Monthly Archives: July 2012

Also published on the Golf Monthly website

This is a brief moan about one element of the CONGU handicapping system – the calculation of “home” and “away” CSS scores in Open competitions.

If you’re not aware of it, this is how it works:

In an Open competition, when there are 20 or more home players and 20 or more away players competing, then separate competition standard scratch scores (CSS) will be calculated for both home and away players.

On the surface, this might not seem wholly unreasonable – the home players should know the course a little better, and all that. But, the discrepancies you often see at Open events between the two CSS scores calculated, leads me to think the system is too harsh on the home players.

At last week’s Banchory Open, the conditions were quite difficult – the ground was soft, the wind was swirling and the pins were in some tricky positions. SSS at Banchory is 68 and, in both the morning and afternoon, home players’ CSS was 68. OK, but the CSS for visitors was 71 and then 70. Three shots and then two shots difference? Surely that’s too much.

Now, let me explain how I think this happens and why it’s unfair.

Firstly, how is CSS calculated? This is done by establishing the composition of the field (in terms of handicap categories) and then looking at the percentage of the field that returns a nett score of SSS + 2 shots, or better. The higher the percentage of players who have managed that score, the lower the CSS will be (worked out on a sliding scale.)

Now, in the Open at Banchory the number of home players was just over 30 out of a field of almost 100. Of those 30 players, most competing were on reasonable form – they were unlikely to pay money to enter a competition around their home course unless they felt they had a chance of winning something.

So, it was always likely there would be some decent scores within that small field (for CSS calculation purposes) of 30. And there were. A few guys from Banchory posted excellent scores in both rounds. Now, take those, say, five players as a percentage of the 30 – you’re talking one sixth returning good numbers. This is a high percentage in CSS terms and, so, the CSS calculated was low as a result.

From the remaining 70 visiting golfers, there was nothing like this percentage posting good scores, although there were a number of good performances by away players (it should be pointed out that a number of the “away” players from neighbouring clubs have played Banchory as often as some of the members.) But it’s the percentage that counts, so ‘away’ CSS was high.

At every Open there’s likely to be a small number of local players on good form who will skew the CSS for the relatively small number of home players competing. You could have five home players with blinding scores and 25 with something in the 100s and CSS would still be low. As I said, it’s all about the percentages.

It also doesn’t seem fair that the good scores of the home players have no effect on the CSS for the visiting players, so it stays high. In my opinion, this makes home CSS too low and away CSS too high.

Everybody competing in an Open competition faces the same challenges and the same conditions. The CSS calculation should take every performance into consideration. In this case it would have been 100 scores rather than 30. The good home scores would have had an impact but they would have been factored against 100 returns rather than 30 and so a more reasonable total CSS of, perhaps, 69 would have been calculated for all involved. That would be level par by the way…. Oh yes, that’s what that number at the bottom of the scorecard is.

As a brief note, our secretary agreed with me when I raised an eyebrow at the results board when looking at the massively differing CSS scores. As a comfort, she pointed to the possibility of it working in the opposite direction: That if the home players all had a shocker, their CSS could be higher. This made me feel a little better as I thought it could, theoretically, happen. But actually it can’t. I’ve just checked and seen this clause on CONGU:

2.3 If the CSS calculated for ‘Home’ players is higher than that calculated for ‘Away’ players the CSS calculation should default to a single CSS calculation

Yet again it’s one rule for them and.. so on and so on…


Dear Diary,

It has been a few weeks since my last entry, mostly due to the weather and because last weekend I was playing up at Boat of Garten on a Stag Do.

Firstly, let me start by saying that playing golf whilst being force fed vodka and tonic did not improve my ability to play golf. Boat of Garten is an amazing little course though, tight as they come and extremely tricky in places. I was absolutely delighted with my 30 stableford points if I am honest, I actually hit the ball pretty well throughout the day and really enjoyed it.

Secondly, after Saturday I have come to realise two things. I actually like playing in the rain and I have become a complete bottler! It was always going to happen with my mental strength, I was just hoping I could maintain my ability to close out good rounds for a little longer in my golfing career. Saturday was a classic Jon Symons round, out in 8 over after having a massive ‘head off’ on the 6th green and completely ruining the 9th hole, I sttod on the 11th tee 9 over par. Then something happended that has never happened to me before, I actually started playing consecutive good shots, so good that by the time I got to the 17th tee, I was still 9 over par. Now I only needed to finish 5-4 to break 80 for the first time in my medal playing career.

Things started well with a drive that split the 17th fairway followed by a 6 iron onto the green about 10 feet short of the hole. Now, a birdie on the 17th is a rare thing for me and to get one now would put me back to 8 over par. I got greedy. Fired my putt past the hole and missed the putt back from about 5 foot. A 3 jab! I was not pleased. Still, I now only needed a par 4 up the last for a very respectable score of 10 over and 2 over for the back nine. Once again I got off the tee well, driving back down the 17th for safety and leaving about 150 yards in to the green. Once again, my ego decided to play a shot that my golfing talent could not match, the pin was tucked in front right behind the bunker, I went looking for a birdie when a par was all  needed. Boom, in the sand! I hate the sand! I managed to scramble my ball out the bunker in one and two putted for a net 66. In many ways I was pleased with how I played but could not help feeling that the 2 double bogeys on the front 9 and the bogey-bogey finish could have been avoided. It is coming though.

So, once again I am down another shot and in to the 12s, I am going to amend my yearend target to 11, I would have certainly taken that at the start of the year and if I continue to play like I did for sections of Saturday I should achieve my goal.

Until next week…………………

Official Handicap: 12.9

Season Target: 11.4

Bridgieness Level: 3/10

J Symons

13 Handicapper.

Also published on the Golf Monthly Website

I never fail to be surprised by how much importance I unintentionally attach to my handicap. It unquestionably acts as a barometer for my general happiness and well-being. On the way down it’s: “set fair,” versus, when it’s climbing steadily; “stormy.” When I’m feeling depressed I often struggle to find the cause. I’ll consider work, social life and alcohol intake before I accept that, more often than not, bad golf is at the root of my malaise. If this appears a little shallow, that’s because it is.

I’m thinking about this today because in Saturday’s Medal I shot a 73, nett 70. CSS was 68 so I was up by 0.1 (again.) This put me to 3.5, or four if you like. This is the first time my handicap has been up to four since late in 2005. As a result, I’m feeling horrendous.

It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s just a number that appears after my name on a list in the clubhouse (or on the computer,) and it’s a number that only people who play this blasted game have any interest in. But I can’t help being obsessed by it.

I couldn’t sleep last night as I was working out how various scores in upcoming competitions might affect it. “If I can just shoot a 71 in the Club Championship on Wednesday I should get down by 0.1 and be back to three…. If I could somehow scrape it round in 67, I might get as low as 3.0 … what would I need to get down to two? It would have to be nett 57, so a 61. That’s doable, I’d have to start with a birdie and allow for a possible bogey at the second, then I’d need to go birdie crazy over the last 16.” Oh be quiet, please be quiet. “Yes, yes, in a minute… But, if I could shoot a 67, and then a 66, I’d be down to 2.5 and that would be the perfect spot from which to make a dent in two.” Won’t somebody make him stop?

I know four isn’t exactly a disastrous handicap to play off and many reading this will wonder what I’m whinging about. The thing is: it’s relative. Consider this – in the last four years, I’ve gone up from one to four, that’s a 400% increase. If someone playing off eight, four years ago, suffered a similar % drop in form, they would now be playing off 32.

This week I’m determined to arrest the slide. I’m hoping to get a game later today (if this perpetual rain would just take a few hours off,) and it’s the second, and possibly third, rounds of the Club Championship on Wednesday and Friday.

In years gone by I would have harboured vague hopes of winning our Club Champs. I’ve been second in the past and occasionally manage to post a decent score in it. But this season, my expectations are nowhere near winning. I’d be hugely delighted if I made the cut (the last 16 get through.) That’s a large part of the problem I guess: a total lack of self-belief.

Actually, when I think about it, that’s not fair. I do have self-belief. I totally believe in myself to make a double bogey five at Banchory’s 2nd hole every time I have a card in my hand. I believe in myself to make an utter Horlicks of every delicate pitch shot I face during the course of a round, and, I have complete belief in my own ability to miss every single makeable birdie putt I’m presented with over the course of 18-holes.

OK, so I do have the ability to believe. Just not in the right things. I need to change my outlook quick smart or my mental barometer, just like the real one at the bottom of my stairs, will continue to point towards “much rain.”