Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hole Difficulty Levels in Golf

Even though basic elements of golf, such as par, are centered around expert-level play, the sport has long attracted more casual players in a leisurely atmosphere. As a result, it's fairly common for golfers of different abilities or different genders to wish to play together. Accordingly, golf has various methods of mitigating the advantages of the more skilled players. These methods even extend to differences between male and female players.
Evening the Playing Field: Fundamentals
Since athletic ability ranges as much among individuals of a given gender as it does between genders, there's no perfect means of creating a "fair" competition among a varied group of golfers. To create a situation in which a group of male and female golfers can compete without undue advantage on either side, the U.S. Golf Association uses different formulas to rate course difficulty for men and for women. However, if you have an exceptionally strong female golfer in your party competing against a novice male, a generalized gender-based system isn't sufficient. Therefore, the USGA's handicapping system takes individual skill level into consideration.
Using Par
Par, the number of strokes that an expert golfer would require on a given hole, is a convenient means of assessing a particular hole's difficulty and of measuring one's own progress. The USGA provides additional rulings on par, which offer an even more accurate means of comparing performance between golfers of different sexes. The USGA considers any hole of 400 yards or more to be par 5 for women golfers, even if the course scorecard reads otherwise; for example, a 425-yard hole could well be par 4 for men. If your group unanimously agrees before beginning the game, you could factor the USGA's rule into your scoring.
Using a Handicap Index
In golf, the handicap is a standardized means of allowing golfers of different abilities to play together. To determine your handicap index, you normally have to play at least 20 rounds at a club authorized to calculate the index, taking into consideration the USGA course ratings and slope ratings for the golf course you've played. To equalize male and female golfers' abilities, the USGA formula for handicap index also takes gender into consideration.
Using Course Handicap
Once you've determined your handicap index, it's possible to play any golf course against golfers of any ability level or gender. Since different golf courses present different levels of difficulty, even among individual holes, it's necessary to convert your handicap index, an indication of your overall skill level, to a specific course handicap. Staff at your chosen golf venue will provide a chart which you can use to determine your course handicap before playing, allowing you to determine how many strokes you're permitted for each hole. For example, Bethpage State Park features five courses, each designed for a different skill level. The more challenging courses have higher slope ratings, which translate to higher course handicaps. The higher your course handicap in comparison to your opponents, the more strokes you can take off your score.

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