Monday, April 26, 2010

Ask Linda #197-Reason for ESC

Hi Linda,

What is the point of the ESC score? Why can I only post an 8 even if I have a 10? What good does it do? Actually, this is my husband’s question & I don't know the answer.

Dear Lulu,

The brief, official USGA explanation for applying Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) to all scores is that reducing high scores “makes handicaps more representative of a player’s potential ability” [Section 4-3, USGA Handicap System].

In order to begin to understand the reason for applying ESC, a golfer must first understand that his handicap index does not represent his average score. It is meant to represent his best potential score. A player who “shoots his handicap” (e.g., a player with an 18 handicap scores 90 on a course rated 72) has had one of his best days, not one of his average days. He might expect to score at or near his handicap two or three rounds out of ten, at the most.

If players were allowed to include all of their “blow up” holes (those 8’s, 9’s and 10’s) in their posted scores, their handicaps would be unfairly high, and would not represent their true potential. Also, if players were allowed to post scores that include disaster holes, the system would be giving carte blanche to any cheaters looking to increase or “pad” their handicaps. This is how it works: an unscrupulous golfer involved in, say, a match or a better ball competition, starts missing shots on holes he knows he will lose or he knows his partner will win without his help. These misses and high scores are, of course, for the purpose of posting artificially high rounds to raise his handicap and provide him a better and unfair chance to win more competitions. It is cheating.

Even an honest golfer will seriously throw his handicap out of whack by posting a 13 on a hole on which he would generally score par or bogey. A handicap as little as one or two shots higher than it should be will give a golfer an undeserved advantage in any competition.

Again, keep in mind that your handicap represents your best potential score, not your average score. If every golfer follows the rules and posts the proper ESC score, then we are all competing fairly against one another. The player who scores closer to his potential ability will be the winner. The ESC system is one of the USGA’s efforts to make the game fair and equitable for players of differing abilities. It is one of the unique pleasures of golf that you can have an even competition despite disparate skill levels. Posting your ESC score helps to keep the playing field level.


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