The USGA is ruining golf (according to Scotland's old school)
ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – It’s come to my attention on my second trip, more than once, that the old school Scots aren’t very keen on the USGA’s handicap system.
A local Gullane legend, Archie Baird (who is in his 80s and still plays quite often on Gullane’s courses), went as far as telling me it’s hurting the game in America. Those sentiments have been echoed by other Scots in the last eight days here.
From what I can gather, the main difference between the R & A handicap system and the USGA system is that over in the U.K., only medal rounds count. Medal rounds are staged, sanctioned club tournaments played off the medal tees, where everyone plays their own ball and every putt is holed out. This means your daily or weekend play with buddies is null and void. On the same token, there are no “dropped” scores like in the USGA.
I held a USGA handicap for about a year or so in Myrtle Beach before it became too much of a hassle, because the closest course I could find to join their USGA system was 20 minutes away. Frankly, I could never understand how it’s computed anyways. With the USGA system, you are supposed to enter in every score at your home club. But not everyone has a “home club". In fact, I would say most casual golfers in America don’t have a home club and will probably never want to keep a handicap. I don’t know a Scottish player who doesn’t keep a record of their handicap.
For Americans who don’t have a handicap, it’s a problem if they want to play courses abroad, as many clubs will ask for a handicap certificate (especially in continental Europe or some of the U.K.’s members clubs). Also, you can’t participate in any handicap tournaments like the World Amateur Handicap Championship.
I suppose my only rebuttal to the Scottish players, is that over in Scotland, almost every golfer has a home club, since most of the dues are usually only £400-800 a year. In America, memberships usually cost far more. Or, some offer yearly subscriptions for $500-1000, but they don’t stage medal tournaments like in Scotland. In Scotland, there are medal tournaments anywhere from twice a week to once a month. But they’re frequent.
So why should the Scots even care about the USGA system? It’s as simple as that they believe the fun is taken out of golf. American players play their own ball and keep score every round. It makes rounds longer, more stressful (because the 8 on No. 1 haunts you the rest of your round) and less enjoyable. Match plays and foursomes are seldom in America, while they’re daily fixtures here.
I think the Scots have a very, very legitimate argument about how the USGA handicap system can take a little fun out of the game, but I’m guessing the USGA handicap system is here to stay. Personally, I’m not planning on keeping a handicap again anytime soon.
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1) you don't have to post your scores at your home club anymore... you can post them at whatever course you play and/or post online at ghin.com.
also, you can join a mens club at just about any and every public course... many offer just the handicap or you can join the men's club fully which allows you to play in their weekly men's club events - very similar to the 'medal events' in scotland... putt everything out, etc. it usually costs less than a hundred dollars to join for the year and you just pay your greens fees for the events each weekend... it's basically joining a public course...
lastly, in defense of the handicap system - it allows my buddies and i to put a couple dollars on the round when we feel so inclined... it's a reasonably reliable way to figure out how many strokes i need to spot my buddies.
just my opinion...
Anyway, one point that is very clear: Golfers in the US are far too fixated on stroke-play. And it does take too long, and it does suck the fun out of the game. Think how fast foursomes could move around playing better-ball in teams.
BTuck, there's a bakery in St. Andrews just about a block and a half from the Old course. Check out their warm meat pies. Excellent.
My initial reaction was horror at the idea of putting in a card for every round played, (I'm not having them chortling in the clubhouse on one of my off days) but OK - horses for courses.
Is Stableford popular in US? It speeds up play because if you are +2 on any hole, just pick up as you're not going to score any points, nor are you going to get depressed by having to record that 8.
I'm not sure I understand about stroke play making rounds so slow. (I just think there are slow/fast players). We get round in 3 1/4
3 1/2 hours (walking) per round as a threesome in stroke play, vicious gimme criteria. We keep a running total of last 3 scores to give (unofficial) average handicap; winner gets cheap club pin, loser buys drinks. Occasional side bet on certain holes, e.g. closest to the pin. Individual being thrashed tends to say "All or nothing" on last hole. Sometimes we agree - sometimes we just like to kick 'em while they're down (although that does do wonders for their 3 round handicap).
I was just thinking that Stableford would address a couple of the issues Brandon raised, i.e. speed of play and "the 8 that haunts you the rest of your round" as you pick up as soon as you're not going to get any points, but it keeps the US preference for strokeplay and you can still turn in every card for handicap purposes (even when no score recorded on a hole). Some golf bore did try to explain to me how handicaps are adjusted using Stableford, but I nodded off before he had finished.
The article greatly added to my understanding of why even avid and low-scoring golfers in the US don't have club membership/handicaps.
Are you never tempted to declare that a round has suddenly become matchplay when the scores are too dire to record?
I HAD almost gotten over Ryder Cup, thanks very much.