Golfnutter: Aussie Handicap Confusion, part 2

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From last week: Golf Australia, through its computerised handicapping service Golf Link, calculates the handicaps of all Australian club golfers – on a daily basis. Handicap records of club golfers can be viewed on the Golf Link public website – www.golflink.com.au – provided the member’s unique number is entered.

What is displayed is a copy of the last 20 rounds, with the date, location and event showing in the first column. Moving across the page are nine further columns with the following headings; Handicap Score, DSR, Scratch Rating, Slope Rating, Par, Daily Handicap, Adjusted Gross, Played To, and lastly New GA Handicap.

GOLF Link’s opening page - the key to GA’s handicap programme.GOLF Link’s opening page – the key to GA’s handicap programme.

The two to highlight are Daily Handicap and New GA Handicap. The Daily Handicap is the handicap the player uses on the course he is playing that particular day. It will be dependent upon the Slope Rating. The GA Handicap is the player’s base index handicap. It is the handicap he or she takes with them wherever they go. They submit it to reception at whatever course they are playing and the system will calculate what their daily handicap will be, after assessing the Slope Rating from the tees chosen.

Aussie golfers in Pattaya

That is fine for Australian golfers travelling around Australia, but what happens when they wish to play in Pattaya?

Earlier this year the Pattaya Golf Society was host to six Aussies from the same WA golf club. Their home course had a Slope Rating of around 130 (a course of average difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113). Initially they all gave their handicaps as their Daily Handicap. It wasn’t until later it was realised that they were receiving anything between two and four shots advantage against the field.

Most courses we play here in Pattaya have been subject to rating in approximate accordance with guidelines set by the USGA Handicap System. They are not, however, accurate, nor are they subject to annual review by impartial rating assessors – a USGA Handicapping System requirement. Nor do their daily ratings change to reflect different tee positions. Often times the positions of tees will be moved significantly forward, as green-keepers seek relief for commonly used teeing areas.

These factors and others all effect a course’s rating on a given day. Rarely will a Pattaya course be tougher than its rating. Oftentimes, perhaps most times, courses will play easier than their rating. Imagine then the effect of Aussie visitors using their Daily Handicap on Pattaya courses rated nowhere near their home course in terms of difficulty?

It is the GA Handicap that must be submitted. The other handicap has no place in Pattaya.

It is vital that Pattaya golf organisers realise this. When accepting entries from Aussies, insist they give a printout of their handicap history as provided by Golf Link, which will show the GA Handicap. If not, simply have them open up their personal page on the Golf Link website, and see the GA Handicap for yourself.

Be aware some Aussie golfers wouldn’t have a clue what the difference is. Many play all their golf at the one course, and their handicap rarely moves.

“GA Handicap? Never heard of it, mate. I always play on 20 at my club, why should I play on anything different?”

Because, dear Aussie visitor, since January 2014 Golf Australia recognises your handicap as the GA Handicap, and not the Daily Handicap you are used to.

When this was put to the six Aussies in question, five of them had no problem whatsoever, and accepted their loss of strokes. The sixth, however, insisted he be allowed to play off the increased handicap (20 as opposed to 16), as that is the handicap he has always played to, here or at home. He certainly made his displeasure known.

That he showed so little understanding of the GA Handicapping System, which is explained fully on their website, is a shame. What made his ignorance inexcusable was the fact that he was/is his home course’s club captain. If the club captain of a reasonably sized golf club in WA didn’t understand what his true handicap was then how many other Australian golfers suffer under the same delusion?

Finally, when a regular golf visitor from Australia arrives here with a GA Handicap, and proceeds to play sufficiently well that it is reduced during his stay, there should not be a problem. And when that same golfer returns to Pattaya some six months later, with a GA Handicap greater than the IPGC/PSC handicap he had previously, there should be no hesitation in accepting that new GA Handicap, providing he has been playing regularly.

By the end of 2015, Golf Australia believes Australian handicaps will more accurately reflect the standard of equity they enjoyed back in 2009 – prior to their experiment with the USGA Handicapping System.

Pattaya benefits hugely from its Aussie visitors, and hopefully will continue to do so. But those same visitors may find podium places a little harder to achieve than has been the case in recent times, for which they can thank Golf Australia – as we all should!

Golfnutter