4 steps to handicap a fair golf match against anyone

When Mary wants to play the greens, Jane the whites, Dick the blues and Tom the white-blues, you can have a fair match simply by using your GHIN app to calculate handicaps. Under the 2019 Rules of Golf adjustments, even Tiger Woods is fair game!

Image of a scorecard with different sets of teesSUPPOSE YOU meet your regular foursome at the tee this afternoon, only no two players are at the same tee? Tom usually plays the blues with Dick, but he’s tired today and wants to “Tee it Forward.” Mary and Jane usually play the reds, but Mary wants to move up and work on her short game and Jane wants to move back for an extra challenge. But, you protest, how are we going to determine who wins the front nine/back nine/overall wagers if we’re all playing different tees?

This used to require a complex series of calculations using charts and a calculator. Now, it is so simple. Much simpler than before the 2019 Rules of Golf revision included an overhaul of the handicapping system that takes into its calculations the variances at different tees and builds it into course handicaps.

Here are four simple steps to handicap a golf match, using the example shown above of a scorecard from Greenhorn Creek, the rare course with five sets of tees rated for women:

  1. Each player should use his or her GHIN app to look up their golf course handicap. Be sure to click on the tees you’ll play from, and the app will give you your golf course handicap for the day. In our example, Mary is a 10, Jane a 20, Tom a 4 and Dick a 16.
  2. For stroke play, simply note each player’s handicap in the designated scorecard box. At the end of the day, you’ll subtract this from the player’s total for his or her final score.
  3. For match play, “wheel” off the handicap of the lowest player to pop the scorecard with the strokes each player gets on the day. Tom is the lowest in our example, so he gets no pops/strokes. Mary gets six pops, Dick 12 and Jane 16.
  4. For match play, use the scorecard hole handicaps to pop the scorecard.  These are the numbers from 1 to 18 that usually appear under hole yardages. Most courses have one line near the top of the scorecard for men, one near the bottom for women. So Mary will get pops on holes 1-6 for women, Jane on holes 1-16 for women, and Dick on holes 1-12 for men.

If Mary and Tom were to play a match of their own, Tom would have to give Mary six strokes. If Jane were to play Dick, Dick would have to give Jane four strokes.

Mary could even play the green tees against Tiger Woods this weekend, since he’s not playing the PGA Tour right now. One golf fan calculated Tiger’s index one year at a plus-6.8. He, of course, would have to go back to those gold tees at Greenhorn Creek, where he would be a plus-7. This means that he would have to give Mary a total of 17 strokes.

Follow this formula regularly to handicap a golf match — you’ll be amazed at how often players tie when they play to their potential. So make sure you have a tiebreaker format established before heading to the all-important 19th hole.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I use my GHIN app to shorten this process by following friends I play with regularly. It takes a few minutes to look them up, but once you’re following them, you can easily enter them into your game for the day, and the app will even give you handicaps wheeling off the best player!

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