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New Golf Handicap Anchor Change for May 2013

Golf AustraliaTHE latest change to the Australian golf handicap system has been announced with a tweaking of the anchoring system.

Golf Australia says the anchor will increase from four stokes to five strokes in time for winter to essentially address seasonal variation issues.

The anchor was introduced – as part of a raft of changes – to automatically prevent a player’s handicap from increasing by any more than 4 strokes (to now be 5 from 14 May 2013) beyond their best handicap from the previous 12-month rolling period.

The Anchor eliminated the capacity for extreme outward movements of handicaps within short spaces of time. As a result, a sustained loss of form does not cause a player’s GA Handicap to move too far from a level which is consistent with their underlying ability. The Anchor also makes the handicap system less susceptible to manipulation.

In a letter to golf clubs, GA Chairman John Hopkins said Golf Link would be taken off line from 10.00pm AEST on Monday 13 May until 5.00am AEST on Tuesday 14 May to introduce the changes to the automated system.

An Appendix to the letter makes interesting reading about the current position with the handicap changes and some of the reasoning behind recent decisions. It notes the introduction of the Daily Scratch Rating system in September will be an important element in dealing with seasonal variations and other issues.

It states:

Summary of Review of the Anchor Regulation -Objective of Anchor Regulation

The Review firstly re-assessed the primary problem that the Anchor regulation was designed to solve when it was introduced in 2011. Following careful consideration, the Review concluded that continued inclusion in the handicap system of protection against this problem remains imperative. The problem can be summarised as follows:

• One of the gaps identified in the 20-round averaging system that was introduced into Australia in April 2010 was that handicaps were very susceptible to rapid extreme outward movement due to runs of bad form. Essentially a player would be given an entirely new handicap every 20 rounds as there was nothing to tie a handicap to previous performance or underlying ability.

• This was not considered to be solely a high-marker issue. There were many reports of for example 5 or 6 markers sliding out to handicaps of 12-13 in very short spaces of time and then being embarrassed to return to form and record scores where they were playing to a handicap of 3 or 4 which resulted in Stableford scores of approximately 45 points.

• There was never really a concern with golfers who played infrequently – it was the extreme movement in short spaces of time of handicaps of frequent players that was causing much concern in clubs.

• Note: Although the primary calculation performed by the handicap system in order to determine a handicap is to average a player’s current form, the basic premise of any handicap system is that a handicap should be reflective of the player’s underlying ability. That underlying ability is reflected by their better performances. Although any player may lose form, it is not considered to be in the interests of equity for a handicap to increase substantially due to such a loss of form.

Statistical Analysis

As with all new GA regulations, GA has continued to closely monitor the Anchor. A recent statistical analysis demonstrated the following key findings:

• Under our current handicap system, handicaps in Australia are notably seasonal. On average, they increase in winter and then decrease in summer. In general this is caused not by a change in player ability but instead by changed weather impacting on course difficulty. (Note: The degree of seasonality does vary from club to club and from state to state (ie Queensland winters are considerably different to Tasmanian and Victorian winters).)

• When handicaps become seasonal, inequity is introduced when players travel from one region to play in a region with different weather patterns. This is because the players with seasonally increased handicaps gain an unfair advantage.

• The number of Anchored players is also highly seasonal. Mostly less than 5% of Australian golfers in summer compared to 10-15+% at times in winter.

• Why is the Anchor seasonal? Well, if for example a player’s handicap seasonally increases by 1 stroke in winter, the remaining number of strokes of outward movement permitted under the current regulation is reduced to only 3. So a golfer is more likely to be Anchored in winter.

• The implementation of the remaining components of the complete new GA Handicap System in late 2013 will significantly improve the efficiency of the Anchor. These remaining components will fill the gaps we currently have in our handicap system.

• DSR (Daily Scratch Rating – this is our new daily rating system) will have the dominant impact in this regard. Slope will also have an impact.

• Why will DSR have an impact? Because DSR will enable each day’s course rating to reflect the actual difficulty of the day. The statistical analysis demonstrates that this will largely eliminate the seasonal movement of handicaps. This is because the distortionary impact of seasonally low or seasonally high course ratings will be eliminated.

Conclusion

Being mindful that the GA Handicap System does not contain DSR just yet, GA believes that as we head into winter, the increase of the Anchor from 4 strokes to 5 strokes will result in a more desirable proportion of golfers across Australia being Anchored than would otherwise occur. GA also believes that a 1-stroke increase in the Anchor will not compromise the primary objective of this important regulation. (Note: In accordance with standard practice across all components of the GA Handicap System, GA will continue to monitor the efficiency of the Anchor in the short and mid-term.)

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About Brian O'Hare

Brian is the editor and founder of ASG. He is a former Sydney journalist and is now an avid "senior" golfer. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

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