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WHS explained: Can we play from different tees in the same competition?

Mixed tournaments? Golfers playing from different tees in the same event? Let’s show you how it’s done in the World Handicap System
 

Anyone else find playing off the back tees every time they go out competitively a bit of a bore? Maybe it’s just me.

There are others who enjoy nothing more than taking on a course at its most difficult when a card is on the line.

But does that mean they can’t play in the same events, or does the World Handicap System allow them to go from different tees and still play in the same competition?

What happens in mixed events, and how are our Playing Handicaps worked out to make it as equal as possible for everyone? Let’s take a look…

World Handicap System explained: Can we play from different tees in the same competition?

Yes, you can. If you’ve ever competed in a mixed event, with men off one set of tees and women another, you’ll know it’s possible.

But it’s also the case that men can play in the same competition and still play from different tee boxes.

So if you fancied the whites, for the sake of argument, and I wanted to play from further forward then the World Handicap System allows it – if your club’s terms of competition do too.

What happens to our handicaps? We’re going to look at it in two ways – a straightforward version and then getting into some more detail, as it’s shown in the Rules of Handicapping, for those who like to use their calculators.

Explaining multi-tee and mixed events

England Golf have produced a short explainer which really should be your first call for getting stuck into mixed and multi-tee events in a straightforward manner.

But here is their advice, on how handicap allowances and other adjustments are applied in an 18-hole event, in a nutshell:

– Each player works out their own individual course handicap

– Apply whatever handicap allowance is needed for the format of play to arrive at the Playing Handicap

– Golfers playing from a set of a tees with a higher course rating add shots 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”

– For fourball formats: You only allocate the strokes after each player has worked out their own Playing Handicap. The “strokes are then taken from the player with the lowest Playing Handicap”. In fourballs that are played from mixed tees, each player uses the card and stroke index “appropriate for the tee they are playing from”.

– For foursomes: “Any adjustment for the difference in Course Ratings would be half of the combined adjustment for each side”. In foursomes competitions that take place from mixed tees, committees need to state in their Terms of Competition which “single set of tees will determine the Pars and Stroke Index that are to be used”.

What the Rules of Handicapping say

Let’s now turn to the Rules of Handicapping and Rule 6.2, which covers the Playing Handicap Calculation. Specifically, we’re going to look at Rule 6.2b: Calculation When Multiple Tees with Different Pars are Used in a Competition.

It says that when a competition is played from two or more sets of tees – whether that is mixed gender or for those of different abilities – and depending on the format of play “and any difference in course ratings between tees” then extra strokes might need to be added to a Playing Handicap “for equity purposes”.

The Rule breaks it all down into stroke play, match play and Stableford – among others – so let’s consider them in turn.

Stroke play and match play formats – with results recorded as either gross or net scores

For 18-hole rounds: A player who competes from a set of tees with a higher course rating receives extra strokes for the round, and that’s “equal to the difference between the course rating of the tees they are playing and the tees with the lowest course rating”.

Those strokes are added to a Playing Handicap, and the Rule shows that in a formula which is: Playing Handicap = (course allowance x handicap allowances ) + difference in course ratings.

The rule also offers an alternative, which states that when most of the field are playing from the tees that have the highest course rating, those who are playing from the tees with the lower course rating can be allocated fewer strokes for the round – “equal to the difference between the course ratings”.

For 9-hole rounds: There’s a change here. This time, it’s the player competing from tees with a “higher par” that must receive the extra strokes and that’s “equal to the difference between the par of the tees they are playing and the tees with the lowest par”. Again, the alternative outlined above can apply here to the par.

Stablefords

18-hole rounds: This is done by working out the number of points that are required for all players to “play to handicap”. And it needs to be calculated out from each “applicable” set of tees.

Rule 6.2b (ii) that reveals that “those players requiring the highest number of points to ‘play to handicap’ receive no additional strokes to the standard calculation of their ‘playing handicap’.

“All players playing from a set of tees requiring a lower number of points to ‘play to handicap’ will receive additional strokes to their Playing Handicap equal to the difference between the number of points they require to ‘play to handicap’ and the highest number of points required by other players.”

So, this time, the strokes are added in this way: Playing handicap = (course handicap x handicap allowance) + difference in number of points required to ‘play to handicap’ (highest to lowest).

Listen, I didn’t say it wasn’t complicated. Luckily, your club’s World Handicap System software will likely do all these calculations before you get your card in your hands.

9-hole rounds: Remember that we’re comparing the total number of points for the round up against those of every other player, so in this case, Rule 6.2b (iii) reveals that “no additional strokes are applied to the standard calculation of the Playing Handicap when the par is different between tees”.

Need more information on the World Handicap System?

Visit our dedicated WHS page where you will find everything you need to know and details of how to contact us if you have any more questions.

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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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