If you're a fan of nine-hole rounds like we are, the USGA wants you to know you can post those scores to get a handicap. According to the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN), clubs may issue a nine-hole Handicap Index. It will include an "(N)" designation.
You're eligible for an Index after just five nine-hole rounds (although using the 10 lowest of your last 20 adjusted scores is more accurate). You may have a nine-hole Index and an 18-hole Index at the same time. Nine-hole scores are posted in both files. In the 18-hole file, a nine-hole round is saved until you play another nine. It's then combined by GHIN as an 18-hole score. Having both Indexes isn't a bad idea if you play 18-hole matches now and then. If you have only a nine-hole Index, you're at a slight disadvantage against a player with an 18-hole Index. In those competitions, your Index is converted to a course handicap (which factors Slope Rating for nine holes) and is multiplied by two. That means if you have a course handicap of 12 for nine holes, it would be 24 in an 18-hole match.
Why does that put you at a disadvantage? You're more likely to play well over nine holes than you are over a longer round. Your nine-hole Index might be 12, but if you regularly played a full 18, your Index would likely be 25 or higher when factoring in the propensity of having more bad holes. When the handicap system was being developed, those of us on the research team suggested that nine-holers multiply their handicaps by 2.1 or 2.2, instead of just doubling it. But that suggestion was never adopted.
DEAN KNUTH, former senior director of the USGA Handicap Department, is a Golf Digest contributing editor.
The skies might be gray, but the Rules of Golf are black and white when it comes to lightning. If you believe there is danger, you can (and should) discontinue play. But if it's just raining, keep playing unless the tournament committee or golf shop deems the course unplayable. In other words, tough it out. If you're playing a recreational match in the rain and there's no danger from lightning and no official around to suspend play, you can head inside only if you and your opponent agree that it's too wet to continue. If your opponent gauges the conditions and wants to head back out to the course before you do, you're required to finish the match then.
Q: Your shot comes to rest in a shallow trench in the middle of the fairway. Upon closer review, it seems your ball might be resting in a channel dug for drainage. The channel, which is about six inches wide and six inches deep, is mostly covered with fairway-height grass and small stones, and it runs across the entire fairway. Do you get relief from this lie?
A: Assuming it's not marked as an abnormal ground condition, water hazard or obstruction, play it as it lies. Check if there's a Local Rule allowing relief from a French drain, especially if these channels are on multiple holes.