September 2023 - The Magic 8 Ball Assistant

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating

Remember that mystical Magic 8 Ball toy we had as kids? You’d ask it a momentous question such as “Does Tommy like me?” or “Is Santa Claus real?” and whisper urgently please, please, please as you turned it over for the reveal. As I recall, my luck wasn’t stellar as the Black Orb of Disappointment usually floated me an answer like “Don’t count on it” or even worse, a cagey “Cannot predict now.”

Well played, Magic 8 Ball. That noncommittal response ensured that instead of hurling it across the room I would return to the well again with more angst-ridden questions.

Reading through a recent stack of handicapping queries from OGA members, I pondered briefly if employing the Magic 8 Ball as an assistant, however antiquated and limited in scope, would be helpful (or at the very least, amusing). You’d ask why your Handicap Index has been capped for the twelfth time this year and I would be able to quip, “Reply hazy; try again.”

At this point you might be wondering why I don’t just join everyone in this century and use Alexa.

We need real answers, not creepy Artificial Intelligence. Besides, if extra snark is required, I’ve got that covered. Hazy replies notwithstanding.

Q: Why isn’t there a “key” or an explanation of what the asterisks mean on my scoring record?

A: What you’re looking for is a little ‘i’ with a circle around it, called an Information Symbol. Click on it and an explanation appears. There are many places throughout the GHIN mobile app and where these helpful tags are evident; Score Types, PCCs, 9-hole scores. However, asterisks next to scores aren’t one of them. Good suggestion, though, and worth kicking up the chain. For now, I’ll stand in: look at those asterisks as Gold Stars. Afterall, they are your lowest Score Differentials, representing your best performances. Average them, and you’ve got your Handicap Index.

Q: Yikes! I posted my son’s scores onto my own record. I’m not sure how it even happened but he’s a better player than I am, so I really need this to be fixed.

A: Just another irony of the Universe when your offspring can humble you at a game you probably taught them to play. Emails belonging to kids under 13 cannot be stored in GHIN records due to COPPA laws, so you were set up as your son’s Guardian. Along with maintaining your own GHIN account, you must log into your son’s record with the same password. You’re not the first parent who has inadvertently posted scores to the wrong record, but you might be the first whose own handicap took a dizzying nose-dive to +3.0.

Q: Somehow, I’m showing a 99 on my GHIN record on 8/15, but I actually played nine and shot 46. What gives?

A: WHS formulas might be enigmatic, but no sorcery was at play here. There was a 9-hole score of 53 pending that you might have forgotten about, and it combined with your 46 for a 99. In the GHIN mobile app and on, a pending 9-hole score is at the top of your scoring record under Stats. This score will pull up a chair and wait patiently for what’s next. Kinda like when you’re observing your father-in-law’s pre-shot routine hoping for closure.

Q: In "the old days" when handicap revisions were twice a month, the Handicap Chair would post a list of every member and their Index. It was a part of peer review. Now we have daily revisions. I know I can do "Golfer Lookup" on the GHIN app, but is there a way to view all members of the club and their current Index?

A: Thank you for bringing up peer review, a crucial component of handicapping, which only operates optimally under the watchful eye of fellow members and the WHS version of Adult Supervision (the Handicap Committee). Other than asking the Committee to print handicap reports on specific dates, there is a way to see all club members’ current Handicap Indexes via Go to Golfer Lookup and My Clubs. This will bring up your club’s roster of active members with their HIs. Tip: Click on a member name to view all details of their latest revision scores. Feel free to inspect closely.

Q: I have only played 9-holes on all of the courses that I have entered. Why do my stats show duplication on an 18-hole format?

A: Several years ago, the Handicap System was streamlined to offer 18-hole Handicap Indexes only. However, flexibility was built in with Rules and calculations to allow for golfers playing and posting 9-holes. The reason you are “seeing double” is that two of your 9-hole rounds (in date order) are combining, as per the current rule, into 18-hole rounds. Need to know what your 9-hole handicap is? Tap on Handicap Calculator in your GHIN mobile app. Pick your Course, then choose “9 Holes.” The magic wizard behind the curtain will take your 18-hole Handicap Index, cut it in half, then convert it to the side of the tees you’re playing for a 9 Hole Course Handicap. Tip: Don’t assume a 9 Hole Course Handicap is exactly half of your 18. You may be playing the harder side and need more strokes. Take ‘em and enjoy.

Q: I need to remove my score on 9/15 because there were a couple of temporary tees and greens; as well, the 14th hole was not open. The yardage was not accurate to the slope/yardage. I didn’t know the rule and hadn’t contacted my playing partners about it prior to posting the score.

A: It’s always fun when I can offer an alternative to “remove my score” that doesn’t include “it’s a no from me.” This will surprise many, but I’m downright delighted to report that the existence of temporary greens / tees and / or holes that are closed altogether doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t post your score. Let’s assume that the cups on the temp greens are regulation sized (thank goodness for small favors – literally). Once we get that confirmation out of the way, the important thing to do is determine the measured difference between the set of tees being played and the rated set of tees, over 18 holes. For differences under 100 yards, no adjustment is necessary, and scores can be submitted as usual. For differences between 100 and 300 yards there is a nifty table in Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping which can be used to determine the adjustments required and issue a temporary Course Rating and Slope Rating. Yep! You can come up with your own temp rating. Please don’t abuse this awesome power.

Q: I realize that I am just establishing my handicap but why in the world is it fluctuating so much? It seems crazy to me.

A: Crazy is a relative term and it might apply to several aspects of the game of golf, not just handicapping. But I digress. What is happening with your new handicap is this: until the player posts 20 scores (full scoring record where the Handicap Index is based on 8 lowest Score Differentials), the system takes only a few scores in the calculation, and will also shave a stroke here and there. If the formulas could talk (heaven forbid) they would say – we don’t really know you very well yet, so we’re going to give you a conservative number until you prove your ability. But they would also say – Don’t worry, everything will even out. Make. More. Tee-times.

Q: A group of members of ours played the same day I did, and we all got PCC (Playing Conditions Calculation) adjustments on our scores. I shouldn’t be punished because they all played poorly. I want my score deleted.

A: Well, that escalated quickly. Trust me when I say that the WHS is not implementing any unfair practice in this scenario, and the following isn’t merely word salad. The PCC is a daily calculation that compares actual scores made at each course to the expected scores of the players who made them. If the composite of scores is significantly higher or lower than what’s expected, an adjustment will be applied automatically to the score differential calculation of those who played that day. You could say it’s tweaking the Course Rating just a bit to compensate. So, it’s not really about your score vs. their scores. How to avoid PCCs in the future? Buy your own golf course and don’t let anyone else play it.

Q: Please delete my score from XYZ “short” course. I didn’t realize that posting a score from a Par 61 course would mess up my handicap.

A: Par, schmar. This course is within the length requirement (currently 1500 yards per nine-holes), and a round played on it is applicable to a Handicap Index. There are many things that can mess up a handicap; one of which is deciding not to post a score that must be. Rules are rules. Besides, at least you didn’t mess up your conscience.