Read the USGA Handicap Live Chat Transcript October 12, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J.

If you are interested in the USGA Handicap System, the USGA members' Live Chat is a great place to learn more about making golf fair. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

If you missed the members-exclusive USGA Handicapping Live Chat, you still have the chance to see what you missed when Kelly Reilly, coordinator of the USGA Handicap Department, spent an hour going through participants' real-life examples and questions about the USGA Handicap System, which is designed to make the golf more enjoyable by enabling players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis.

The System provides a fair Course Handicap for each player, regardless of ability, and adjusts a player's Handicap Index up or down as the player's game changes. At the same time, the System disregards high scores that bear little relation to the player's potential ability and promotes continuity by making a Handicap Index continuous from one playing season or year to the next. A Handicap Index is useful for all forms of play, and is issued only to individuals who are members of a licensed golf club.

Take some time to go through the transcript to learn more about handicapping:

David Chmiel: Hello, I am David Chmiel, manager of Member content for the USGA. Welcome to the Member Clubhouse Handicapping Live Chat – on the 105th anniversary of the day the Handicap System was first adopted! We will be getting started soon...Thank you for your interest in the USGA Handicap System, which makes golf more enjoyable by enabling players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis.

David Chmiel: Okay, everyone... don't forget to tell us us where you are from and what your Handicap Index is... So, let's tee it up! Please welcome Kelly Reilly, coordinator of the USGA Handicap Department.

Roger Nelson: Haymarket, Va., 7.2

Kelly_Reilly: Thanks, Dave! I am excited to be here. Today is an especially great day to be a part of the USGA Handicap System. Taking the time to answer our members questions is a great way to celebrate this milestone!

Daniel Manzella: Welcome Kelly. Dan Manzella here. HI: 18

Kelly_Reilly: @Daniel Thank you for the welcome!

Jana Madrigali: Hi Kelly. Jana from Useless Bay Wash., HI: 22.6

Wendy Dominick: Newburgh, NY. Handicap index: 16.8

Tim Quinn: Las Vegas, Nev.,  HI: 4.6

David Chmiel: OK folks, we are thrilled to receive so many questions in advance! So let’s get started with a question submitted by a member prior to going live who asks: What is the maximum handicap a player can have, and how is the handicap figured?

Jim Luttrull: San Jose, Calif., 24.7

Bruce Benzel: Ritzville, Wash., 7.6

Daniel Manzella: Staten Island, N.Y.

Barry Hand: Tracy Calif., 8.0 HI, Kelly

Kelly_Reilly: The maximum Handicap Index is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. A Handicap Index is calculated by using the best Handicap Differentials in a player’s scoring record.

Scott Jordan: Roanoke, Tex.,  15.2

Kelly_Reilly: A Handicap Differential is calculated by using the (Adjusted Gross Score-USGA Course Rating™) x 113/Slope Rating. The accuracy of a players Handicap Index is directly proportional to the number of acceptable scores posted to their scoring record. Please take a look at Section 10-2 of the USGA Handicap System for additional guidance on the Handicap Index formula.

David Chmiel: Kelly, we've also had a number of questions about what a "Target Score" is. Can you help everyone understand it?

Kelly_Reilly: A "Target Score" is the number that will represent what score is needed to “play to your handicap.” You are only expected to play to your handicap 25 percent of the time or less so this score will represent a good day at each set of tees. The average score from each set will be 2-4 strokes higher than this target score. The target score is figured by adding the Course Handicap to the Course Rating (CR) and then rounding to the nearest whole number. This helps illustrate the concept that a Handicap Index is based on a player’s potential ability (better half average) and not an average of all scores, and is a great number for golfers to realize before putting the first ball in play what the goal/number is for playing to one’s handicap.

James Kinn: What is the penalty for using the wrong ball for several holes?

David Chmiel: James, that sounds like more of a Rules of Golf question. If you mean it as a Rules question, you can call 908-234-2300 and ask for the Rules Department.

Jack Snyder: An Index is always established from the member's (regular) tees no matter which tees you play from. When you travel to another course with your index, how is it adjusted for the "away" course handicap and the tees you are playing?

Kelly_Reilly: @Jack First, it’s important to point out that a Handicap Index is a portable number and is not established from a particular set of tees. This means it can travel from course-to-course and tee-to-tee and converted to a Course Handicap for the set of tees you are playing that day.

Jack Snyder: I understand.

Kelly_Reilly: A Course Handicap is the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a specific set of tees at the course being played to adjust the player's scoring ability to the level of scratch or zero-handicap golf.

David Chmiel: Kelly, how would golfers make the calculation manually?

Kelly_Reilly: Calculating a Course Handicap is simple! Take your Handicap Index and multiply it by the Slope Rating for the tees you will be playing and then divide by 113. Be sure to round .5 and up to get the correct calculation.

Bob Wheat: How is "Peer Review" implemented at a club and what does it entail?

Kelly_Reilly: @Bob, peer review is essential to have a player’s handicap vouched for by a golf club. It forms a basis for supporting/disputing scores posted and better realizing a player’s potential ability.

Kelly_Reilly: It entails fellow club members playing together in club events in order to form that basis of opinion on an individuals potential

Jim Luttrull: Where is the course rating posted? I don't see it on the scorecard.

Kelly_Reilly: @Jim, not every golf courseputs the course rating or slope on their scorecards, but you can view the Course Rating and Slope Database on or contact the authorized golf association to find a course.

Jim Luttrull: OK, thanks.

David Chmiel: @Daniel, you have asked a question that many many members have asked today, pertaining to Section 3-5, "Players Competing From Different Tees." Kelly, how would you address these folks?

Kelly_Reilly: This is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive in the Handicap Department. First it’s important to highlight that a Handicap Index is not established from a particular set of tees. A Handicap Index is a portable number that can be converted into a Course Handicap, which depends on the Slope Rating of the course being played. When players compete from different tees, or men and women from the same tees, these tees usually have different Ratings. Because a USGA Course Rating reflects the probable score of a scratch golfer, the higher-rated course is more difficult, and the player playing from the set of tees with the higher USGA Course Rating receives additional strokes equal to the difference between each USGA Course Rating, with .5 or greater rounded upward.

Kelly_Reilly: Alternatively, it is permissible to subtract the extra handicap strokes from the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the lower USGA Course Rating. [See Section 3-5 and 9-3c.]

David Chmiel: OK, folks... we are 20 minutes into the session. Please keep up this great discussion and keep the questions coming!

Kelly_Reilly: The adjustment for the USGA Course Rating is necessary to keep the competitions equitable. The point that most people don’t understand is that your Course Handicap represents the number of strokes that you need to adjust yourself back to the USGA Course Rating (not par). If two players who are playing from different sets of tees both play exactly to their handicap (USGA Course Rating + Course Handicap) then their NET scores will still differ by the difference in each USGA Course Rating. This is not equitable. If both players play exactly to their handicap, than the result should be a tie. To make the competition equitable, you must adjust both players to the same level.

Barry Hand: What does the Handicap Chairman do when players refuse to post and peers don't insist?

Kelly_Reilly: @Barry, if a player fails to post a score, the player's Handicap Committee has a view different options. They could...

  1. Post the actual score made by the player
  2. Post a penalty score equal to the lowest/highest Handicap Differential in the player’s scoring record (has to be a score from the scoring record)
  3. Post the actual score and a penalty score

Tim Quinn: Great explanation! So many people think (incorrectly) that playing to their handicap will bring their net score to par, and don't realize that it's really the course rating.

Bruce Elwell: Are there any established USGA guidelines for adjusting a player's handicap index because of major/minor surgery the player has undergone. How long should the adjusted index be used?

Kelly_Reilly: @Bruce, Under Section 8-4c(iii) of the USGA Handicap System manual, a Handicap Committee can grant an increase in a handicap for temporary disabilities (as determined by the Handicap Committee). The increased handicap must be identified by the letter “M” to indicate that it is for local club use only. The Handicap Committee must determine how long a player’s Handicap Index is to remain modified. As a form of guidance, at each handicap revision date, the Handicap Committee should compare the modified Handicap Index to the value determined by the normal computation method under Section 10-2. I would also point you to review Decisions 8-4c/1 and 8-4c/2 in the USGA Handicap System manual for additional information on treatment of players with permanent and temporary disabilities.

David Chmiel: Kelly, here is another question previously provided by a member: The other day I was playing a match with a fellow club member and the match ended on the 15th hole. Do I still have an acceptable score to post? If so, what should I do?

Kelly_Reilly: Match-play scores (as well as stroke-play scores) must be posted to a players scoring record. For the holes not played, you can post by using the "par plus" procedure. This means to record the score correctly, use par, plus any handicap strokes you are entitled to for those holes. For example, let’s say your Course Handicap is 18. This means you would receive one stroke on every hole. Thus, if the last hole is a par-5, you would post using par plus, which would be a six for handicap purposes.

Roger Nelson: We have a few golfers who play away courses quite often and shoot significantly higher scores than they do at home. This is done enough that it does raise their index significantly and creates issues within the club. Any suggestions?

Kelly_Reilly: @Roger, great question! If a player does not have a Handicap Index that represents their current ability it would be recommended that the Handicap Committee consider making an adjustment to their Handicap Index.

Jack Snyder: Who controls the order with which the holes are listed for handicap difficulty?

Kelly_Reilly: @Jack There are two methods that can be used to determine the allocation of handicap strokes: Regression and Comparison Method

Kelly_Reilly: These methods are in Section 17 of the USGA Handicap System manual. The Handicap Committee has the final determination of the handicap stroke holes.

Daniel Manzella: If I play at course A and my Opponent plays at course B do we have to go to section 3 to adjust our handicaps?

Kelly_Reilly: @Daniel Your question needs a bit more detail to answer. We will get back with you to discuss further after the Live Chat.

Dave Parsons: Should I always use ESC or can ESC not be used on tournament scores?

Kelly_Reilly: @Dave All scores, including tournament scores, are subject to Equitable Stroke Control. Applying ESC is a mandatory procedure. The application of ESC is to reduce high hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicaps more representative of a player’s potential ability.

Kelly_Reilly: Scores that have been entered into a player’s scoring record that have not applied ESC may not be termed a Handicap Index.

Justin Vander-Linden: Why is a player not allowed to enter scores for their home course during inactive seasons? If the weather is kind to those in the North and they can golf into December at their home course, should those scores not count towards a players H.I.?

Kelly_Reilly: @Justin, scores made at courses observing an inactive season are not acceptable because during that time of year the authorized golf association has determined that course conditions may not represent those at which the course was rated.

David Chmiel: Kelly, we are also getting a lot of questions about what consists of a tournament score. Can you help our members make sense of that?

Wendy Dominick: Should scores from four-ball match-play or four-ball stroke-play tournaments be entered as "T" scores?

Kelly_Reilly: The Committee has the responsibility to designate events as T-Scores. It is important to highlight that a T-Score should reflect “major events.” Rounds such as a club championship, member-guest competition, and qualifying rounds for authorized golf association or national competitions (which can be match play or stroke play) are clear examples of events that are significant and should be reflected in a player’s scoring record as T-Scores. Routine events, such as member play days or weekly/daily/league competitions, are cautioned against being designated as a T-Score. The concern being that posting too many scores as T-Scores can result in diluting the process of “Section 10-3,” which is the automatic “Reduction of Handicap Index Based on Exceptional Tournament Scores.” The USGA Handicap System does not have specific guidance on the amount of T-Scores that should be posted in golf clubs season, however, it is cautioned that the Committee does not over designate T-Scores and dilute the Section 10-3 calculation.

Tim Quinn: Is a modified index (M) for local use only?

Kelly_Reilly: @Tim, a Handicap Index that has been modified is the player’s Handicap Index and should be used in any event requiring a Handicap Index

Jim Luttrull: Where do I find the USGA Handicap System manual. Website?

Kelly_Reilly: The USGA Handicap System manual can be found on at!rule-14367

Dave Parsons: I'm new on the handicap committee at my club. I'm wondering if we can require all players to return their scorecards after every round

Kelly_Reilly: @Dave, great question! As per “Decision 5-2a/4” a Handicap Committee may not require a scorecard for a round to be posted. However, it’s important to mention that scorecards can be required periodically if the Handicap Committee would like to sample the accuracy of players adjusting scores.

Dave Parsons: Thanks

David Chmiel: Kelly, here is another question submitted in advance from one of our members: My course is undergoing some renovations. During the construction process, we will have to use some temporary tees and greens. Can I still post my scores?

Kelly_Reilly: Scores are acceptable for posting purposes so long as the Rules of Golf can be followed during the reconstruction period. The club must contact its local authorized golf association to make the association aware of the situation and for any other additional advice they may provide.

David Chmiel: OK, folks, the time is flying by, but we still have 15 minutes left for more questions. Please send them to us so we can help you understand the handicapping process.

Jack Snyder: Is there a separate slope rating for each set of tees?

Kelly_Reilly: @ Jack, yes each set of tees on a golf course is given its own USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating

Lindsay Bekken: Last week i posted the wrong score by mistake. What should i do now?

Kelly_Reilly: @Lindsay, don't sweat it! Unfortunately, we do not have access to computation service data, but you can reach out to the Handicap Committee at your golf club and they will be able to assist you with removing the erroneous score.

Lindsay Bekken: Okay, will do. Thanks!

Jack Snyder: So if I travel to another course and want to play the senior tees I take my index times the slope rating for the senior tees and divide by 113?

Kelly_Reilly: @Jack, you got it! That calculation will give you your Course Handicap from that set of tees. You can also use the Course Handicap Calculator on too!

David Chmiel: Here is another question that came to us in advance from our members: If I am in match play and a player concedes the hole before I have putted out, how do I get a post score for that hole?

Kelly_Reilly: In this situation where a player has conceded a stroke or starts but fails to finish the hole a player must post using a “most likely score” for that hole. “Most like score” is the amount of strokes already taken plus, to the player’s best judgment, the amount of strokes it would have taken to finish the hole more than half the time. I’ll also mention that there is also no limit to the number of unfinished holes a player may have in a round, provided that failure to finish is not for manipulation purposes.

Roger Nelson: If the handicap committee adjusts a players score to better reflect ability, how long should the adjustment be?

Kelly_Reilly: @Roger, the player's Handicap Committee would decide how long the modification would last. It could be until the players normal Handicap Index calculation better reflects their ability, but in the end its up to the Handicap Committee.

Daniel Manzella: The Handicaps on the score card. Who sets them up. USGA?

Kelly_Reilly: @Daniel, could you please clarify? Are you referring to the allocation of handicap strokes?

Daniel Manzella: Yes

Kelly_Reilly: Great, thanks for clarifying. The allocation of handicap strokes is completed by the club's Handicap Committee.

Max Davis: The golf pro manages handicaps. How many rounds should be played before the handicaps are updated and posted?

Kelly_Reilly: @Max, hopefully he has some assistance from a Handicap Committee! It only takes at least five scores to establish a Handicap Index

Max Davis: Thanks

David Chmiel: Hate to be a downer, folks, but our time is up. Kelly, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with our USGA members. And members, thanks for Thanks again to all of you for your support of our Live Chats. We apologize if we ran out of time before we could get to your question. If we missed you, please contact the Handicapping team by phone at 908-234-2300 or via email at For a regular dose of Handicapping information, visit for a variety of interactive tools to help you enjoy a fair match.

Jack Snyder: Hour very well spent. Thanks, Jack

Dave Parsons: Thanks, Kelly, this was great!

Casey Burke: This was great, thanks so much!

Lindsay Bekken: Thank you!

Max Davis: Thanks, Kelly and David!

Daniel Manzella: Thanks all. it was great

Scott Jordan: Thanks, Kelly!

Jim Luttrull: Great info and clarifications. Thanks.

Kelly_Reilly: Thanks for this wonderful opportunity! As always, we appreciate everyone’s support of the USGA Handicap System and I am looking forward to the next chat!

Bruce Elwell: Thanks Kelly - - Go Hawks!

Justin Vander-Linden: Thanks all!

Barry Hand: Me too.