Editors' BlogMay 21, 2008

Is Equitable Stroke Control Equitable?

For Tim Fulton of Davie, Florida, the U.S. Open Contest, and Guy Yocom's June-issue story in Golf Digest on what constitutes a 10-handicapper, unearthed a great deal of resentment about the USGA Handicap system.

After reading "What is a 10-handicapper?", I once again wonder if the people running the USGA can compete in the "Are you smarter than a 5th grader show?" The obvious answer is no. Tiger's challenge was simple;" a 10-handicapper couldn't break 100." Leave it to the USGA to lamely try and justify their ridiculous handicapping system. A handicap system is quite easy to do, a 10 is a 10, and a 10 is not a 14 as the USGA tries to make us believe. The reason they have to adjust it upward is because of their silly > Equitable Stroke Control system. Their claim that a blow-up hole shouldn't be allowed to ruin a round or elevate your handicap, is wrong. To follow that same misguided logic, a superior hole; a hole in one, an albatross or eagle, should not be allowed to arbitrarily lower your round or handicap. Using their logic a 12 handicap should never get a hole in one, it's a birdie and for a 20 handicap it's a par. Silliness to the extreme. >

I recently went out and shot a 45 with 19 putts on the front and came back in 36 with 9 putts; should I throw the 45 out? Of course not, that's golf, that's what the USGA doesn't get. If there is a problem with a sandbagger, every club knows who they are and most chose not to address the problem. Relying on the USGA to formulate a solution is like asking Congress to be responsible, the USGA has no clue.>

The USGA bases its whole system on "defining the golfer's potential". They assume, wrongly, that potential can only mean good. By definition, potential is the capability of developing into actuality. There is nothing about good or bad, so it is either. That is the true essence of golf, the potential to do good or bad. To throw out the bad through ESC is merely creating "vanity handicaps". If you are throwing out 10 or 20 rounds, a bad round is not going to affect your true handicap. >

When I spoke with the USGA about the ESC system and how dumb it was, I got the classic response,"that's the way it's always been". Which of course doesn't mean its right; it's just the way it's always been.>

When you look at the challenge going on at Torrey Pines next month, I wish the participants the best, but there is not a true 10 handicapper amongst them, so the Tiger challenge won't be answered and will still stand. Shame on the USGA.>

Thanks, Tim. After listening to the former head of handicapping, Dean Knuth, talk at length about this, I'd say the USGA's position is that once you've demonstrated your potential, it's up to you to reach it. You get no points for not reaching it, unless you mess up more than 10 times out of 20, in which case your handicap rises. But I feel your pain, having played in a stroke play event recently where I made a 9 and had to record only a 7, which, I thought, diminished that 9, quite a feat in itself.

John Atkinson, our contest winner, will be at least a 10 when his course handicap is calculated. (His index is 8.0). And if you listen to the tour pros we've interviewed, he's got no chance. Unless, of course, he plays to that potential.

--Bob Carney

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