Palm Springs/Desert Cities Chapter
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    20 Most Important Changes to the Rules of Golf - Effective January 1, 2019
    What is a Handicap Index?
    10 Reasons Why Having a Golf Handicap is Important

20 Most Important Changes to Rules of Golf - Effective January 1, 2019

This is an expanded list of the 20 most important changes to the rules of golf that you need to know.  For more information about these rule changes, please go to     

  1. Search time - reduced from 5 to 3 minutes
  2. Ball moving during search - replace (no penalty) 
  3. Embedded ball - free relief from anywhere
  4. Measuring a drop - use longest club (except a putter)
  5. Dropping - knee height rather than shoulder
  6. Taking stance on wrong green not permitted
  7. Ball hits player or equipment - no penalty
  8. Double hit - counts as one stroke
  9. Touching sand in bunker incidentally is permitted
  10. Loose impediments can be removed anywhere
  11. Drop a ball out of a bunker - 2 penalty strokes
  12. Water hazards now penalty areas
  13. Touching ground in water / penalty areas acceptable
  14. Ball moves on green after being marked - put back without penalty
  15. Ball accidentally moved on putting green - replace (no penalty)
  16. Can repair all damage on green
  17. Positioning a club for alignment not permitted
  18. Caddie assisting with alignment not permitted
  19. Ball hitting a flagstick on putting green allowed
  20. Ball wedged against side of hole and flagstick deemed as holed 

What is a Handicap Index?

"What's your handicap?"  Simply put, a golf handicap is a number that tells you how many strokes over par, on average, you usually play. Handicaps allow players of varying ability to compete fairly against one another, whether in a casual golf outing or in a competition. A handicap can also help a player track their improvement over time.

How is a handicap determined? Prior to answering that question, it's important to become familiar with a few terms. If it sounds too complex right now, just know that after you establish your handicap and become familiar with the terms, it will all start to make sense. The USGA formula for calculating a Handicap Index (Index or HI) takes into account not only your score, but the Course Rating and Slope Rating for the tees you play. 

Some of you may be saying, “Whoa, too many confusing terms!” Let's take a minute to clearly define and understand some of them. The Course Rating represents the playing difficulty of a course for an expert or “scratch” golfer (a person with a zero handicap). In other words, it's the score you would expect an expert golfer to score for that course. Each set of tees has its own Course Rating - the more difficult the course for a scratch golfer, the higher the rating. The Course Rating is always expressed as a two digit number taken to one decimal place: for example, 71.5. 

Since most of us are not scratch golfers, a Slope Rating is used to represent the relative playing difficulty of a course for a non-scratch golfer compared to a scratch golfer. The higher the Slope Rating the greater the gap in expected scores between the scratch golfer and the higher handicapped player. Each set of tees has its own Slope Rating that is always expressed as a 3-digit number like 120. The average Slope for all courses is 113. You will often find both the Course Rating and the Slope Rating listed on the scorecard for the tees you are playing. 

Your Index is calculated using only the 10 best of the 20 most recent scores posted and is expressed as a 2-digit number taken to one decimal place: for example, 26.5. You can interpret this number to mean that when you are playing your best, you score about 26-27 strokes over par. 

“But why use only my 10 best out of my most recent 20?” you might ask. A Handicap Index is designed to be an indication of your playing potential rather than a reflection of how you play on average. This approach provides a built in incentive to improve. You might expect that you will always play to your handicap, but that is actually unlikely. You will generally only be able to score to your Index about 20% of the time, about 1 in 4-5 times. On average, your scores will be about three stokes higher than your Index.

We have now covered the basics of, “What is a Handicap Index?”  If it feels a little technical, don’t worry.  Simply play, post and have fun!  You’ll learn more with time and experience.

If you have any questions about establishing or using a handicap, e-mail Elise King at

10 Reasons Why Having a Golf Handicap is Important

More and more golfers realize why having a Handicap Index is important.  Do you know why?  Here are 10 reasons.

  1.  Because every golfer deserves to know her potential in golf.

    One thing is to believe that you are good or even great at golf, and another is to have a trustable measure, like your golf handicap that confirms how good you are.  And for everyone in golf.

  2. To make the game even more fun!

    Enabling players of different levels to compete on an equitable basis is the common response.  But most importantly, to earn the right to brag about your handicap will even the terrain among players.

  3. Because high scores are forgotten!

    It’s not like your Credit Score where a missed payment will stay with you forever.  The USGA golf handicap formula only considers 10 of the last 20 rounds.  So it’s an excuse to play more.

  4.  To show how a player’s performance improves/deteriorates in time.

    The game of golf has so many variables that make it impossible for a player to follow up with her progress.  Different course, different weather, different groups, etc.  At the end of the day, only your golf handicap will know if you are improving over time.

  5. Because every golf course is different!

    The Course Handicap is the Golfer’s index adjusted to the course difficulty, so goodbye to your partner’s excuses about blaming her performance on the course she plays.  The gold handicap will take that soft measure out of the discussion.

  6. Because any golfer is driven by pride!

    We’re sure you have enough of your friends talking about how fast they ran their last marathon or how great they are at tennis, etc.  If you have a golf handicap, you have something to show off too.

  7. Because everyone in golf likes to bet!

    With your golf handicap, you can win bets while preserving friendships even if it’s only a  dollar per round.  A handicap takes abstract matters out of the discussion for competitive players or get the right number of strokes and beat your friend on equal condition.

  8. So you can have an answer to that question:  What is your handicap?

    You know the first question anyone asks when you are a golfer is :  What’s your handicap?  Be prepared to open the discussion and show your pride, or maybe not depending on your performance.

  9. Because it is required at tournaments

    You know that to participate in golf tournament you need to have a golf handicap, so you better start keeping your handicap updated.

  10. Because you can participate in the PS/DC chapter’s Handicap Challenge!

Believe it or not, it is easier for a new golfer or a higher handicap player to improve her golf handicap than it is for a low handicap player since you have more areas to improve upon.