A not too uncommon cause for chagrin among amateur golfers is opening your Handicap revision email to find that your Handicap has gone down drastically since the previous revision, and there is a mysterious “R” appearing next to your Index. The “R” stands
for Reduction. Not only is it startling, it can also be quite confusing, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve seen it. Please allow me to explain.
The USGA defines a tournament score as “a score made in a competition organized and conducted by the committee in charge of the competition. The competition must identify a winner(s) based on a stipulated round(s), and must be played under the Rules of Golf. “
Scores designated as “T” scores are technically the same as any other score in your record…except that they are kept as part of your scoring record for 12 months, or for as long as they are “current” (part of your last 20 scores). When a player shoots significantly better in tournaments than they do in regular play, an additional step for calculating a handicap index may be used. This step, described in section 10-3 of the Handicap Manual, uses the differentials of your two lowest tournament scores from the previous 12 months.
The average of the two differentials is compared to the player’s handicap index, and if the difference is 3 or more, a chart based on the statistical probability of shooting those scores is entered. Using this chart, a player’s handicap index may wind up being reduced. The reduction will show with the letter “R” after the player’s handicap index. The reduction can change with each handicap revision, as your handicap index changes.
This is an automatic part of the handicapping software required by the USGA, and should be monitored by the Handicap Committee at each club. The Handicap Committee has the ability to change the reduction if they feel it is needed. This often happens when a player has had a significant physical change…something that would hinder the player’s ability to shoot the lower scores of the past months.
At each club, the Handicap Committee is asked in advance to assess which events are significant in the traditions of the club in order to designate which events should be recorded for handicap purposes as “T” scores. Ordinary play days (such as Ladies’ Day, Saturday Sweeps events) are not considered to be significant, and would dilute the effect of the Tournament Score system. A general aim for clubs is to have around 8 scores/events designated as a T score each season.
The 10-3 method is based on statistical probability-what is the likelihood of shooting a given score with a certain level of handicap? Built into the system is the fact that, as a player plays more tournaments, the likelihood of shooting a better score goes up. Some people call it being “tournament tough”. But, in fact…it is really based on statistics!