Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The USGA Responds

The USGA was sent a paper critical of its handicap research in general and Appendix E of the Handicap System in particular (see The Reliability and Accuracy of USGA Handicap Research, posted 8/22/2011).  Mr. Hovde, the USGA’s Manager of Course Rating and Handicap Education replied:

We received your letter pertaining to Appendix E of the USGA Handicap System.  We are actually in the process of final edits to the Handicap manual for 2012, and we did make some changes to Appendix E including some re-labeling and correct terminology regarding odds/probability.  The table is not used in any part of the calculation of a player’s Handicap Index and for informational purposes only.  It is not an exact table, as both the net differential row and Handicap Index columns are ranges and not down to the tenth, which is the value they would be calculated to.
I haven’t had the chance to fully study the other documents you submitted, but will do so and get back to you in the near future.  As many of the people involved in this research have moved on or passed away, some of the answers take a bit of digging to find.
Mr. Hovde maintains “the table is not used in any part of the calculation of a player's handicap."  I suspect this statement may be is wrong.  The table was probably used in formulating the reduction in index for exceptional tournament performance (Sec. 10-3) which is part of the handicap system. My suspicion is based on an example on the USGA website where the table is used to to calculate how many strokes a player's handicap should be reduced for exceptional performance. (This brings up another point.  Appendix E shows a player with a high index is much more likely to get a reduction in index for exceptional tournament performance than a player with a low index.  How is that equitable?)

I am not concerned whether the table is "exact."  My concern is whether the tables in question are accurate.  There should be an "Appendix E" file documenting the research behind the table.  If the USGA has to run down ex-employees to answer questions, the state of handicap research at the USGA may be worse than I presumed.