Standing up for the modern Stableford system

In preparation for an article on the new world handicap system I reflected a bit on the current predominant handicap system we’re used to in Europe. I realized that despite all the critique, it actually is a good system nonetheless.

So here, cheers to the current handicap system, which will be replaced by the world handicap system by tomorrow in many countries, of which Germany is not included. I have an idea why but please don’t get me started…

For those who need some refreshing:

Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford in the late 1800s introduced a points system in golf in order to let people factually play a good round of golf, even if they’d played badly on one or more holes—as you do, sometimes.

So instead of counting strokes for the whole round, you’d add up points for each hole earned. The better you scored, the more points you earn. Rule of thumb: For each par, you get 2 points, for a birdie 3, for a bogey you get 1 point at least.

While this is easy to calculate, there’s obviously little possibility to compare between good and bad not so good players. A good player still earns many points while a beginner might hardly earn any. But, if a better player has lost his ball or screwed in the trees, the round is not ruined, it’s potentially just 2 points missed along the way.

This is where gross, net and the handicap comes into play. 2 points per 18 holes equals 36 points, meaning every time you score 36 points gross you played a par round. To make yourself comparable to others, a handicap system determines the amount of strokes you’re granted in order to equal a potential difference in playing capabilities compared to professionals.

Say you tend to shoot around 90 for a round, means on average you’re 18 strokes worse than a pro, which would equal to an 18 handicap. On 18 holes you would get an extra stroke to use, meaning on a par 4 you’d actually be able to score a 5 and still receive 2 points for a par.

This caters for the inequality to a pro.

The handicap system in Europe, at least since I play golf, is based on the fact that you need to play tournaments or so-called extra day scores to be eligible for a handicap calculation. When you’re having a bad day and you’re playing below your abilities, you get an extra +0.1 on your handicap (forgetting the buffer for a second). For everything that’s above 36 net points, you’re awarded with a minus value, i.e. reducing your handicap, depending on how well you actually played.

40 net points for example, 4 above the 36 threshold however don’t mean full 4 strokes off your handicap, but multiplied with the handicap class you’re in, could be 0.4, 0.8, 1.2, 1.6, you get the idea.

What all this does, slowly but surely you can get to a better handicap. Bad days have an impact but not a huge one eventually. What this does as well, the changes are moderate and foreseeable—which brings me to the differences to the world handicap system. But that has to wait for another article.

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