Handicaps and course ratings; why they matter

Craig Loughry is the director of handicapping and course rating for Golf Canada.

Course ratings and handicaps are integral tools to developing golf and making the world’s greatest social game more fun.

Volunteer course raters provide governing agencies, such as Golf Canada, Golf Saskatchewan or the United States Golf Association (USGA) with data to give courses a rating. Ratings coincide with handicaps that players possess as their scores get posted throughout the golf season. Craig Loughry is the director of handicapping and course rating for Golf Canada, he said ratings and handicapping are intertwined.

“That’s when we can form relativity to how good or how bad a score is for each individual as they post their scores for handicap purposes,” Loughry said.

Courses are rated every ten years, Loughry estimates a jurisdiction such as Saskatchewan likely has about 20 volunteer course raters. New golf courses are rated in their first year, another rating is provided after five years. The course then moves to a ten-year cycle to align with course rating policy. Loughry said early course development can alter a courses’ rating.

“Courses mature and change over time,” he said. “They might have renovations, trees mature, greens might creep a little bit (extended cuts). Fairways might get a different mowing pattern, widths could change, those are the things we look at when providing a course and slope rating.”

Courses are rated from each tee box on a course and for both women and men. Loughry said the days of using the term “women’s tee” are pretty much gone. He said using appropriate tee distances for your ability helps provide golfers a good experience.

“We have seen a movement of some players wanting to play a more forward tee, and by rating each tee for both men and woman it allows those golfers who do want to move forward to do so, and still maintain a handicap and post their scores” he said.

Handicaps are in place to allow golfers of different calibres to be competitive with each other. You must be a member of a recognized golf association to obtain an official Golf Canada Handicap Factor. Loughry said it allows rounds of golf to be more enjoyable.

“If player A (say a handicap of 20) happened to play better to his or her own ability than player B (with a handicap of 7) did to his/hers then chances are player A would have a better net score that day. That’s what makes it so fun, you don’t have to have the same skill to have a friendly match” he said.

Currently there are subtle differences between the USGA system and the Golf Canada system. Handicaps in the US only change every 15 days in what is called a revision cycle, no matter how many rounds are played/posted, but here in Canada handicaps change with each round played/posted. At the start of 2020, a universal handicapping system will be in place for all golfers across the world. Loughry said Golf Canada has a say input to the development of the new World Handicap System. He said some aspects of the system will stay as they are, but there will be some alterations to the system however.

“There will be some sections that remain the same or similar, but other areas that will be completely rewritten. There will be people who will be used to things that haven’t changed in 20+ years that will be evolving, there will be some adjustment for everyone” he said.

The new system is to be put in place on Jan. 1, 2020.