I have been asked what is a ‘System 36’ Handicap in golf and how is it applied. This is one day or one event golf handicapping system similar to a Callaway System or a Peoria System. It allows golfers who do not have an official handicap to play and compete in golf tournaments.
The method is popular in the Asia Pacific Region and finds use in corporate outings and charity tournaments when many players do not have an official handicap. It has some limitations but helps resolve the problem of players or organisers ‘guessing’ what a handicap might be and provides an ‘even playing field’. No one can be accused of being a ‘bandit’!
Basically System 36 rewards players who make birdies and penalises players who make triple-bogeys or worse. Everyone’s ‘handicap’ is determined after the round according to System 36 requirements. Players who have an official handicap do not use it that for the day’s competition.
Here’s how System 36 works:
Throughout the round, the golfer accrues points based on the following formula:
o Double bogey or worse 0 points
o Bogey 1 point
o Par or better 2 points
At the end of the round, points earned are tallied. The total is subtracted from 36, and that number is the golfer’s handicap. The Net score or Stableford score can then be calculated using this handicap. A maximum handicap of 36 is allotted using this system
For example, let’s say you play 90 strokes during an 18 hole round. Along the way you have one birdie, seven pars, eight bogeys, and two double-bogeys or worse. First, calculate your accrued points:
8 (pars and birdie) x 2 (points per par or better) = 16
8 (bogeys) x 1 (point per bogey) = 8
2 (doubles or worse) x 0 (points per double) = 0
So your points total is 24. Now subtract this total from 36 = 12. For the day’s competition 12 is your allotted handicap. Now apply this to your gross score: 90 – 12 = 78. In this example 78 is your net score. Alternatively calculate the Stableford points as you normally would for a 12 handicap player.
Can System 36 be manipulated or ‘sandbagged’?
In order to ‘work’ this system you must score birdies consistently and avoid anything more than a double bogey. If you are already at that level, then you probably aren’t going to be playing in a tournament where ‘real’ handicaps aren’t being used.
Playing safe when you cannot score a birdie is one way to maximise a net result. For instance when a birdie may only be achieved by risking a huge water carry, laying up and taking anything less than triple keeps the score neutral.
As you can see in this table, holes with a score of par, bogey or double bogey do not change the net score.
Only holes over double bogey increase a net score; only holes under par reduce a net score.
The person with a combination of the most birdies and the least number of triple bogeys (or worse) will win. These are the most consistent and safe golfers. Better golfers have a small advantage over normally high handicappers as they are more likely to score birdies (or better) than to have ‘blow-out’ holes which ruin the net result.
Of course you could maximise this strategy by really taking advantage of par fives and going for eagles. However someone who can execute this is probably already a scratch golfer or pro who playing in a scratch events. The point is that, yes the system can be manipulated; that is if you’re Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth. The system allows the person who is really playing well on the day to win and that’s the way it should be!
Golfers need only count and record their score for each hole, signing the card together with the player’s partner; the rest is up to the match committee. If you are considering using this system for an event consider the time needed to calculate the results but also make sure you are clear about how the system works. It’s never a good idea to keep players waiting too long after completion.
By: David Watson
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