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ADJUSTING HANDICAPS WHEN TWO PLAYERS COMPETE FROM DIFFERENT TEES

It is highly likely – almost certain, in fact – that one of the most frequently asked questions golf professionals get about handicaps pertains to Section 3-5, which deals with allocation of strokes when players are competing from different sets of tees.  Section 3-5 can be difficult for clubs to understand and even more challenging to explain to members.

It’s worth noting that a Handicap Index is NOT established from a particular set of tees, it is simply a standardized benchmark of a golfer’s potential that helps establish a player’s Course Handicap for the particular course he or she plays.  If two golfers are playing a match against each other and are playing from a different set of tees, they are not playing the same golf course.

Let’s break this down into a real-world example to make it easier to understand how Section 3-5 works. For illustration purposes, we will use two friends, Jerry and George.  Jerry has a GHIN Handicap Index of 2.2 while George has a GHIN Handicap Index of 25.0.  As they look over the scorecard, Jerry decides to play from the back tees measuring 6,800 yards with a Slope Rating of 130. George decides to play from the forward tees (5,800 yards, Slope Rating of 115). With a much shorter course and a higher handicap, it appears that George has an unfair advantage.

This is where Section 3-5 comes in. To apply this rule to the match, you only need to collect a few pieces of information.  You will need:

The rest of the process is simple math.

Far too often, however, clubs choose not to follow Section 3-5 for fear of the backlash from whatever percentage of the field that sees its advantage cut down in a club event. Is that allowed? Well, according to Decision 3-5/2 of the USGA Handicap Manual, it is not. As stated in the manual:
 
“No. Not applying Section 3-5 of The USGA Handicap System when players are competing from different tees would be waiving a Rule of Golf, and the committee in charge of a competition does not have the authority to waive a Rule of Golf.”
 
So there you have it – use Section 3-5 properly, and the competitions will be equitable. Choose not to use Section 3-5, and you technically don’t have a competition at all.
 
A few other helpful tips:

> The TGA staff is available and always happy to assist with any questions or guidance about adjusting Course Handicaps or any other Handicapping questions. Contact Mary Harrison (214) 468-8942 or mharrison@txga.org and let us help!
 
> Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap System Manual

> USGA Handicapping Minutes: Competing From Different Tees (Video)

> USGA Course Handicap Calculator