The ins and outs of equitable stroke control

Pole Creek Golf Course Hole #7
Pole Creek Golf Course Hole #7

It’s Spring in the Rocky Mountain West and golf leagues have officially started. At the kickoff meeting for our golf league, the big question for the pros that run the league and course was all about equitable stroke control or ESC. I don’t remember ever hearing about this in my years of holding a handicap and it’s how our league scores for the Colorado Golf Association handicap.


Here’s how it works.

In league play, we count all our stokes.  Let’s just say that occasionally, some of us have to take an extra number of strokes on a hole. Maybe we got caught in a sand trap and took a few to get out, or lost a ball in the weeds. Not that it happens to anyone that often, right?

When we go to the computer to post our round, it’s important to check the handicap sheet next to the computer. Based on your handicap, there are a maximum number of strokes taken on a hole. The sheet looks like this:

Nine-hole course handicap

Maximum number on any hole

4 or less

Double Bogey

5 through 9


10 through 14


15 through 19


20 or more



If my handicap is 30, I can post no more than 10 on any hole for calculating my handicap. If my handicap is 4, any hole where I counted more than 3 over par changes to a double bogey.  This scoring is just for calculating handicap. Players should input their adjusted score in the computer.

Our league manager set up different games for us to play. For example, he may only count the 3 best holes on your card for prizes that week. For these competitions, the actual stroke count determines the winner. Thanks for Greg for figuring all this out for us, because we get lost on some of these competitions!

For each week we play in league, there are two different scores being used – one for handicap and one for the league competition. For handicap, we input our scores into the computer based on the ESC guidelines. For the league competition, the league manager uses our score cards with the actual stroke count to calculate the winners.

In reality, it’s not often players need to adjust their scores for handicap. Many of the players in our league have double-digit handicaps in any case, so unless something goes very wrong, there is little need for adjustments. Our home course is an Executive nine, so there is only one par 5 and two par 4 holes. It’s rare someone with a nine-hole handicap of 15 would shoot a 10 on a par 3, 100 yard hole. But if it happens, the Golf Gods have a way of compensating us for that error.

Are you aware if your league used equitable stroke control? Let us know!

CWGA Experience at CommonGround in Aurora

The CWGA held it’s annual Experience at CommonGround today. This is an event which includes golf skills instruction by professional instructors in driving, chipping and pitching, and putting. This year they added a new section for rules and etiquette.

I wanted to attend, but I didn’t get signed up in time. The event regularly sells out, though I should have taken the advice of a friend and just showed up and paid. But, I played a round this morning in my league, and we didn’t finish soon enough.

I really enjoyed talking with the CWGA staff and some of the participants. Folks really get a lot out of the instruction here. I did participate last  year, and I still use some of the techniques I learned, mostly for chipping. I’ll make sure I get signed up on time next year!

For those Colorado golfers, check out for more information on the remaining Experiences, one in Grand Junction and one in Colorado Springs. The CWGA also sponsors 9 Hole Social Golf Outings and various courses up and down the Front Range during the summer.


Team USA wins the President’s Cup

The President’s Cup is complete and the Americans have won it again, 19 -15. The President’s Cup, a tournament that pits Team USA again the Team International – non-European players – is sometimes considered a step-child to the Ryder Cup. The tournament was played in Melborne at the Royal Melbourne course against a strong international team captained by Greg Norman. Team International included Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, Kim Kyung-tae, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Ernie Els, Y.E. Yang, Ryo Ishikawa, Robert Allenby, and Aaron Baddeley. International team players are chosen based on the Official World Golf Ranking through the 2011 BMW Championship.

Team USA, captained by Fred Couples, included Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnon, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, and Tiger Woods. The selection of Tiger Woods as a captain’s pick was the subject of much conjecture as Tiger has lost his top 50 placement and hasn’t won a tournament in 2 years. But Tiger proved that he could still play under pressure by holing 6 birdies, including the winning point.


Team International started strong, taking an early lead in the tournament. But the team had a difficult time in the foursomes, traditionally a weak format for the Internationals. Team USA went into the final day with a 13-9 lead, insurmountable for Team International. Team USA now leads the tournament format 7-1-1.

Team International asked for a format change prior to the tournament – to reduce the number of foursomes played. This is a format that is not often played – Team USA only plays the Ryder and the President’s Cup in this format. But these are professional golfers. It seems strange to me that they can’t be successful at an alternative shot format. These are very accomplished individuals; what makes the alternate shot format more difficult than the traditional stroke play? What do you think?


More travelers choose to drive instead of fly

Is flying to a destination always the best choice? M and I often travel to play golf and in this era of long waits at security, rising airfares, and overfull flights, many people are deciding that driving is a better answer.

A recent poll by asked the following question: In order to avoid flying (due to rising fares and/or other factors), how much more time are you willing to spend driving this year in comparison to last?
I’ll drive up to two more hours -14%
I’ll drive 2-4 more hours -15%
I’ll drive 4-6 more hours -16%
I’ll drive 6-8 more hours -15%
I’ll drive 8+ more hours-27%
I won’t drive. Fares may be higher but I’m still a flier-16%

In this poll, 45% of the respondents said they would drive up to 6 more hours in order to avoid flying. Another 31% are willing to drive at least 6 – 8 more hours. Driving about 8 hours can equal a minimum of about 4 hours travel time to fly: arriving 2 hours before a flight, the flight time of an hour, and 45 minutes to disembark and claim luggage. Are people tired of the hassles of flying, or trying to save money?

George Hobica, of comments, “The results show that despite higher gas prices, many consumers will be driving longer distances this summer than in past years. It’s not just economics, however, because despite higher airfares it’s still cheaper to fly on many routes rather than drive. We suspect that consumers’ reluctance to fly has more to do with airport hassles, bag fees, TSA lines, and possible weather delays. In any case, this isn’t great news for the airline industry.”

There are many considerations when making the fly/drive decision, including the cost of gasoline, hotel rates along the route, rental car fees, and the cost of your time. Using the Fly or Drive Calculator on, vacationers can determine which mode of transportation is less expensive. The cost for a family of 4 to travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Denver in a Toyota Rav 4 was 6 hours, 23 minutes and $147.00 for fuel and vehicle wear and tear. The cost for that same family to fly to Albuquerque was $991 and 5 hours, 44 minutes, including parking at the airport, baggage fees, and air tickets, but not including renting a car are driving to Santa Fe.

For us here in the Rocky Mountain west, the distances can be challenging. How do you decide whether to drive or fly?

Lexi Thompson is officially a member of the LPGA

On Friday, September 30, Commissioner Mike Wahn granted Lexi Thompson’s petition for membership in the LPGA. The LPGA rules state that members need to be at least 18 years old to join the tour, though obviously exceptions can be made. Thompson, 16, submitted a petition for membership based on her tour win at the Navistar LPGA Classic earlier in September. She’ll be postponing her official start date on the tour until 2012, to start as a rookie. She’ll turn 17 in February.

Thompson is the youngest member ever to join the tour. Michelle Wie played tournaments when she was 15, but didn’t officially join the tour until 3 years later, after finishing Q school. Morgan Pressel, Aree Song, and Jessica Korda were granted waivers when they were 17, though they were close to their 18th birthdays and the high school educations complete or nearly so.

There is no doubt that Lexi Thompson is talented and she can compete on the highest professional level. She’s been home-schooled, and is planning to finish and graduate while also playing golf. I think that the tour should require kids to finish high school prior to starting the tour as a professional. That would insure that these ladies would have a basic education – golf is not forever.

The LPGA has been struggling lately with the loss of sponsors and uneven management. A new star certainly can’t hurt the ratings and attendance at LPGA events. Is joining the tour better for Lexi or better for the LPGA?

What is “Greens in Regulation?”

I was looking through the statistics on and noticed that one of the most popular statistics being kept for the ladies playing at the Navistar tournament this weekend was “Greens in Regulation” or GIR. I thought I’d look up this statistic and see exactly what it was.

A green is considered hit “in regulation” if any part of the ball touches the putting surface and the number of strokes taken is 2 less than par. For example, on a par 3, the green is hit “in regulation” if the ball touches the putting surface after one shot. On a par 4, the ball needs to be on the green after 2 shots. Check here for the definition on Wikipedia.

For this season, Yani Tseng has the best percentage on the LPGA for GIR at .751. Paula Creamer is very close, at .748 and Suzann Petersen is at .742.

I never thought to keep track of this statistic when I play, although I often track number of putts. Which statistics do you keep track of when you play?

Rules changes for golf – is the game too hard?

Perusing the golf news and headlines this weekend, I ran into an interesting article here. In essence, Mr. Nicklaus is proposing making the game a bit easier and faster through a couple of changes.

  1. Making the hole 8 inches in diameter instead of 4 1/2 inches. This is intended to make putting easier and I would guess this would move the game along quicker as well. The golfing gal pals and I tend to spend time on making those putts.
  2. Reducing the number of holes played to 12 from 18. I can certainly agree to this. I love to play golf, but 18 holes can take the better part of an entire day. Many of us are busy folks with families. Nine holes often doesn’t seem like enough – maybe 12 would be the magic number
  3. Restricting the time for play to 2 1/2 hours and penalizing players one stroke for every five minutes over that 2 1/2 hour limit. Golf is one of the few sports that has no time restriction. For weekend play, this seems unlikely to be enforceable. Perhaps in tournaments a time limit is workable. I would think the networks would be in favor.

Mr. Nicklaus is holding tournaments at his Muirfield Village Club using these new rules to try to make the game more appealing to new golfers. I can see his point. I’ve known folks that quit playing because it takes too much time and is often just too hard to keep a level of competence if you don’t play at least once per week. Maybe some new variations on the game will bring out some new players.

How do you feel about these changes? What changes might be made in order to make the game a bit easier and maybe a bit quicker?