Men’s 18-Hole Club — Handicaps and the dreaded “R” | TheUnion.com

Men’s 18-Hole Club — Handicaps and the dreaded “R”

By Vince McNamara & Steve Ennis, Handicap Chairperson

What does the "R" on your handicap mean? How is it calculated? Why is it kicking in now? How long will it be in place?
These are all questions that one has when they receive an "R" on their handicap. From October to May, the number of NCGA members with reduced ("R") handicaps will more than double, due to exceptional tournament scores (T-scores). I'll do my best to explain this result with the basics.
The goal of the USGA handicap system is to issue an index which best represents a golfer's potential. This is arrived at via a review of the best 10 of 20 most recent rounds and a golfer's two best T-scores of the last 12 months.
An "R" is designated when the system examines the size of the gap between the current best 10 of 20 number and the average of the two best T-scores. If the system feels the gap is too wide, an automatic reduction kicks in.
Now, an "R" designation is not an accusation of wrongdoing or dishonesty. It's just a function of the math used to calculate a golfer's handicap and potential ability.
Here's an example. If your best 10 of 20 number is around a 15 and the average of your 2 best T-scores is a 9, you might expect a reduced Handicap Index somewhere between 10.9R and 14.0R. The deciding factor will be the total number of T-scores credited to you over the past 12 months. If you play in a lot of tournaments, the system will not come down on the golfer as hard.
The system will always give you one low T-score a year (unless no tournaments were played by you). And the system will apply greater scrutiny when you have 2 or more in a revolving 12-month period.
With so many moving parts (best 10 of 20 number changing each revision, T-scores being added or expiring from a record, etc.), it's no wonder that it is impossible to predict the lifespan of a reduction. As long as the "gap" referred to remains wide enough, a reduction will remain in place. The worst case scenario is the "R" goes away when one or both of the T-scores expires (i.e., becomes more than 12 months old).
If you feel that the reduction is unfair, you must petition your club. If the club feels there are extenuating circumstances that warrant an override of the reduction, they will contact the NCGA accordingly. Some sort of illness, injury, surgery or disability situation that has afflicted the golfer since the time of the T-scores might be a good example of when a club should intervene.
See you all on the golf course.