The USGA does not have an enviable record when it comes to
its view of women:

- The USGA has a “separate but equal” handicap system for women that codifies them as the weaker sex.
- While the United States Tennis Association provides equal prize money for men and women at its Opens, the USGA awards more than twice as much prize money to men than women at its Opens.
- No woman has ever served on the USGA’s Handicap Research Team.
- In recommended handicap allocations, the USGA seems to presume women and men are different psychologically (i.e., men are bigger risk takers and women are more conservative on the golf course).

The first two actions of the USGA can at least be defended
on physiological and economic grounds. The
third result could stem from no women wanting to work in area where the
possibility of publishable research is nil.
It is the fourth action—the USGA’s perceived difference is the
psychological make-up of men and women –that is the subject of this post.

The typical reason given for reducing handicaps in
multi-ball events is that the higher handicap player has a larger standard
deviation in his/her scores and hence an advantage. Given that women get a smaller reduction in
handicap, the USGA must believe women have as smaller standard deviation in
their scoring. Women must be steadier
and/or less prone to risk taking as noted above. In the appendix below, it is shown that the
difference in standard deviations between teams is the same regardless of gender. Therefore, it is difficult to defend the
different allocations based on differences in standard deviations of scoring.[2]

While the allocations should be reviewed and revised, it is
doubtful the USGA will take such action.
The allocations were never based on sound science, but rather on the
internal politics at the USGA. The
allowances are considered “settled law” by the myriad of attorneys that guide
the USGA. To make a small step toward
the equal treatment of women, however, the USGA could keep the hallowed men’s
allowances and simply eliminate any allowance specific to women.

**Appendix**

The Slope Handicap System assumes that the standard deviation
of a player’s scores increases linearly with handicap. The standard deviation for each gender would
be:

1) σ (m,h) =
σ(m,0)·(1 + a·h)

σ(m,h)
= standard deviation of a male player with handicap h

σ(m,0)
= standard deviation of a scratch male player

h = handicap of the player

2) σ (f,h) =
σ(m,0)·(1 + b·h)

σ(f,h)
= standard deviation of a female player with handicap h

σ(f,0)
= standard deviation of a scratch female player

h = handicap of the player

The USGA assumes that the line plotting average scores
versus handicap would have a slope of 1.13.
The equation for males reflecting this assumption is:

3) 1.13 = (Average
Score(h) –Average Score(0))/h

If a normal distribution of scores is assumed, then:

4) Average
Score(h) = ATBD(h) + .8 ·σ(m,h)

Where,

ATBD(h)
= Average of Ten Best Differentials of a player with a h-handicap

Substituting eq. 4 into eq. 3:

5) 1.13
=(ATBD(h) + .8·σ(m,0)·(1 +a·h) - (ATBD(0)
+ .8·σ(m,0))/h

Since,

6) h = ATBD(h)·.96

Eq. 5 can be
rewritten as:

7) 1.13 = (h/.96 +.8·σ(m,0)·(1 + a·h) –
.8·σ(m,0))/h

1.13 =
1.04 + .8·σ(m,0)·a

Since the same equality must hold for women, it follows
that:

8) σ(m,0)·a
= σ(f,0)·b

Using eq. 8, the equations for the standard deviations can
be rewritten as:

9) σ(m,h) = σ(m,0)
·(1 +a·h)

10 σ(f,h) = σ(m,0)·(a/b)
(1 +b·h) = σ(m,0)·(a/b +a·h)

For simplicity, assume we have a team where both players
have a handicap of h1, and another team where both players have a handicap of
h2. The difference in the average
standard deviation of the two teams is:

11) Average
Male Difference = σ(m,0)·(h1 - h2)

12) Average
Female Difference = σ(m,0)·(h1 - h2)

Therefore, the difference in average standard deviation
between teams is the same regardless of gender (i.e., any advantage a team has
is the same for both genders). This
finding makes it difficult to justify different handicap allocations for men
and women in four-ball stroke play.

[1]
Ewen, Gordan,

*What the Multi-ball Allowances Mean to You*, www.usga.org, Far Hills NJ, 1978. The USGA has not released the original research for peer review.
[2]
The USGA has the data to examine if there are differences in scoring patterns
between men and women. It has chosen not
to do so.

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