Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Players Competing From Different Tees: A Footnote

Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap System explains how handicaps should be adjusted when competitors play from different tees.  The explanation provided by the USGA always deals with competitions where only two sets of tees are used.  For example, assume the two Course Ratings for the tees being used are 70.0 and 71.5.  Players would compute their Course Handicap from the tees they are going to play.  The players playing from the tees with the higher Course Rating would add two-strokes to their Course Handicap.  Alternatively, the players from the tees with the lower Course Rating would deduct two-strokes from their Course Handicap. The order of finish in a net tournament will not be affected by which tees are chosen as the base tee (i.e., the set of tees that do not receive a handicap adjustment under Sec. 3-5).

When three or more tees are used in a competition, the order of finish can vary by which tees are selected as the base tee. Table 1 presents the adjusted handicaps for four base tees.

Table 1
Adjusted Handicaps for Various Base Tees

 Player Red Tees CR = 71.3 Green Tees CR = 67.0 White Tees CR = 68.6 Tournament Tees CR = 69.6 Player A (R) R - 0 R + 4 R + 3 R + 2 Player B (G) G - 4 G - 0 G - 2 G - 3 Player C (W) W - 3 W + 2 W - 0 W - 1 Player D (T) T - 2 T + 3 T + 1 T - 0

Assume the Red Tees are chosen as the base, and all players have a Sec-3.5 adjusted net score of 70.  Table 2 presents what their scores would have been if other tees had been selected.

Table 2
Net Scores for Various Base Tees

 Player Red Tees CR = 71.3 Green Tees CR = 67.0 White Tees CR = 68.6 Tournament Tees CR = 69.6 Player A (R) 70 66 67 68 Player B (G) 70 66 68 69 Player C (W) 70 65 67 68 Player D (T) 70 65 67 68

Now the order of finish depends on which tee is selected as the base tee.  This anomaly is due to rounding required under Sec. 3-5.  If the Red Tee is the base, the Green Tee player adjustment is rounded down to 4-strokes.  The White Tee player has his adjustment rounded down to 3-strokes. There is a 1-stroke difference in their adjustment.  If the Tournament Tees are used as the base tee, the Green Tee Player has his Course Handicap reduced by 3-strokes, while the White Tee Player is adjusted down by only 1-stroke.   Now the difference in adjustment is 2-strokes.  This puts the Green Tee Player at a disadvantage when the Tournament Tees are used as a base.

While all of this is interesting (to a select few), the use of more than two sets of tees only introduces a small error.  It is another reason, however, for avoiding Sec. 3-5 whenever possible.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Can You Trust Golf Digest?

It is hard to put Golf Digest in the category of serious journalism.  From time to time, it does publish interesting articles, but typically it concentrates on rehashing instructional advice.  Therefore, Golf Digest should not be held to the same standards of accuracy as say the N.Y. Times.  The problem is Golf Digest often doesn't even compare favorably with a weekly shopper when comes to getting the facts straight.

Here are a few examples:

In a May 30, 2016 article Mathew Rudy wrote:

"A handicap it’s (sic) a calculation of the score you would be expected to shoot based on the difficulty of the course.  It's based on a weighted average of your ten best scores,  A player who has a handicap eight shots higher than another would get a stroke subtracted from his or her score on each of the eight hardest holes on the course.”

There are three problems with these statements.  First, a handicap is not a calculation of the score you would be expected to shoot.  I assume Mr. Rudy is arguing a player’s expected score is the Course Rating plus his handicap.  It is not.  A player’s expected score will be higher because of the way the handicap is computed.  Second, handicaps are not based on a weighted average of a player’s ten best scores.  A player’s Handicap Index is the average of his ten best differentials multiplied by .96.   A Course Handicap cannot be calculated from the ten best scores since it will vary depending upon the Slope and Course Ratings of the course to be played.  Third, the USGA recommends stroke allocations not be  based on which holes are hardest.  Therefore to state a player gets a stroke on the 8 hardest holes may or may not be correct.  All of this is covered in Handicap 101, which apparently Mr. Rudy cut.

Mike Statchura of Golf Digest writes  ( "A Closer Look at Handicap Data...", February 11, 2017)  Dick Rugge, former Senior Technical Director of the USGA, told him there was a downward trend in handicaps.  Statchura said he called the USGA and confirmed that in the last 25 years the average handicap for a man has improved nearly two strokes.  Mr. Statchura should have written the average "Index" has decreased and not average "handicap."  Also there was no need to call the USGA since the data was available from Golf Digest.com. ("How Do You Stack Up?", March 17, 2014).  Apparently, even Golf Digest writers do not read the magazine.  And of course, the downward trend in average Index does not necessarily mean golfers are getting better.  It is possible the characteristics of the population are changing over time.  For example, if high Index players are are giving up golf at a faster rated than low Index players, the average Index would decline.  Mr. Statchura gave credit for the decline in the average Index to better equipment.   It could be just a coincidence that golf equipment manufactures are the big advertisers in Golf Digest.

Golf Digest
("What People in Golf Make," January 20, 2017) reported Mike Davis of the USGA made \$854,803.  In Federal Form 990, the USGA reports Mr. Davis’ compensation in 2016 was \$2,013,355.  This is a large error in reporting even for Golf Digest.

So to answer the title question, "Yes, you can trust Golf Digest when it comes to instructional articles."    Everything else, however, should come under the heading  "Reader beware."