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 ("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."

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