‘In the Grand Scheme of Things’ — Leave it to the USGA?
There are many more urgent issues to worry about in the world today, but the United States Golf Association has recently made a change that affects all golfers around the country, including the 600-plus in Lake Wildwood.
The recent (Jan. 1) USGA implementation of the new World Handicap System (WHS) has received a lot of attention in the golfing community.
The formula for calculating handicaps has changed; we now get a daily update to our handicap and our “max hole score” posting guideline is now different than it has been for the past 20 years.
For the most part these changes do not affect the average golfer to any noticeable degree. There is one change, however, that impacts the average golfer greatly. Courses are now required to re-calibrate par on each hole to USGA Scratch Golfer Standards! Scratch Golfer? How many of those do you know? This means that USGA’s recent program for golfers to “Play it Forward” is now out the window.
The reasoning USGA gave for players to use tees that are more attuned to their game was to enhance the playing experience and enjoyment of all golfers. After all, I think we can all agree that you feel better if you can get an occasional par on a hole, or even get lucky and get a birdie. Golfers enjoy the game much more when they think they have a chance to get par.
In fact, you can still find the following on the USGA website:
“Golf is a game for a lifetime. Imagine the enjoyment of a boy or girl learning the game on a much shorter course and being able to reach par-4 holes in two shots; or the thrill of an older player making pars and birdies after being on the brink of giving up the game because the course was too long.
Installing forward tees to create a proportional challenge is not difficult and may be a great way to not only retain golfers but also recruit new ones.”
Well, you can now stop imagining that enjoyment! New standards require that a hole that is less than 451 yards (for men, 401 for women) is now a par 4 unless there are physical characteristics of the hole that prohibit full shots from being made (think water hazard, trees in the fairway, dogleg, etc.). If the hole is less than 251 yards (for men, 211 for women), it has to be a par 3.
Has the USGA lost sight of the demographic of the entire golfing community? Do they not care anymore about the average golfer? Have they forgotten that golf numbers have been declining for years?
They certainly shouldn’t be making decisions that will decrease the enjoyment for the average golfer and push them away.
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