Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

35

The search for the perfect handicap

F.J. Scheid

USGA Handicap Research Team, Far Hills, NJ, USA

Abstract

Golfers come in many shapes and sizes, the sizes of their scores and shapes of their score profiles, which suggests that to be accurate handicaps ought to reflect both these features. Fictitious players can easily be imagined for whom any current handicapping system is inefficient. (One who shoots only birdies and double bogeys might fit this description.) But using shape as well as size means a “two-dimensional” system, a normal model being the principal contender. The idea is stimulating but would involve a quantum leap in system complexity. Would the gain be worth it? The following sections describe a first effort to answer the question and, more generally, to search (futilely) for the perfect handicap.

Keywords: Handicap Accuracy, Normal Model.


1 The method used

There are several popular types of competition and experience shows that what is needed for equity in one may not be fair in others. For a few of these types a serious (heroic) effort was first made to estimate the strokes truly needed for equity. Then a broad variety of handicap systems were tested to see how well they could predict this need.

As a preview, if score distributions were symmetric the mean would be a perfect predictor for individual match play. Give enough strokes to equalize means and, as Fig. 1 shows, fair play has been realized. If net scores a and b are shot one day then the symmetric pair a' and b' will be shot on another, and with equal probability. It is too bad that As very best round can still lose, but his (her) very worst round can still win. Things are about as fair as a cruel world allows. But symmetry cannot be counted on, so there is work to be done.

In all about 50 handicap types were tested for accuracy. Included were the present USGA handicap, some approximations to the UK handicap such as the second (2), third (3) and fourth (4) best differentials

Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Edited by A.J. Cochran and M.R. Farrally. Published in 1994 by E & FN Spon, London. ISBN 0 419 18790 1

-222-

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