How do course ratings affect play from differing sets of tees?
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how course ratings impact handicaps when players are playing from different sets of tees. Although the handicaps off all of the tees won’t differ much, there will be a significant issue when players compete from different tees.
The following is from the USGA Manual Section 3-5: Players Competing from Different Tees
Different tees usually have different Ratings. Because a USGA Course Rating reflects the probable score of a scratch golfer, the higher-rated course is more difficult, and the player playing from the set of tees with the higher USGA Course Rating receives additional stroke(s) equal to the difference between each USGA Course Rating, with .5 or greater rounded upward. The additional stroke(s) are added to the Course Handicap of the player playing from the higher-rated set of tees. (See Decision 3-5/1.)
Example 1: If men playing from the middle tees where the men's USGA Course Rating is 70.3 compete against men playing from the back tees where the men's USGA Course Rating is 72.6, the men playing from the back tees will add two strokes (72.6 – 70.3 = 2.3 rounded to 2 ) to their Course Handicap”.
Alternatively, it is permissible to subtract the extra handicap strokes from the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the lower USGA Course Rating.
Let’s look at some Palm Valley examples.
- 4 guys are playing together – 3 of them from the white tees and 1 from the silver. The course rating difference between the whites and silvers is 3 shots so either the guys playing from the white tees increase their handicaps by 3 or the guy playing from the silver tees reduces his handicap by 3. This would be the case whether they were playing stroke play or match play.
- In a stroke play event, there is a mix of guys playing from the white tees and silver tees. The same rule applies: either those playing from the white tees have their handicaps increased by 3 or the guys from the silver tees have their handicaps reduced by 3. (Our plan is to have silver tee flights whenever possible but sometimes the numbers may not warrant that, hence the need for handicap adjustment.) Generally it is better to add handicap strokes to the guys playing from the longer tees but it is a matter of judgement dependent on the number of guys playing from each tee (ie. If only two silver tee guys and twenty white tee guys, common sense says to adjust the handicaps of the two silver tee guys).
- It’s a Monday Choose Up. 30 guys are white tee players and 16 are silver tees players. Once again, the same rule applies. Either the white guys get their handicaps increased by 3 or the silver guys get their handicaps reduced by 3.
- It’s a Big Bash event. In these events teams are based on total handicaps and we try to get the total handicap of the teams as close as possible. So, before the teams are made up, adjusted handicaps are determined (ie. Whites go up or silvers go down) so the total team handicaps are as fair as possible.
Is the USGA system perfect? No, but it is as good as it gets at making things fair. We hope these examples clarify this issue for you.