Playing Alone and Necessary Peer Review

Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) provided the first tweet (which I happened to notice) about USGA changes to their handicap system.

USGA Handicap system 2016

So, the USGA will no longer allow it’s members to count score played as a single toward their handicap index.  The response on my twitter feed was a consistent mix of shock, disappointment and curiousity.  For a game which markets itself on terms like ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’ and ‘truth’, this move does make much sense to me.

I played 31 games this year and almost 30% of those were as a single.  Lowering my handicap is very important to me.  I strive to play my best and to improve.  I play in bad weather and at odd times of the day when there may be not be others on the tee sheet.  Being penalized for this does not seem right.

I was engaged in a conversation with a twitter follower yesterday who shared the following:

Public Players – speaking personally – join an organization like Golf Canada or USGA to be able to obtain a handicap index, to realize the benefits of membership and to engage in our national (and regional) golf organization(s).  Within Ontario, annually, the Golf Association of Ontario hosts a Public Players Championship.  It provides people like me the chance to compete similar to private club members experiences.  I value that while I do not belong to a club, my national golf association feels my participation in the game is acknowledge and celebrated.  I appreciate (as exists in Canada now) that circumstances which mean on occasion I play as a single are valued toward my engagement in the game. I will place a fine point to my critique:  to me, the USGA does not trust it’s public players and it does care to engage them.  @UWedge made an excellent point above around engagement; we’re not all members of private clubs who have regular tee times with other members. Jason Sobel shares my sentiments in his tweet yesterday about trust:

The marginalization of the public player continues.  Rules like banning anchored putting, and now this need for peer reviewed scoring do nothing to grow the game and engage players outside of the country club.  For the leaders in the game who are seemingly dead set against bifurcation, their actions seem to be pushing public players and marginalizing us to a place where we don’t belong and are not welcome in the ‘USGA’ game.  I saw many people posting on twitter than 10, 25, upwards of 90% of their rounds are played as a single.  Factors like work scheduling, budget and proximity mean the local muni may be the only place an avid golfer can get to and play a sunrise round, on their own, before getting off on their day.

Critics may say this is an issue of integrity.  Soon they can look within the walls of their country clubs to enforce issues like this.  Decisions like this only disengage the public player more and more from a game and a national structure and organization that many of us are passionate about and care about.  A decision like this in Canada would give me real cause to consider the value of membership.