing a handicap? [Top]
A: A beginning golfer is allowed, under the USGA Handicap System, to use the maximum Handicap Index of 36.4 for men, and 40.4 for women, converted to a Course Handicap to determine his maximum number. It is important for everyone to remember that a score posted for handicap purposes MUST have ESC applied, if indeed that golfer needs to make a downward adjustment due to shooting higher than his allowable maximum on any given hole. Once the golfer has posted five rounds, he will have an established Handicap Index returned to him on the next revision and thus may convert to a Course Handicap. It is also noteworthy that Equitable Stroke Control does not tell you when to stop play on a hole! ESC is only used for the purpose of keeping an exceptionally bad hole from changing your Handicap Index too much. There is also no limit to how many holes you can apply ESC to.


Q. What does it mean when I have an "R" next to my USGA Handicap Index? [Top]
A: It means that your Handicap Index has been reduced due to "exceptional" tournament performance. Section 10-3 of the USGA Handicap System specifically allows for an alternate method of handicap calculation when a golfer has a minimum of two eligible tournament scores that are at least three strokes better than the player's USGA Handicap Index calculated the "regular" way. Please go to the Handicapping page of our web site, www.orgolf.org, and click on the document "Exceptional Tournament Scores" for a more complete explanation. A 10-3 reduction simply carries the philosophy of the USGA Handicap System into the realm of tournament play.


Q. If my Handicap Index has been reduced, when can I expect it to revert back to "normal"? [Top]
A: At every revision date, your reduced Handicap Index is recalculated and it may vary based on several factors. Have you posted more "T" scores? Do you have "T" scores that have now expired? Is your regular level of play fluctuating? An Exceptional Tournament Score Reduction is only relevant in comparison to what your current USGA Handicap Index is. If you find you are posting higher scores than your tournament performance, there is a greater chance for a reduction. As always, a USGA Handicap Index will reflect the very best you can play. If you need a detailed explanation, please request one from your Handicap Chairman. Once you review the facts, you may decide to further appeal to the Committee for an override of your reduction. Only they are in the position to make that decision.


Q. Since the Handicap System formula only takes up to ten out of twenty of my best scores, should I bother to post scores when I play badly? [Top]
A: YES! The accuracy of handicapping relies on full reporting of all scores played under the principles of the Rules of Golf in active season. Because a score history is continual (but only considers the current twenty rounds, in addition to a Tournament score file, if you have one) and is intended to reflect the profile of the player from year to year, the Handicap System will adjust a player's Handicap Index up or down as his game changes. You may play completely differently as you age, as you travel, as you play more frequently. The System allows for this, but only when the golfer acts responsibly in returning all acceptable scores.