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playing conditions calculation

The controversial Playing Conditions Calculator has changed – but has it worked?

The maligned part of the World Handicap System was altered in August. Six months on, we asked England Golf if there had been an impact
 

Handicap chiefs at England Golf say changes to the Playing Conditions Calculation are having an impact.

It’s estimated the number of times the controversial metric has been called into action in the country has nearly doubled since the R&A and USGA altered the algorithm last August.

NCG reported how, after months of complaints that it didn’t change often enough, the two governing bodies modified the calculation following a review period.

England Golf had shared more than seven million anonymised scores from across England, Ireland and Wales with R&A and USGA researchers and had concluded it was “far too conservative”.

The PCC looks at whether playing conditions on a day differ from the norm to the extent that an adjustment is needed to compensate and compares scores put in by players against expected patterns at a course.

The subsequent change to the rounding method implemented by the USGA and R&A last summer was expected to increase the number of times an adjustment was made for abnormal conditions by an average of five per cent.

And Mike Greener, England Golf’s handicapping coordinator, said the numbers on the ground – through scorecards being submitted – showed the new calculation was now more flexible.

He also urged golfers to help play their part in ensuring the data they entered was timely and as accurate as possible as the PCC is calculated for each course daily.

“We’re seeing more PCC adjustments and more at the higher level – of an adjustment of plus two or three [on the calculation of score differentials],” he said.

“It was at about five or six per cent of the time that it was kicking in [previously], but it’s now nine or 10 per cent.

“It shouldn’t be utilised as much as the previous CSS but it leads on to another subject that we need the support of golfers with and that’s returning scores – and accurate scores – on the day of play as per their responsibilities.

“For example, if a golfer returns a score but doesn’t play the last three or four holes and they are then recorded as net par, the system will believe that to be the case. But there could have been a howling wind in your face that could have impacted the score.”

England Golf believe they’ll see further impact as the 2023 season gathers pace and more competition and general play scores are submitted through the summer.

James Luke, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, said the governing body had listened to golfers – arguing the comments they’d received, and the data they’d gathered, had helped facilitate the PCC alteration.

“The World Handicap System comes from the R&A and USGA,” he said. “But, ultimately, what we can do is feedback and one of the things that allowed this PCC change was that we listened to golfers and sent millions of pieces of data to the top.

“We’re getting far fewer queries now from clubs.”

He also reminded players, particularly those who have queried windy days at their clubs, that weather factors are already built into the World Handicap System and are measured through the USGA Course Rating System. It’s the average daytime wind speed, during the midseason, which is used in the course rating calculation.

What do you think of the PCC now? Is it more flexible in your experience, or could it move a little more? Let me know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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