The problem with Rule 6-2/1 of the Rules of Golf has been discussed previously (see The Case for Eliminating Decision 3-5/2 for the USGA Handicap System, 4/16/2015). It is brought up again to illustrate the difficulty when two organizations (USGA and the R&A) try to write rules governing different handicap systems. To refresh, here is the decision:
Meaning of "Handicap"
Q. Under a handicapping system where the player has to adjust his handicap in accordance with the rating for the course he is playing, a player's handicap before adjustment is 4.8. After applying the appropriate adjustment for the course and the tees to be used for that competition, the player's handicap is 6. Which is his "handicap" for the purposes of Rule 6-2?
A. 6. In a stroke-play competition the player must ensure that the handicap for the course that he is to play and the tees to be used is recorded on his score card when it is returned to the Committee.
The Decision refers to a player with a handicap of 4.8. A handicap expressed to the first decimal does not exist in the USGA Handicap System. I suspect the Rules Brahmans were trying to say a player was responsible for recording his Course Handicap and not his Handicap Index. “Index,” however, is specific to the USGA Handicap System. They needed a more generic term, but made of mess of things by citing a handicap that does not exist in any of the major handicap systems. Australia has a GA Handicap that is expressed in decimals which is the equivalent of a USGA Index. This Decision, however, predates the GA Handicap. The Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) has an Exact Handicap also expressed in decimals. The CONGU Handicap System is excluded from this Decision since CONGU Playing Handicaps are not adjusted for the rating of the course being played. Decisions are supposed to clarify the Rules of Golf. This Decision fails that test.
It should have been sufficient to state in rule 6-2 a player is responsible for recording his Course Handicap. The anomaly of a 4.8 handicap should have been detected and corrected long ago. A failure of regulatory bodies is to dwell on new regulations (e.g., anchor putting) rather than reviewing existing regulations for their efficacy. Though the USGA has been made aware of this problem, look for Decision 6-2/1 to live on.