A Fair and Equitable System?

Former Senior Director of The United States Golf Association Handicap Department Dean Knuth, who devised the Slope Rating System had this to say about handicaps. The odds of scoring better than your handicap in a round are 1 in 5, the chances of beating your handicap by three strokes is 1 in 20, and the odds of shooting eight strokes less than your handicap would be 1 in 1,138. For most of us, that’s once in a lifetime, or lets just say your chances of a hole in one are a bit better.

I guess the real question here is, does this apply to all handicap levels and is the handicap system a fair and equitable system universally across all handicap levels?



In tournaments where handicaps are cut to 80%, does it affect all players fairly? A 5 handicap golfer would loose 1 shot but the 25 handicapper looses 5 strokes making it obviously more difficult for the higher handicap player.

It is certainly more common to see single digit handicap players shoot even par even if their index is over 5, but it is very rare for a 20 handicap player to ever break 90.

Dean Knuth “The Pope of Slope” would tell you its really about the courses these handicaps are determined on that tells the real story. In a blind test by an independent group in California players were matched into 30 foursomes by their handicap in a two best ball full handicap format. Foursomes with indexes under 10 and foursomes with indexes over 10 were paired against each other in three golf tournaments played at three different golf courses.

In all three events over 90+% of the under 10 index teams finished with better scores. To put it simply, better players as a group in a foursome with lower handicaps were much more likely to make pars and birdies, making it almost impossible for the higher handicap teams to be competitive, even with accurate handicaps.

The so called “Fair and Equitable System” of handicapping by the USGA could need to be reviewed by the same scrutiny the R&A and USGA have used in the rules changes for the game over the last few years. Let’s face it, golf is hard enough, rules and handicapping should never make it even harder.