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.

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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

7

10 through 14

8

15 through 19

9

20 or more

10

 

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!

Growing the game

During the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last week, Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade introduced their idea for speeding up play. The 14-inch cup more than triples the target on the green from the current 4.25 inch cup, and speeds up play on the green. This idea is not a new one. Jack Nicholas talks about increasing the size of the cup in the green to an 8 inch diameter for amateurs and high-handicappers. Both men talk about the increased pace of play and more enjoyment for new and less skilled players.

The slow pace of play seems to be the biggest complaint on the course. So, how does that problem get solved? TaylorMade is hosting a blog site called Hackgolf.org, collecting ideas to make golf more attractive to new players as well as current players. Ideas range from adding leagues for young players and new adult players to creating Big Break-style competitions to attract more interest. Of course, some say that the game is perfect in its current form and folks should learn to play without any additional changes.

Barney Adams, the father of Tee it Forward promotes shortening the game to make it more enjoyable and faster. The point of golf is to be outside and have fun. When it’s work for a player to get to the green, the fun starts to seep away. Adams wonders why amateurs feel the only way to play a course is from the back tees. That rule doesn’t appear in the rulebook. Players should play from tees that allow them to be on the green in regulation without any herculean efforts. The game isn’t any easier, just more enjoyable and oftentimes faster.

This topic is a perennial within the golf community. Over time, perhaps a combination of the Tee it Forward philosophy and some changes in the rules or setup for new players will help reduce the number of players that quit because it’s just not fun anymore.

What do you think would speed up play?

The Solheim Cup begins September 22

The Solheim Cup begins this week with lots of hoopla. The U.S. has won this the last 3 years, and the European team is eager to end that winning streak. The tournament is being held in Ireland, at Killeen Castle near Dublin and the opening ceremonies are being held Thursday, September 22, 2011.

The first two days, the format of play is Fourball and Foursome matches.

Fourball: In match play, a contest between two sides, each consisting of a pair of players, where every individual plays his own ball throughout. On every hole, the lower of the two partner’s scores is matched against the lower of the opposition’s scores. In stroke play, a fourball competition is played between several teams each consisting of 2 players, where for every hole the lower of the two partner’s scores counts toward the team’s 18 hole total.

Foursome: In match play, a contest between two sides each consisting of a pair of players, where the 2 partners hit alternate shots on one ball. The first player tees off, the second player hits the second shot, the first player hits the third shot, and so on until the ball is holed. Also partners alternate their tee shots, so that one member of each team will always tee-off on the odd holes and the other will tee off on the even holes. In stroke play, a foursome competition is played between several teams each consisting of a pair of players, where partners play alternate shots until the SINGLE ball is holed.

A side wins the match when they are more holes up than there are left to play. For example, if side A is up by two and there is one hole to play, side A wins the match and the point.

I think the Solheim Cup is one of the most exciting golf events of the year and the team aspect is one of its charms. The foursome play is one of the most interesting with strategy involved in alternate shots. My golfing gal pals and I have never played either of these formats during our many rounds. Does your group play any type of match other than stroke play? Which scoring method do you prefer?

What is “Greens in Regulation?”

I was looking through the statistics on lpga.com 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?