A standardized global handicap?
By Torleif Sorenson on 5/19/15
Golf is complicated enough before you plunge into the rules — and even more so when it comes to calculating your shot index. The problem is that six different handicap / shot index systems are in use around the world. These include the archaic CSS/SSS system in England, Scotland, and Wales, which are separate from those used by the European Golf Association, the South African Golf Association, and the Australian Golf Union.

As John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal points out, this means that your USGA handicap index is 13, but somebody from Australia who is also a 13 does not absolutely have the exact same skill level.

John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of Rules, Competitions, & Equipment Standards for the United States Golf Association, wants to fix that.

"We feel it would benefit the game enormously, and add to its enjoyment, if golfers everywhere had a single, portable handicap number that worked the same wherever they traveled. Shorter, simpler and less legalistic is the goal."
As Newport points out in his article, the USGA's proposed World Handicap System would capitalize on the USGA's sophisticated system would account for real-world and cultural factors. For example, a 92 posted on a cold, windy, and rainy day would have more weight than a 92 posted under sunny and calm circumstances.

The proposed system also sort out differences in the use of Equitable Stroke Control, which the USGA applies on a sliding scale based on a player's index. The article points out that in Argentina, no such concession is available, meaning that a 12 truly counts as a 12.

Bodenhamer has a wealth of experience, with 21 years as CEO and Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and the Washington State Golf Association, he is not alone in trying to develop this system. Newport says that he has had an "international team of mathematicians and computer geeks" working on the system for two years, but that it is still a work in progress.

Your humble correspondent hopes that altitude and humidity, not just weather conditions, will also be considered. After all, a golf ball flies much farther at Shining Mountain Golf Club in Woodland Park, Colorado (8,465 feet above mean sea level) than it does at Pascagoula Country Club in Mississippi — at just eight feet AMSL.

Just last autumn, the Chinese Golf Association signed on to the USGA system, joining others such as Brazil and Japan.

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Images via USGA

[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
A single system is an admirable goal but somehow my gut tells me power and money are also are the greatest motivation.
ally1957 says:
Never mind international, handicaps the can vary by course to course. yes we know slope or CSS is supposed to handle the issue of difficulty but I regulary play 2 courses one a par 72 and think I've done well if I'm in the low hundreds and come off feeling as if I've been beaten up. The other is a Par 66 and I consider it to be a bad round if I score more than 85.
When I first submitted 3 duly signed cards All three were in the 105 to 110 range expecting a 28 handicap I was rather suprised to find a 25 on the notice board.
I don't really think an international one unless it is just a AVERAGE of the last x scores
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