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Thread: Handicaps in Match Play

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    When our local group plays our annual series, head to head match play is at 80% and seems to be pretty fair. I guess not using 100% protects against sandbaggers.

    Is it common to adjust for other formats? I don't ever play them.
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    I'm not sure there is a good way to handle net score in match play. Just have to handle the spread and even it out the best you can before hand.

    I don't mind giving a pop or two... but last night in league I had to give up 7 on one side. Birdie was required just to halve some.
    Can't say it was wrong, but all depends on how the score shakes down. My opponent scored like I do, where good and bad came in bunches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by -CRW- View Post
    When our local group plays our annual series, head to head match play is at 80% and seems to be pretty fair. I guess not using 100% protects against sandbaggers.

    Is it common to adjust for other formats? I don't ever play them.
    I don't think there is any protection against a true sandbagger (professional thief). They can nudge their index up six strokes just as easily as four.

    The 80% recommendation comes (supposedly) from studies USGA did showing that 100% handicaps produce "fair" results in stroke play while 80% produce "fair" results in match play. With "fair" meaning it gives the high and low handicapper roughly equal chances of winning (I think it's actually supposed to be calibrated to give a tiny edge to the low marker).

    It's because higher handicappers in general have greater variability in their scores. That doesn't absolutely have to be true of every individual but it's true in the aggregate. Stroke play competition, especially over multiple rounds, is designed to produce maximum variability between even closely matched opponents. Match play tends not to be as sensitive to scoring variability as stroke play (because if your opponent makes a net par, it doesn't matter if you make a net bogey vs. a net quadruple bogey or whatever).

    Hence, the handicap which reflects stroke-play differences (USGA handicapping being based on medal scoring) over-corrects for the high handicapper's scores in match play.

    For example, if I'm a 20 hcp and playing a game against my buddy who is a 10 hcp then on average our (ESC-adjusted) stroke play scores will differ by about 10 strokes. However, if I played against that same opponent in a straight-up (no strokes) match he will not generally win 10 holes more than me. He'll tend to win about 8 holes more than me while shooting 10 strokes higher (some holes he will win by more than one stroke). But with the 80% factor I'll only get 8 strokes in match play and it will be a "fair" match.

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    Quote Originally Posted by McLovin View Post
    i've never heard why handicaps are reduced for match play. what is the scenario that this protects against?
    Handicaps are built on 18 holes worth of play for an individual.

    In the scenario such as best ball, you have the potential to only use 50% of your holes assuming your partner does the same. Let's say for the sake of argument, two scratch golfers go out and both make 18 pars. They shoot their handicap and their combined score is even par. Then let's say two 9 handicaps are on the other team. They both make 9 pars and 9 bogeys but alternate their pars. Combined score is -9 despite shooting their handicaps. You must provide a scenario where any two players can go out, shoot their handicaps, and still have a fair chance of winning. I do not think 100% is fair for best ball. Hell, I struggle to agree with 80% being fair.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikedean441 View Post
    Best Ball MUST be 100% right @Canadan :)
    I mean, if you want to watch me lose, I'm in!
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    It has often been remarked that Best Ball with me as a partner is indistinguishable from Singles Match Play. But at least I do pay up my end of bet afterwards, so he has that going for him.

    I played in a Pro-Am one time, three amateurs and a pro. Best two out of the four balls count. Made it to the 13th hole without the team using my ball a single time. On the 13th, our pro was in his pocket as was one of my amateur partners. By some miracle I was on the front fringe 30 feet from the hole in two strokes. I ended up four-jacking from there for double.

    The other amateur partner said, "Don't worry about it. If we didn't want to use your double I shouldn't have knocked two balls in the water off the tee". I think he was going for gallows humor. Hope so, anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DataDude View Post
    I always assumed it has to do with handicaps being based on total scores while match play is a point per hole. Basically a triple may lose me 3 strokes in a stroke play event, but it's only costing me 1 point in a match play event.
    This is my assumption as well. It is much easier to compete against a higher handicap in stroke play than match play. I have seen many mid-teen index players who can hit all the shots, but they have poor course management or just brain fart on a hole or two. A few double bogies that easily could have been bogies run up the handicap. In match play, that only costs you one hole and does not put you out of contention. As one whose handicap ranges between 4 and 7, I find it very difficult to compete in match play. Not good enough to compete against the big boys, but it is tough to give 4 strokes a side to a 15. I am a grinder and have to earn a score through not losing strokes, rather than gaining them. That makes it difficult to shoot my score. I know it is difficult for everyone to shoot their score, because a handicap is supposed to measure ability when playing our best, but I think the percentages set out by @JB for handicaps is pretty fair.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canadan View Post
    Handicaps are built on 18 holes worth of play for an individual.

    In the scenario such as best ball, you have the potential to only use 50% of your holes assuming your partner does the same. Let's say for the sake of argument, two scratch golfers go out and both make 18 pars. They shoot their handicap and their combined score is even par. Then let's say two 9 handicaps are on the other team. They both make 9 pars and 9 bogeys but alternate their pars. Combined score is -9 despite shooting their handicaps. You must provide a scenario where any two players can go out, shoot their handicaps, and still have a fair chance of winning. I do not think 100% is fair for best ball. Hell, I struggle to agree with 80% being fair.
    Anecdotally, I see this play out all the time. It's a hard thing to get right, but anything north of 75% seems to really favor high handicaps in my experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tenputt View Post
    This is my assumption as well. It is much easier to compete against a higher handicap in stroke play than match play. I have seen many mid-teen index players who can hit all the shots, but they have poor course management or just brain fart on a hole or two. A few double bogies that easily could have been bogies run up the handicap. In match play, that only costs you one whole and does not put you out of contention. As one whose handicap ranges between 4 and 7, I find it very difficult to compete in match play. Not good enough to compete against the big boys, but it is tough to give 4 strokes a side to a 15. I am a grinder and have to earn a score through not losing strokes, rather than gaining them. That makes it difficult to shoot my score. I know it is difficult for everyone to shoot their score, because a handicap is supposed to measure ability when playing our best, but I think the percentages set out by @JB for handicaps is pretty fair.
    I'm sure my course management (as a certified 17-handicapper) isn't the best, although my brain farts are probably more often trying to hard to "play safe" and instead just "playing stupid". The main difference in me and some of the 6, 8, 9 hcp guys I play with is they might hit one truly awful shot per round (like literally duffing the ball or topping it) while I'll hit half a dozen or more. It's hard to course manage your way around iron shots that advance the ball 50 feet instead of 150 yards or hitting a driver so badly that it clangs off the ladies tee marker and bounces back to you.

    But like you say, I can hit some pretty awesome shots. Most rounds I'll have at least 3-4 holes where, if that's all you saw me play, you'd think I was capable of shooting around par.

    I'll give an example of "playing it stupid". There's a Par 5 with a pond you have to hit over the last 90 yards or so in front of the green. I'm a short hitter and can't EVER go for the green in two so it's just hit a good tee shot, lay up short of the water, then try to leave myself a PW or 9-iron to the green.

    The last time I played it, my tee shot was in the rough. So I somehow talked myself into, "Don't take too much club and hit a flyer into the water" even though I'm literally 270 yards from the green. I neglected to notice the stiff breeze right in my face so I chose a 7-iron, it came out a little slow from the rough and for my third shot I was hitting it from 145 into the wind and over the water.

    That's the sort of thing I just don't see 6-handicappers do. I'm not stupider than them but if you watch me play golf you'd think so!

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    Stroke Play - 100%
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    I hate playing Match Play at full handicaps. Blow up holes are the reason they have a high cap (in MANY instances) and Match Play doesnt punish a blow up hole enough.

    Also, Shamble at full caps is horrendous too. Any high cap who struggles with his tee game is instantly made twice as good a golfer, assuming he's paired with a solid driver of the ball.
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    Match play really needs handicaps adjusted down. I think the difference between a 6 handicap and 11 (speaking from experience here from the MC) is really more about fewer blowup holes during 18 holes. Especially given our 9 hole matches, a blowup hole on hole with no pop means nothing compared to a straightforward par on a hole with a pop.

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    Additionally, I think everyone needs to remember that the point of the events is to have fun. Fairness is a portion that goes into fun, but everyone doesn't play to their handicaps every single time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canadan View Post
    Handicaps are built on 18 holes worth of play for an individual.

    In the scenario such as best ball, you have the potential to only use 50% of your holes assuming your partner does the same. Let's say for the sake of argument, two scratch golfers go out and both make 18 pars. They shoot their handicap and their combined score is even par. Then let's say two 9 handicaps are on the other team. They both make 9 pars and 9 bogeys but alternate their pars. Combined score is -9 despite shooting their handicaps. You must provide a scenario where any two players can go out, shoot their handicaps, and still have a fair chance of winning. I do not think 100% is fair for best ball. Hell, I struggle to agree with 80% being fair.
    Thanks for that explanation Dan, I've never really seen the reason why they do that and it makes sense.


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