Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ask Linda #1000-Stableford format for match play; handicapping match play

Hi Linda,
First of all greetings from New Zealand.
Can I say that having read nearly all of your Question and Answers, I would like to congratulate you on a format which is both easy to interpret and understand.

I would like to ask you some questions with regard to Match Play but before I pose the question I will give you some background.

There is a tendency especially among senior players to hold golf tournaments using a Match Play format which uses the Stableford points scored on the hole to determine a win or a loss as the net score does in match play.

This format has also been used in some Provincial Tournaments.  I am of the opinion that this contravenes the rules of golf, because a net score cannot be achieved when the players can no longer score a Stableford point and the hole is then halved.

The argument they use for using this format for four-ball (best ball) match play is as follows: They feel it is unfair if the lowest handicapper goes back to scratch, because they believe for some reason that the lowest handicapper is being deprived of his handicap strokes. 

They also use this format in mixed tournaments by combining the Stableford points of a male and female player and then applying a win and loss to the hole depending upon those Stableford points.

My questions are:  
1. Is it permissible under the rules of golf to use the Stableford points as the basis for deciding the result a hole in match play instead of the net score?

2:  In handicap match play why does the lowest handicapped person go back to zero? (I suspect it’s something to do with the USGA Handicapping system).

Conclusion:  I have searched numerous golf courses around the world on the Internet and have never found a competition format based on Stableford match play, which leads me to believe it is either against the rules of golf or so unfair clubs just won’t do it.

Kind Regards,
Lou from New Zealand

Dear Lou,

Answer to Question #1:
Stableford competitions are a form of stroke play. The Rules for stroke play and match play are so different that the Rules of Golf do not permit combining the two forms of play [Rule 33-1]. You may not conduct a match play competition using Stableford scoring, plain and simple.

Answer to Question #2:
When two golfers are playing a match, the player with the lower handicap plays at scratch (no strokes), and the player with the higher handicap receives the difference in the Course Handicap of the two players. For example, if Hal’s Course Handicap is 8, and Jack’s Course Handicap is 12, Hal will play at scratch and Jack will receive four handicap strokes (one each on the number 1, 2, 3, and 4 handicap holes).

This system is eminently fair. The hole that has been designated as the #1 handicap hole is the hole where the higher handicapper will most need a stroke to help him halve the hole against a better player. This order continues down to the #18 handicap hole, which should be the hole where the weaker player is least likely to need a stroke to halve a hole.

Going back to Hal and Jack, if Hal plays at scratch (as he should), Jack will receive a handicap stroke on the four holes that would be the most difficult for him to halve without a handicap stroke to lean on. On the other hand, if Hal receives a handicap stroke on the first 8 handicap holes (where he should not), and Jack receives a stroke on the first 12, here is the problem: Instead of receiving a stroke on the four holes where it has been determined that he will most likely need a stroke to halve the hole, Jack will now receive a stroke on the #9, 10, 11, and 12 handicap holes, where he is far less likely to need the extra help. Hal will have an unfair advantage on the first four handicap holes, which he has a better chance to win now that Jack has to play them even up; Jack will have an unfair advantage on handicap holes 9–12, where a handicap stroke will help him win.

The purpose of handicapping holes is to equalize the competition between players of differing ability on each hole; it is not to advantage one player over another on certain holes. Players should receive strokes to help them halve a hole, not to help them win a hole. The higher handicapper should receive his strokes on the holes where he will most likely need a stroke to halve the hole (starting with the #1 handicap hole). In order for that to happen, the better player must play at scratch.

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