With an understanding of and an abiding faith in the USGA Handicap System, we have permitted participants in our games to play from any rated set of tees. We have adjusted handicaps accordingly as stipulated by the USGA Handicap System. With literally thousands of rounds of golf to analyze, I can say the Handicap System works. It has its flaws, but by-and-large, it does the job of leveling the playing field as it was intended.
With the said, let’s look at what we did yesterday. Unlike in nearly all of our matches where the arbitrary selection of the “base tees” is the forward men’s tees, yesterday’s chosen base tees were the tips, i.e., the championship tees (Black) on the Padre course. The end result was that anyone moving forward (and everyone did) actually had to give up strokes. For example, Mike Clifton elected to play the forward tees (Yellow). He actually had to give up five strokes to the field. So instead of a course handicap of 20, he had to play with a course handicap of 15. Everyone else in the field also gave up strokes by moving forward. You can see in the images below exactly how many strokes everyone had to yield by comparing the “Hdcp” columns in the two images.
When I made the announcement that the “Black” tees would be the base tees, I wrote I did so “… just to cause trouble.” Well, what do you know? It worked. People fretted over which tees to play. “I can’t afford to give up five strokes,” some said. The psychological piece of the pie was a real show stopper. It’s funny to see how traumatic it was to “give back” something, but that it’s never a concern when the base tees are designated as the forward tees. You’re giving up five strokes by NOT moving back to the tips, but that’s not a big deal, presumably because you never had them in the first place.
Truth be known, it really doesn’t make much of difference what your handicap is as long as it is set to a number that reflects your scoring ability relative to the rest of the field. If you’re playing against Bubba and you’re two strokes better than Bubba, you can play scratch and give Bubba two pops or you can claim a handicap of 30 as long as you give Bubba a 32. As further evidence of all this sleight-of-hand, the images that follow show the match results from yesterday with the “Black” tees set as the base tees. Below that, the image shows the match results as they would have been with the “Yellow” tees set as the base tees. Not much different!
There is some impact on the prize money in the area of skins. Those who move back may find it a little more difficult to win gross skins. You might be adding thirty or forty yards to your tee shot on some holes. There a good chance that birdies will be a little more elusive when you’re playing another 500 or so yards of golf course. Note that there were four gross skins awarded yesterday, but there would have been five if the yellow tees had been the base set.
A couple other comments are in order lest this diatribe run off the rails. This leveling of the playing field occurs if and only if the following conditions are met
- The course rating and slope are property determined,
- The course is setup as it was rated,
- Player handicaps are “honest” in that they truly represent the player’s ability.
In reality, picking your tee set can give you a slight edge or put you at a slight disadvantage. A thousand-and-one considerations come into play in selecting your best tees. If you’re not a good trap player, pick the tees that take the traps out of play from the tee box. If there’s a strong wind blowing, the shorter course means you’re ball will spend less time in the air being blown around by the wind. There are other examples, but you get the drift.
Also realize that a significant component of a course rating is its length. As a general rule, the course rating increases by one full stroke for every 220 yards of length. If your average drive is 240 yards or longer, you’re basically getting a little extra bonus relative to the course rating and your handicap. Play the longer tees. On the other hand, if you typically hit your drives 190 yards, playing the shorter course is to your advantage from a handicap (not to mention pace-of-play) standpoint. Move it forward.