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Seeking Input on a Handicap Issue


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I would appreciate any thoughts on how I can best handle the following situation.  My apology for the length so I will offer a summary but read the details if you want to understand the full situation.

SUMMARY

I am a VERY directionally challenged golfer.  I play a very narrow hard course all summer and easy wide courses in the winter.  The soft and hard caps in the WHS prevent my course handicap from rising enough in the summer to allow me to be competitive on the hard course and I end up being a huge anchor to my teams and partners in the summer.  I have stopped playing in the summer as a result of this.

DETAILS

I live in two locations – A southern USA climate for ~6 months in the winter and a northern USA climate for ~6 months of the summer.  For the time that I am south, I play on a large number of courses that are in my community.  All of these courses are fairly easy.  They have ratings from the white tees of 63.9 to 66.4 and slopes of 102 to 116.  The averages are 65.5 and 109.  In addition, most of the holes are very wide.  You can hit the ball very far right or left and have no trouble.

In the summer, I play at only one course where I am a member.  It is in my community.  It is a much harder course with a rating of 68.1 and a slope of 126 from the white tees and a par 71.  It is also a VERY tight course.  Almost every hole has dense woods or out of bounds on both sides, the fairways are not very wide, and there is not a lot of rough.

In the winters I have a handicap index of 16.5 which, for the courses I play gives me a course handicap of 7-12 with an average of 9.  I hit the ball pretty far for my age (60 years old) but am extremely directionally challenged.  Sometimes I hit the fairway or rough but more often I am in the wide open areas beyond the fairway or rough of the hole I am playing.  This doesn’t hurt me very much since the courses are so wide open.  I play reasonably to my handicap and am competitive with other players in the matches we play – both individual and team.  I shoot from 78 to 95 with an average of ~88.  I win once in a while, I lose a lot, but I am not an embarrassment to my team or partner.

In the summers on this one course that I play, all my far right and left shots cost me dearly.  I probably hit 7-9 balls a round out of bounds, lost in the woods, or (best result) into the woods marked as hazards.  This costs me around 10-15 strokes a round. 

Before the world handicap system came into effect, I would go north, play a LOT of golf quickly in the first month and my handicap index would increase greatly to around 24 due to the course being so difficult for me.  This allowed me to be competitive in my summer golf.  I would win once in a while, lose a lot, but not be an embarrassment to my team or partner.

After the implementation of the WHS, due to the hard and soft caps, my handicap can only go up 5 and it goes up only very slowly after it raises just 3.  Note that my typical course handicaps for the winter (open and easy courses) is 7-12 with an average of ~9 while my course handicap before the WHS for the summer (hard and narrow course) was ~24.  This is a difference of 15 strokes. Unfortunately, my handicap is only allowed to increase by 5 and is slow to increase after raising 3.

With the WHS soft and hard caps, I am not competitive in the summer.  I never win and, more importantly, I drag down my team and partners.  Last year, I was so detrimental to my teams and partners that I stopped playing half way through the summer and did not start again until I returned south for the winter.

Do you have any advice on how I can best handle this situation?  Thanks.

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My first suggestion is to take some lessons to get those wayward shots back in line then the handicap issue resolves itself. The course rating and slope should compensate for the differences between courses and adjust your handicap accordingly for the course. 

There really isn't a "legitimate" way around this that I know of. 

 

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Thanks for the response.  Lessons are an option, of course.  I've tried them in the past many times without success, unfortunately.  You say, "The course rating and slope should compensate for the differences between courses and adjust your handicap accordingly for the course."  Unfortunately, that is not the case for this combination of course types and my game.  Look at the numbers I provide above.  The course rating and slope put me at at least a 10 stroke disadvantage on the narrow course.  

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5 minutes ago, Duffer911 said:

Thanks for the response.  Lessons are an option, of course.  I've tried them in the past many times without success, unfortunately.  You say, "The course rating and slope should compensate for the differences between courses and adjust your handicap accordingly for the course."  Unfortunately, that is not the case for this combination of course types and my game.  Look at the numbers I provide above.  The course rating and slope put me at at least a 10 stroke disadvantage on the narrow course.  

Can you talk more about the lessons you took and what the lack of success was?

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9 minutes ago, Duffer911 said:

Thanks for the response.  Lessons are an option, of course.  I've tried them in the past many times without success, unfortunately.  You say, "The course rating and slope should compensate for the differences between courses and adjust your handicap accordingly for the course."  Unfortunately, that is not the case for this combination of course types and my game.  Look at the numbers I provide above.  The course rating and slope put me at at least a 10 stroke disadvantage on the narrow course.  

What @Tom the Golf Nut says is the way handicaps work.  Playing within 3 strokes of your handicap is playing really good golf;  you are not supposed to shoot your handicap every round as it measures potential.  Sometimes handicaps don’t travel because peoples misses are less penal on a course they normally play; which sounds like your scenario. The caps are in place to prevent people from tanking a few rounds to increase their handicaps significantly before a match.   
 

you post indicates you are a very competitive person; my advice would be to try and enjoy the course, time with your playing partners, and spend some time working on improving  your game 

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It is not about me being competitive.  As I state in my original post, I am content to "win once in a while, lose a lot, but not be an embarrassment to my team or partner."  This is what happens to me on the southern courses I play.  The crux of the problem is my concern for the others that have to play with me..  About 90% of the games the members play on my northern course are partnership games.  I will have from 1 to 3 other partners.  Then there are large group events such as a Ryder Cup format with half the participants on each team, member-member, member-guest, scrambles, etc.  We even have other clubs come visit our course where our club plays the other club with all the participants from our club on one team.  The specific formats for these, of course, vary.  On this northern course, as you note, my misses are VERY penal but my handicap (which is based on EXTREMELY non-penal southern courses I play) is capped.  I am an anchor that drags down my partners and teams.  If it was just me losing, I would be fine with that but I drag all the others on my team down and cause them to also lose.  Admittedly, my impact on a Ryder Cup team format event is small but my team starts basically 3-points in the hole since I can not win any of my three matches because I shoot a minimum of 10 strokes worse than my course handicap suggests I should.  I have played in a dozen of these and have never brought home a single point.  Heck, I have not even tied to get half a point.  It is interesting that the one time I did participate in an away match against another club, their course was not uber-narrow and I won my match.  My only contribution ever.

This is so unfair to my teammates and so frustrating and embarrassing for me that I have stopped golfing at the northern course and am about to surrender my membership.

Thanks for any additional thoughts or ideas.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

Can you talk more about the lessons you took and what the lack of success was?

Thanks for asking.  The crux of the problem is that (for my age) I am strong and flexible.  Unfortunately, this is coupled with poor athleticism - perhaps it is poor hand-eye-muscle coordination.  I don't know.  I hit the ball a long way and seldom straight.  I find it impossible to consistently get the club face to any given degree of squareness.  Heck, I would be happy to have it always open or always closed but this is not the case.  In a dozen attempts to hit the same shot, I can slice it horribly or hook it horribly.  

This has been my golf game for 35 years.  Despite lots of practice, lots of play and lessons, my poor athleticism always surges to the forefront.  As noted above, I am happy to live with this if only my handicap reflected my ability.  Alas, it only does so on the wide-open southern courses.  When I shoot at least 15 strokes worse per round on the northern course, my handicap only goes up 3 and then creeps up to where it goes up by 5 leaving me a minimum of 10-12 strokes in the hole before I launch my tee shot on the first hole deep into the woods.

Edited by Duffer911
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9 hours ago, Duffer911 said:

Thanks for asking.  The crux of the problem is that (for my age) I am strong and flexible.  Unfortunately, this is coupled with poor athleticism - perhaps it is poor hand-eye-muscle coordination.  I don't know.  I hit the ball a long way and seldom straight.  I find it impossible to consistently get the club face to any given degree of squareness.  Heck, I would be happy to have it always open or always closed but this is not the case.  In a dozen attempts to hit the same shot, I can slice it horribly or hook it horribly.  

This has been my golf game for 35 years.  Despite lots of practice, lots of play and lessons, my poor athleticism always surges to the forefront.  As noted above, I am happy to live with this if only my handicap reflected my ability.  Alas, it only does so on the wide-open southern courses.  When I shoot at least 15 strokes worse per round on the northern course, my handicap only goes up 3 and then creeps up to where it goes up by 5 leaving me a minimum of 10-12 strokes in the hole before I launch my tee shot on the first hole deep into the woods.

I would say if you had eye/hand coordination issues you would would struggle with making contact. Without seeing your swing it sounds more like a club and body out of sync and disconnected and as a result the club/clubface is all over the place and your body has to find a way to compensate so that you can get the club back on the ball. You end up fighting a two way miss where some people as an example may only have a one way miss with a slice, push fade or blocks.

Theres different ways to approach playing better on your tight course. One would be as suggested by others take some lessons and work on the game.  But would like to understand more about the lessons you took in the past and the lack of success you referenced. What kind of lessons did you take? How often were you taking them? How much did you practice between them? Do you practice at all now even without the lessons? If so how often, for how long and what’s your routine?

Another approach is changing strategy and course management. What is the distance of the white tees at your winter courses and what’s the distance from the white tees at your summer course?

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North (tight) course is 5850 from the whites, is par 71, and has five par 5, seven par 4, and six par 3.

South (wide open) courses are around 5500 to 5600 from the whites, are par 72, and usually have the traditional four par 5 and four par 3 layouts.

As previously mentioned, the north course has significantly higher rating and slope and the distance and par are surely part of the reason for this.

I could go into all the various lessons I have taken over 35 years (individual, group, golf "school", etc.) and the practice I do, etc. as you request but those are all beside the point.

By focusing on changing my playing ability, we are saying that the world handicap system is unfair to golfers of a certain skill/ability and I do not believe this is a good deal.  If the answer to handicap unfairness was "take lessons and play better", then why have handicaps at all.  Everyone should play gross score and if someone complains of unfairness, the answer would be "take lessons and play better". 

Handicaps are supposed to allow golfers of all ability levels to reasonably compete against one another with a benefit to the better golfer.  I am okay with this concept.  Unfortunately, the caps in the WHS do not allow it to work fairly in my situation and I become the anchor that drags my partner or team down.

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43 minutes ago, Duffer911 said:

North (tight) course is 5850 from the whites, is par 71, and has five par 5, seven par 4, and six par 3.

South (wide open) courses are around 5500 to 5600 from the whites, are par 72, and usually have the traditional four par 5 and four par 3 layouts.

As previously mentioned, the north course has significantly higher rating and slope and the distance and par are surely part of the reason for this.

I could go into all the various lessons I have taken over 35 years (individual, group, golf "school", etc.) and the practice I do, etc. as you request but those are all beside the point.

By focusing on changing my playing ability, we are saying that the world handicap system is unfair to golfers of a certain skill/ability and I do not believe this is a good deal.  If the answer to handicap unfairness was "take lessons and play better", then why have handicaps at all.  Everyone should play gross score and if someone complains of unfairness, the answer would be "take lessons and play better". 

Handicaps are supposed to allow golfers of all ability levels to reasonably compete against one another with a benefit to the better golfer.  I am okay with this concept.  Unfortunately, the caps in the WHS do not allow it to work fairly in my situation and I become the anchor that drags my partner or team down.

Yes hdcps are supposed to allow golfers of all level to compete but if ones handicap doesnt travel well then the golfer has to adjust to allow their hdcp to travel between courses.

To allow ones hdcp to travel the golfer needs to either improve their game or change their strategy at courses that don’t suit the current status of their game. 
 

If practicing and improving ones swing and game isn’t an option then adapting to the course setup is what’s left. Instead of hitting clubs off the tee that are going to cost the golfer strokes either by being OB/lost ball or require some sort of recovery shot the golfer can pick a club that keeps the ball in play. This could be hitting fairway instead of driver if that club is more reliable. If not then pick the next longest club in the bag that keeps the ball in play.

To go along with that one could treat par 5s as par 6s, par 4s as par 5s and at under 600 yards par 3s could still be treated as par 3s.  
 

In competition it’s about the score and not how it’s achieved. If one scores 6 or 7 on a par 5 rather than an 8 or higher they have already saved strokes and through the course of the round those 10-15 shots lost will be reduced.

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Duffer, I completely get your point. I moved recently from a course where I could hit the next fairway and still get to the green in 2.  Now I'm on a course like your northern course - 10 feet of fringe then water, OB, or knee high fescue(aka lost ball). Those penalties quickly add up on a score card.  I was trying to break 80 on a par 70 course (70.9/129).  Now I focus on breaking 90 on a par 72 and keeping all rounds under 100 (73.4/138).  My handicap quickly hit the soft cap. Fortunately I just play for enjoyment and rarely play in events that require a handicap. Overall, I think this harder course has forced me to become a better golfer because I have to think more.  

I took RickyBobby's approach and started playing with strategy and course management.  Recent example - longest par 4 on the course where the conventional play is Driver.  I pulled out hybrid to the horror of my playing partner.  My plan was not to hit the green in two, but hit two controlled shots that allowed me to chip/pitch close to the pin. In some ways it puts me at a bit of a disadvantage but I had a makable putt for par...that I missed. But I effectively took the water and woods out of the hole, and had a par opportunity - which for a bogey golfer is a win.  I also toyed with the tee boxes I hit from - my course has 4 for mens, i played with the middle two.  That has not been mentioned as an option yet. Granted the handicap adjusts for the tee boxes, but If you play blues in the more open course and whites on the tight maybe that would even out your handicap. Especially if you sacrifice distance for control in the tighter course which is the longer of the two. 

Good luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good suggestions so far but I would add more difficult tighter courses to your Southern rotation. Find the beast courses in your South area & play them from farther back than you are comfortable. Your higher scores will still be an honest reflection of your ability. As a side benefit you will have more success competing in the south all achieved honestly. I’m long & wild myself with misses both ways I can still reach short par 5’s and play to a 9 but strange tight courses humble me regularly.  In addition try to find a close to 200 yard club that you can hit straight off the tee - hybrid or fairway to take doubles & triples out of play. 

The sound of a long drive is so much cooler when your playing partner says “Wow”

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  • 2 months later...

As an experiment, have you tried playing the "summer" course with clubs where EVERY shot will stay in play? Just for a casual round, go out and tee off with a club you know will stay in play. Maybe that's a hybrid. Maybe it's a 7 iron. Heck, maybe it's a wedge. Hit every shot with a club that you KNOW will stay in play. See what you score. It's unconventional, but you might find it's competitive ...

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