Golf Handicaps for the Complete Noob

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 6, 2008 in The Game 0 Comments

I knew that golf involved simple mathematics: counting your strokes on each hole, adding them all up at the end, and subtracting your total score from the course par total to get your score “over par”. But this game got a little more complicated…

Course hole handicaps
I was looking into golf handicaps today, and trying to learn a little more about them. When I was at Chick Evans with Mike, he was explaining to me what the handicap number for each hole on the score card meant. The lowest number handicap (1) means that the hole is the hardest, and the highest number handicap (18) means the hole is the easiest. After looking at the handicap number for each of the holes, it makes sense that the par 5 holes will have the lowest handicap number, and the par 3 holes will have the highest handicap number.

After researching course hole handicaps, Mike was very close to being correct. Golf Digest published an article back in February 2004 called “Solving the mystery of a hole’s assigned handicap“, and it states:

The handicap ranking assigned to each hole on a course doesn’t necessarily reflect the difficulty of making a good score there. The lower-numbered holes are where higher-handicap players most need a stroke to halve the hole when competing with a better player.

Golfer’s handicaps
Course hole handicaps seem pretty simple to understand, but there are more to golf handicaps. After a simple search on the definition of a golf handicap, Wikipedia told me this:

A golf handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer’s playing ability. It can be used to calculate a net score from the number of strokes actually played, thus allowing players of different proficiency to play against each other on somewhat equal terms.

That means next time I play with a non-noob, if we factor in handicaps, I have just an equal chance of winning. I like that.

So what is my handicap?
This is where the more complex mathematics comes into play. There are a couple of things that need to be taken into consideration when determining a player’s golf handicap:

  • The gross score (total score) from the most recent rounds
  • The course rating and slope rating for those rounds

There are also some terms that can be defined. A “scratch golfer” is a golfer who’s handicap is 0. A “bogey golfer” is a golfer who’s handicap is 18. Handicaps below 0 are known as “plus” handicaps.

A course rating is generally between 67 and 77, and marks the average “good score” by a scratch golfer. A course slope rating is a ratio that is generally between 105 and 155, and marks the difficulty of the course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer.

With these values, for each round of golf, you can determine the handicap differential (rounded to the nearest tenth) using this formula:

Handicap differential = (gross score – course rating) × 113 / (slope rating)

Knowing all of the handicap differentials for each round of golf, you can determine the handicap index. To find the handicap index, you take the average of the best 10 differentials of the last 20 rounds, and multiply it by 0.96. If the golfer has posted at least 5 rounds of golf, but fewer than 20, then the index is calculated using between 1-9 differentials (see the table in the Wikipedia article).

There is also a course handicap to calculate, which is the number of stokes to deduct from golfer’s gross score to determine the net score. The course handicap uses this formula (and rounds to the nearest whole number):

Course handicap = (handicap index) × (slope rating) / 113

The Wikipedia article also mentions something about equitable score control, but that’s a little too much for me to grasp right now.

Now… what is MY handicap?
Well, it turns out I need to play 5 rounds of golf to figure this out. After my fifth round, I’ll determine my approximate handicap (real handicaps are given out by the USGA).

To make the process of determining your handicap much simpler, there are many golf handicap calculators on the web.

Special thanks to all the Wikipedia authors who put that article togethers so I can better understand golf handicaps.

Chick Evans Golf Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 4, 2008 in Courses 3 Comments

I start my journey at Chick Evans Golf Course in Morton Grove, IL. This golf course is part of the Forest Preserve Golf courses, which operates ten golf courses throughout Chicagoland, two of which only offer a nine hole course. Throughout the Forest Preserve Golf system, weekend rates range from $18 to $52. I went to Chick Evans on the weekday and took advantage of their twilight price.

I played the full 18 with my buddy, Mike. Mike is not so much of a golf noob like me; he’s been playing on and off since he was a kid. His equipment includes a nice set made by TaylorMade, and he was very adamant about playing with his #3 Pinnacle ball. Whatever that means.

The course is laid out nicely, with the number one and ten holes being right next to the clubhouse, and right next to each other. The course consists of two par-5 and three par-3 holes, with the rest being par-4’s. Mike said one of the reasons he likes this course is because it is one of the cheapest courses with a couple par-5’s. Some of the holes featured some water hazards (which is actually one branch the Chicago River), and none of the holes had sand traps, although it looks like at one point there could have been.

We started with the back nine, since there was less traffic, and somehow finished the full round of 18, although we had to rush the last couple of holes due to darkness. All-in-all, for my first round of golf with my own clubs, it was a good round and I played well (according to Mike). Here are the stats:

Chick Evans Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,691 yards
Course par: 71 (front nine – par 36, back nine – par 35)
Course rating/slope: 65.4/107 (white tee boxes)
My score: 114 (43 over par)
Mike’s score: 90 (19 over par)
Balls lost: 10 (three of them being on the 3rd hole, which turned out be the toughest hole)

Mike and I were talking about the stats I’m taking… and he thought I should take more meaningful stats, rather than number of balls lost. I figured that when I stop losing golf balls, I’ll start taking more meaningful stats (like number of putts, or something like that). Until then, I need to start stocking up on cheap golf balls.

Quotes of the day
Mike: “Short tees, huh? I play with long tees.”
Me: “I should stop counting my score. It’s much lower when I just guess.”

Chick Evans Golf Course
6145 Golf Rd
Morton Grove IL 60053

I’m a noob.

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 2, 2008 in News 0 Comments

Hello. My name is Chris, and I am a golf newbie. A golf noob. I have played only three rounds of golf in my life (in a span of eight years). Each time I had to borrow clubs from a friend and I played so bad that I didn’t care about the score. By the fourth or fifth hole, my goal was just to be able to hit the ball over 50 feet or clear the small creek that blocked my forward progression.

So why continue?
Peer pressure. “Chris, you have to get a set of clubs.” I admit that I actually wanted a set of clubs so that when I did get invited to play a round I wouldn’t have to borrow or rent a set. Luckily, I got a used set of clubs as a birthday gift. …And thus starts the journey.

My goal
I’m setting out to play all of the Chicagoland golf courses, while tracking my progress and keeping stats along the way. I’m defining Chicagoland as a straight 35 mile radius from State & Madison (the center of Chicago). This radius includes Joliet, Elgin, and most of Waukegan. Most of the courses should be less than an hour drive (not including traffic) from the center of Chicago.

My equipment
My clubs are a used/refurbished set made by Spalding. It includes an 1, 3, & 5 wood, 3-9 irons, a pitching wedge, and a putter that looks like I stole it from some mini-golf place. The irons have a graphite shaft, which I hear is pretty good. The only thing is that the 7 and the 9 iron are different from the other irons. They are a different model by Spalding that have a steel shaft. I also have one of those things that you use to get your ball out of a lake, which I’ll probably find useful. But the most important part of the set… the bag. All I wanted was a new bag (even if I’m no good, at least I’ll look good).

With this, I start my goal to play all the courses in Chicago. At first glance, their looks to be around 75 courses within the radius. Let’s begin!

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I'm a golf noob. Living in Chicago.
Playing every course in Chicagoland.
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