HE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES GOLF
ASSOCIATION (USGA) Handicap System, much
like the system itself, is less complicated than it
seems. From the first written mention of handicapping, in relation to golf, by Thomas Kincaid in 1687
to the USGA System’s creation by Leighton Calkins in
1911 to the development of the modern course rating
and slope system in 1983, handicapping in golf has
gone through several iterations. But at the core, all of these different systems
share the same simple goal: To make the game of golf more enjoyable by allowing players of all abilities to compete on an equitable basis.
The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s USGA GHIN Handicap platform gives
a player multiple tools to determine how many strokes to receive in a round.
There are many ways to determine a Handicap Index or Course Handicap —
from the GAP Mobile App to a GHIN posting computer to a club’s handicap
sheet. Things have come quite a long way since Kincaid, a Scottish medical
student, wrote this nonsensical line in his Jan. 21, 1687 golfing diary, “At golf,
whether it is better to give a man two holes of three, laying equal strokes, or
to lay three strokes to his one and play equal for so much every hole.” And
you thought the USGA Handicap System was complicated.
Handicap systems slowly evolved over the years. In 1857, another Scot,
Henry Brougham Farnie, wrote an instructional book, “The Golfer’s Manual.”
In it, Farnie described four of the most commonly used methods for handi-
capping: third-one (one stroke every three holes); half-one (one stroke ev-
ery two holes); one more (one stroke per hole); and two more (two strokes
per hole). Until the early part of the 20th century, handicaps were mostly
negotiated on the first tee. Then, in 1904, Calkins, who later served on
the USGA Executive Committee, came up with a system through which a
player’s handicap was based on the average of their best three scores for
the season. Seven years later, the USGA adopted the same system.
The USGA tweaked its system occasionally over the next 50 years before settling on a new formula in 1967 to standardize the handicap methods of state and regional golf associations. That calculation included the
best 10 of the golfer’s last 20 rounds, and was a nice compromise. Certain
areas of the country previously used a best 10-of- 15 system while others
utilized a best 10-of- 25.
then to now… and
into the future
BY MARIO MACHI ___________ Post scores on the GAP App
Association teams rate 25
or more courses a year.