Mixed and Multi-Tee Events – Handicap Adjustments

Mixed and Multi-Tee Events – Handicap Adjustments

Following the introduction of the WHS it is becoming more prevalent that clubs are allowing mixed competitions and play from different tees, according to a player’s playing ability or designated non-gender tees within the same competition.  One of the intentions of the WHS was to encourage Mixed Tee events, seeing them as the future of golf competitions.

In such cases additional adjustments to playing handicaps are required to make play equitable.

Where players are playing from tees that have been allocated CRs, an adjustment MUST be applied to the handicaps of players playing the course with the higher CR. These adjustments are calculated differently depending on whether the format is Medal Strokeplay or Stableford (and Par/Bogey), 18-hole or 9-hole Competitions.

Many of you, however, are still having concerns as to how and why these adjustments are necessary.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the number of strokes, in Medal Play, or the number of points, in Stableford or Par/Bogey Competitions, that you are required to score to play to your Course Handicap.

A frequent question that is asked is, “When players are competing from different tees, why do we have to make a second adjustment (Handicap Adjustment)?”

Now there are a number of reasons for it, which players are not always aware of. Namely:

  1. When organising Mixed competitions of any type, stroke play or match play, it must be realised that the competition is effectively being held over separate courses as all the tees will each have their own Course Ratings albeit that they may share common fairways and greens.
  2. It is important to remember, that golf handicaps level the playing field when competing from the SAME tees, unless it is a mix-gendered competition. Handicaps in golf, though, do not level the playing field when players play from different sets of tees or from the same tee with different Course Ratings (i.e., men and women’s ratings).
  3. It would be entirely unfair if this difference is not accounted for by making an alteration to the handicaps of the players playing the harder course (that with the higher Course Rating) hence the requirement that handicaps MUST be adjusted.  
  4. Course Rating is, by definition, the score a Scratch player would be expected to return over a particular course. All handicaps are then adjusted relative to players’ performances against that score. It may seem obvious to state (but seems to be a point not appreciated by a good number of players and committees) that for instance the Ladies’ Course Rating is determined against the performance of a Scratch handicap lady player and the Men’s likewise for a Scratch man.

As you will know from the performance of professional golfers in both Europe and the USA, the best ladies cannot return scores that compare with the best men. As there is no compensation allowed in professional golf, ladies and men do not (generally) compete in mixed events for a single prize, or if they did the winner would only be a man. It could be argued that a club running a competition without making the adjustment for any difference in the Course Ratings is introducing a Condition of Competition that is, at best outside the spirit of, and at worst contrary to, Rule of Golf 3.3b (which does not allow a player to declare a handicap higher than that to which they are entitled). The argument being that if an upward adjustment is not applied to the player on the harder course (higher Course Rating) those on the easier course are effectively playing off too high a handicap, contrary to Rule of Golf 3,3b

To provide equity, then, when competitors are playing from 2 or more different sets of tees, adjustments MUST be made to the Playing Handicaps of some players.

NOTE: These adjustments are used solely to determine competition results and do not affect the player’s Scoring Record or Handicap Index calculation.

On another point, following the introduction of the World Handicap System, many players, also, question the adjustment where players are competing from different sets of tees, or men and women are competing from the same set of tees considering the tees have been allocated a Course Rating and a Slope Rating for both genders.

This can be a difficult concept to understand, and I hope that what follows may help you to understand the position better.

So, we need to define what the Slope Rating does, as many players think the different Slope Ratings automatically take care of the difference in the two sets of tees.

This is a myth. The Slope Rating is used to convert your Handicap Index to a Course Handicap, which allows you to receive the number of strokes you need to play to the level of a scratch golfer for a particular set of tees.  In other words, it is the number of strokes you need to play to the Course Rating for that particular set of tees, i.e., what score you need to Play to your Handicap from that particular set of tees.

With Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions it will be the number of points you need to play to your handicap for the particular set of tees you are playing.

As an illustration:                                                                                                               

James and John are playing against each other. They each have a 15.8 Handicap Index.

John plays from the White tees which has a Course Rating of 68.5, a Slope Rating of 121 and Par of 70. If you were to look at a handicap table, you would find that John’s Course Handicap is 17.

James plays from the Yellow tees, which has a Course Rating of 64.6, a Slope Rating of 107 and a Par of 69. James’s Course Handicap is 15.

So, what do they each need to score to ‘play to their handicap’?

To find this number we can use what is called a target score, which is the Course Rating added to their Course Handicap. In our example the target scores would be as follows:

For Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (18 hole)

John’s Target Score = 68.5 + 17 = 86                          

James’ Target Score = 64.6 + 15 = 80

For Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions where point count is used:

John’s Target Point Score = 36 – (68.5 – 70) = 37.5 (Rounded to 38)                        

James’ Target Point Score = 36 – (64.6 – 69) = 40.4 (Rounded to 40)

For Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (18 hole)

If John scores 86 playing exactly to his handicap his Net will be 69.

If James scores 80, again playing to his handicap, his Net will be 65.

James wins every time.

This is because the course rating is 3.9 (rounded to 4) strokes different from the White tees to the Yellow tees. So, if players compete from different tees a second adjustment needs to be made to equalise their handicaps by adding the difference in the Course Rating to John’s handicap or subtracting the difference in Course Ratings to James’s handicap.

In equity they should both end up with the same Net score if they play to their handicaps.

To adjust ‘off the lower rating’ you would give John a Course Handicap of 21 (17+4), which will now produce the following results: Table 16

NameGross ScoreCourse HandicapNet Score
John8621 (17+4)65
James801565

Or adjust using ‘off Higher Course Rating’, and give James a Course Handicap of 11 (15-4), which will now produce the following results:

NameGross ScoreCourse HandicapNet Score
John861765
James801165

For Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions where point count is used (18-holes):

NameStableford PointsPoints to Play to HandicapScore
John383838
James404040

James wins every time

This is because the points required to play to handicap is 1.9 (rounded to 2) points different from the White tees to the Yellow tees. So, if players compete from different tees a second adjustment needs to be made to equalise their handicaps by adding the difference in the Points Required to Play to Handicap to John’s handicap or subtracting the difference in Points Required to Play to Handicap to James’s handicap.

NameStableford PointsAdding Adjustment for Difference in Points to Play to HandicapNet Score
John38+240
James40040

NameStableford PointsSubtracting Adjustment for Difference in Points to Play to HandicapNet Score
John38038
James40-238

Adjustments for 9-Hole Competitions are different because the calculation takes into account (Course Rating – Par), which in GB&I it does not for 18-hole Competitions.

Medal, Gross Score and Maximum Score (9-Holes)

A player competing from a set of tees with a higher Par receives additional strokes equal to the difference in Pars

Stableford and Par/Bogey (9-holes)

No adjustment is required. It is accounted for in the calculation of a 9-hole Course Handicap.

In the illustrations above, we have reached our desired goal, where both players have scored to their Course Handicap and their net scores result in a tie.

In some jurisdictions it is recommended that the adjustment be made to the smaller group of players. Example: A tournament has 48 players; 40 are playing from the harder rated tees and 8 are playing from the easier rated tees. An adjustment is made to the course handicap of the 8 players playing the easier rated tees and no adjustment needs to be made to the larger group of players.

Nowhere in the above example has the word par been mentioned. Players often try to throw par into the mix when trying to figure if scores are equal. Par is of little relevance in the handicap system and is a poor indicator of predicting score. For example, one course may be 5500 yards long and have a par of 72 and another may be 7200 yards long and have a par of 72. It is highly unlikely that scores on these two courses would be equal for any level of golfer.

In the example, we have used both Course Rating and Slope Rating. The point is that Slope Rating by itself has little meaning within the Handicap System. There must be a Course Rating standard to connect to the Slope Rating in order for there to be any meaning. If there is one thing to remember from all of this, it is that the Slope Rating is used to convert your Handicap Index to a Course Handicap for a particular set of tees, which allows you to receive the number of strokes you need to play to the level of a scratch golfer for that particular set of tees.

There is then the question of ‘Which Courses to use?’

WHS states quite clearly that each set of players should play a course for which the Course Rating (CR) has been allocated for them, whenever possible. Normally this will mean that the men play from the Men’s Tees using the Men’s CR and the ladies from the Ladies’ Tees using the Ladies’ CR. Even then a handicap adjustment must be applied if the Ladies’ and Men’s CRs are different.

Which card to use in Mixed Foursomes and Four-Ball formats?

  • In Foursomes competitions from mixed tees, when a single ball is in play, the Committee must specify in the Terms of the Competition which single set of tees will determine the Pars and Stroke Index that are to be used but it is recommended that the Ladies’ Par and Stroke Index is used. This does not then require Ladies to play holes that have a lower Par than would be recommended. It does mean that Men may return somewhat higher scores than against their own Par, however, to do otherwise would militate against Ladies making an appropriate contribution.
  • In Four-Ball formats from mixed tees, where players play their own ball, individual players score using the card and Stroke Index appropriate for the tee they are playing from

How do Handicap Allowances and any other adjustments get applied in an 18-hole mixed/multi-tee event?

  • The WHS facilitates play between golfers of any gender, ability or age, as players can compete for the same prize in a competition playing from any rated set of tees
  • When playing in an 18-hole mixed or multi-tee event, whatever the format of play, the first step is for each player to calculate their own individual Course Handicap
  • Next, the applicable Handicap Allowance for the format of play is applied to the Course Handicap, giving the player their Playing Handicap
  • Next, those players playing from a set of tees with a higher Course Rating add additional strokes to their Playing Handicap – equal to the difference between the Course Rating of the tees they are playing from and the tees being played with the lowest Course Rating
  • In Four-Ball formats, strokes are only allocated after each player has calculated their individual Playing Handicap. Strokes are then taken from the player with the lowest Playing Handicap
  • In Foursomes and Greensomes, any adjustment for the difference in Course Ratings would be half of the combined adjustment for each side

A few further examples and summary.

To make competitions from tees with different Course Ratings fair, an adjustment to players’ Course Handicap must be made. An upward adjustment in handicap for players playing from tees with higher Course Ratings (Option 1) or a decrease in handicap for player playing from tees with lower Course Ratings (Option 2) can be applied.

As a Rule of Thumb, when golfers compete from tees that have different Course Ratings, either add OR subtract strokes…

A Two-player example:

In this two-player competition, Roy plays from the White tees and Tom plays from the Yellow. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, John is playing from the White tees with the higher Course Rating of 71.3, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to John’s Course Handicap of 12.

White Course Rating – Yellow Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
71.3 – 68.7 = 2.6 rounded to 3

ItemRoyTom
TeeWhiteYellow
Handicap Index11.216.7
Slope Rating125116
Course Rating71.368.7
Course Handicap1217
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)+30
Playing Handicap (Option 1)1517
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)0-3
Playing Handicap (Option 2)1214

A Three-player example:

In this three-player competition, Roy plays from the White tees, Tom plays from Yellow and Jane plays from Red tees. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the players playing from the tees with higher Course Ratings. In this case, Jane and John playing from the White and Red tees with the higher Course Rating of 72.7 and 71.3, so you would add the differences in Course Ratings (rounded to nearest whole number) to Jane and John’s Course Handicap of 12 and 17.

Red Course Rating – White Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
72.7 – 71.3 = 1.4 (Rounded to 1)

Red Course Rating – Yellow Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating
72.7 – 68.7 = 4

ItemRoyTomJane
TeeWhiteYellowRed
Handicap Index11.216.721.2
Slope Rating125116126
Course Rating71.368.772.7
Course Handicap121724
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)+10_4
Playing Handicap (Option 1)131728
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)-3-40
Playing Handicap (Option 2)91324

In a Competition situation where you have many players, you can determine what the most efficient route to adjust handicaps would be: adjusting handicaps of player playing from higher Course Ratings or lowering the handicaps of players playing from tees with lower Course Ratings. The effect is the same.

In the above three-player example, if we chose to lower the handicaps of players playing the two sets of tees with the lower Course Ratings (Yellow and Red), then John’s playing handicap would remain at 12, Tom’s would lower to 14 and Dave’s would lower to 15.

A Men and Women competing from same tees with different Course Ratings Example:

In this two-player competition, John plays from the Yellow tees and Jane plays from the Yellow. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, Jane is playing from the Yellow tees with the higher Course Rating of 72.8, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to Jane’s Course Handicap of 18.

Yellow Course Rating for Women – Yellow Course Rating for Men = Difference in Course Rating:


72.8 – 68.7 = 4.1 (Rounded to 4)

ItemJohnJane
TeeYellowYellow
Handicap Index11.216.7
Slope Rating116119
Course Rating68.772.8
Course Handicap1122
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)0+4
Playing Handicap (Option 1)1126
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)-40
Playing Handicap (Option 2)722

If you have a Competition with, say, 100 players and 88 play from the White tees (like John) and 12 play from the Yellow tees (like Tom), it may be less work for a Competition Committee to adjust the 12 players’ handicaps than the 88 playing from the White tees. In such a case, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING say you can adjust the 12 Yellow tee players’ Course Handicaps downward by 3 strokes. The effect being the same.

Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (9 hole)

A player competing from a set of tees with a higher Par receives additional strokes equal to the difference in Pars: 

Playing Handicap  =  [ Course Handicap  X  Handicap Allowance ]  +  Difference in Pars Table 24

TeesMen's TeesMen's ParWomen's TeesWomen's ParWomen's Extra Strokes
Front 9White34Red35+1
Front 9Yellow34Red35+1
Front 9Blue33Red35+2
Back 9White36Red37+1
Back 9Yellow36Red37+1
Back 9Blue36Red37+1

Stableford & Par/Bogey (9 hole)

No adjustment is required. It is accounted for in the calculation of 9-hole Course Handicaps.

To summarise…

If your competition includes two sets of tees or women and men competing from the same tee which has different Course Ratings, either add strokes to the players playing from the higher Course Rating (increase their handicaps) OR subtract strokes from the golfers playing from the lower Course Rating (decrease their handicaps).

If your event includes more than two sets of tees or includes players playing from more than two different Course Ratings, then keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the lowest Course Rating and add strokes, or increase handicaps for players playing from higher Course Ratings. Alternatively, keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the highest Course Rating and subtract strokes, or decrease handicaps for players playing from lower Course Ratings.

This article was intended to explain why Handicap Adjustments are necessary in Mixed Tee Events and provide a few illustrative examples.

It has not been possible to cover all competition formats here, without making the article too long.

However, you can download a document that provides details on all Handicap Calculations by clicking on the download button below.