Why We Set the Handicapping Season As We Do

We are often asked why we begin our handicapping season on April 15th, and end it on November 15th. There’s one basic and crucial reason: course ratings and their effect on handicaps.

Every Provincial  Golf Association is charged by the RCGA, the authors of the Handicap and Course Rating Systems, to set their own season date parameters. We must decide these dates on how golf courses are rated – based on “normal mid-season conditions”—according to the procedures of the RCGA Course Rating System.

Every golf association adheres to these same rules, and has to do their best to judge how weather patterns affect course conditions in their region of the country. Most often between the dates of November  15 th through the middle of April, courses here do not play to their ratings due to the effect of a variety of weather situations.

Because we live in the Northeast, it’s not possible to maintain mid-season conditions with wet conditions during the spring and fall and extended periods of ice and/or snow during the winter. Regardless, both have the effect of compromising the effective playing length* of the golf course, a primary factor in establishing a Course Rating.

While no date parameter we choose is perfect (no one can accurately predict what Mother Nature is going to do from year to year!) we do the best we can with these dates, and there is no question that this makes us a “seasonal” golf association. We insist that our members have available to them the most accurate, mid-season ratings possible for sake of consistency in handicapping.

Another query I’ve gotten is pretty interesting: “Why don’t we have one rating for the regular season and also a second, winter rating?” This one is easy. There is no provision in the RCGA Handicap and Course Rating Systems that allows for two official ratings.

Again we go back to the fact that courses must be rated only in “normal mid-season” conditions. When the length or playing difficulty changes materially, handicaps are distorted. Since the official rating doesn’t hold up in our winter conditions, no choice is left but to declare an off season where score posting is completely suspended.

Florida and Arizona (and other Sunbelt states) have made the determination that their weather conditions do not adversely affect their course ratings during the winter. So, they are “year-round” – not “seasonal” – golf associations, and rounds played in those regions must be posted to a Handicap Index, no matter where you keep that Handicap Index.

Remember that when it comes to posting scores, the determining factor is where you are playing, not where “home” is. This is an integral rule in the Handicap System, and there is no wiggle room. Members traveling south who do not post scores are subject to penalty scores, or modifications to their Handicap Indexes when they come back to their club in the spring.