Golf StoriesHandicap 101: Players Competing from Different Tees Fairly

May 22, 2019by Brian Hurlburt0

By Tim Quinn, SNGA Handicap Chairperson

How can players competing from different tee boxes be done fairly?

This question comes up frequently at clubs, given the disparity in age, length, and overall skill level within most groups.  Not everyone can, or wants to, play from the same tees.  Fortunately, the USGA Handicap System (Section 3-5) allows us to create a fair and equitable competition with players from different tees, or for men and women playing against each other.  The details of how this works are contained in this article, but if you use the SNGA/GHIN app, just add your players, select the course and tee for each player, and the app tells you how many strokes each player gets.  Keep in mind that the goal of handicapping a game is that if each player plays to his or her handicap, they will tie.  If the procedures in this article are not applied correctly, a player, or group of players, will be given an unfair advantage.

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.

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.

Example 2: If women playing from the forward tees from which the women’s USGA Course Rating is 73.4 compete against men playing from the middle tees from which the men’s USGA Course Rating is 70.9, the women will add three strokes (73.4 – 70.9 = 2.5 rounded to 3) to their Course Handicap.

To properly apply section 3-5, look up each player’s Course Handicap on the appropriate gender-based Course Handicap Table for the tees played or use the Course Handicap formula: Handicap Index times Slope Rating of tees played, and then divided by 113.

Example: A woman with a Handicap Index of 26.5 who is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 120 has a Course Handicap of 28.  She is playing against a man with a Handicap Index of 26.5 who is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 115, and has a Course Handicap of 27.  Suppose the man is playing from the middle tees from which the USGA Course Rating is 73.7 and the woman is playing from the front tees from which the USGA Course Rating is 69.8.  USGA Course Rating 73.7 – USGA Course Rating 69.8 = 3.9, with the difference of .5 or greater rounded upward to 4 strokes.  Add the extra handicap strokes to the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the higher USGA Course Rating. The man playing the tees with the higher USGA Course Rating (73.7), adds 4 strokes to his Course Handicap and competes off 31 strokes (27 + 4 = 31 strokes), while the woman competes off 28 strokes.

Note: Strokes given or received under these procedures are to be disregarded when applying ESC for handicap purposes. Example: After a Section 3-5adjustment, a player has added four strokes to a Course Handicap of 27. The Course Handicap when applying Equitable Stroke Control is 27. The correct handicap for competition is 31.

Another way to look at this is by calculating each player’s “Target Score” as shown below:

Note: Target Score, or “playing to one’s handicap,” is the player’s “potential ability” for a given round and is calculated by taking the full Course Handicap and adding the rounded USGA Course Rating of the tees played (e.g., 13 + 72.1 = 85). A player’s average score is generally two to four strokes higher than the Target Score.

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Brian Hurlburt

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