Do You Have A Travelling Handicap Index?

During a recent conversation on Twitter with my friends Serge and Andre, we stumbled on a great topic. Actually, Andre is the person who first brought up his desire to lower his traveling handicap and that sparked a thought. I have spent years touting the benefits of creating a handicap index through Golf Canada and supporting your local golf course. I still adamantly support this view, but I wonder how solid my handicap index really is if I record 98% of my rounds on my home course!

I am not much of a traveler for golf. Is not that I cannot travel, I just don’t. Once I buy a membership, I generally stick close to home and play most of my golf there. Last year, I played 12 rounds away from my home course, but none of those were recordable for my handicap index. Eight rounds were in team events and four single rounds were on my new home course that does not register with Golf Canada. Regardless, my handicap index in the chart below shows that most of my rounds were in the 70s and did not change regardless of where I played.

The Grateful Golfer’s Handicap Index for the past two years.

After looking at my scores, any ‘away’ round was a few strokes higher than my index. On average, I shot two or three above what my handicap indicates I should shoot. This difference in score is not unusual because there are factors like being unfamiliar with the course landing areas, greens and sight lines. These and other important factors will always be a challenge when playing and new course. I think that if I played different courses more often, I would be better prepared for the challenges of a new track.

A traveling handicap index is a great term. I varies slightly from what the definition of a handicap index presented by Golf Canada: The Handicap Index is calculated using the lowest 8 of the player’s most recent 20 Score Differentials and updated with each new round played. The Handicap Index travels worldwide with the golfer from course to course (and tee to tee) and is used to calculate a “Course Handicap”. The governing bodies definition means that I can apply my current handicap index to any golf course, but that really does not get into the root intent of Andre’s ‘traveling handicap index’.

Although it would hard to quantify, the intent of a traveling handicap index is to develop a golf game that can is applicable to different courses. Our game is honed enough to quickly adapt to different courses and still shoot our handicap 8 times out of 20. This concept might sound easy, but really I think it is much tougher than we think. Players like myself would be hard pressed to take our home course handicap and play tougher courses without having to grind out a score. Creating a traveling handicap index would be a true test of our golfing abilitites.

I am going to give this topic more thought. I think it has merit and is worth further discussion. In the meantime, what do you think? Is a traveling handicap index versus and home course handicap index make that big of a distinction?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


6 thoughts on “Do You Have A Travelling Handicap Index?

  1. It is very common and understandable that your differentials will be at least slightly higher when playing away games from your home course. On your home course, you have worked out course management which comes with regular play. Anyone that has a membership and plays a majority of their rounds at one course will usually have that pattern.

    I play a lot of golf courses in addition to my home course on an annual basis and the more familiarity I have with a course, the closer the index differentials are to those of my home course. This works with both of my Golf Canada handicaps (modern and hickory) as I am part of a pilot.

    My observation is that most players are too obsessed with the handicap index and read too much into it. It is not totally objective at many levels and at best it is a rough indication of your scoring ability, nothing more. The fact that you only use a sampling (8 of the last 20), adjust for equitable stroke control, and so on influence your index. The history of handicapping is and continues to be an interesting exercise. Don’t get hung up on the number.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      Sage advice for sure. Our handicap is a just a snap shot in time for how we really play each round. I generally do not worry about my handicap, like to use it when I happen to play different courses to indicate my target score. I like to have a plan before teeing it up and the handicap is a basic place to start.

      Cheers Jim


  2. Jim, good topic. I think we don’t need traveling handicaps because you should already have an index and a course handicap based on the average slope of 113 which you could use to adjust for handicap on an away track.

    I suspect you are thinking of an additional adjustment because it’s an away round and you aren’t familiar with the course? If that’s the case, it’s probably too complicated to calculate a traveling handicap because many folks play varying percentages of rounds away from their home track which is already taken into account in their index. Just use the course handicap adjustment.

    I am traveling to Myrtle in two weeks with 20 guys and we are playing at 80% of our index. Imagine if we tried to adjust everyone’s index for the amount of away or home rounds we played. Impossible without some complex computer work since all our indexes are calculated from different tracks and we have different home/away breakdowns. Probably best to use the one number, negotiate your bets on the first tee, and go play. 🙂



    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian,

      I see your point. I think you are right that the challenge I have is my game may not be equal to my handicap on away courses. Playing the same course most of the time has its benefits and pitfalls. But that is golf. Enjoy your trip to Myrtle Beach. I look forward to hearing about it.

      Cheers Jim


  3. Since I use a google docs spreadsheet I found and added to, I track my handicap 3 ways. The all inclusive one shows 4.3 right now. The only away games shows 10.7. It’s a bit higher than it should be because the last 3 rounds were with a new driver for one, and there are only 15 rounds entered on that sheet for another. I’m hoping the next round or two will help me get it back under 10 where it was before my old driver broke.

    Only the 10.7 is truly accurate. My home course doesn’t have a slope or rating and the card is wrong even on par on one hole so I set par for the course up two ways. The 4.3 handicap I mentioned is calculating the course like the executive course it is. And I have a 5.9 if I drop par from 64 to 57 and count a lot of the short par 4 as par 3’s.

    So I’m tracking 3 ways. But as I said only the away is truly accurate since those courses all have slope and ratings. That said, that 4.3 is going to be very, very close. I did my homework before choosing how to decide slope and rating both ways I track it.

    The spreadsheet can also tell me how many strokes I get on a course by it’s rating and my current handicap. And it can do 2 man scramble course handicap calculations too. So it’s handy for little tournaments between friends.

    As for customizations that I did. Mostly just to make things a little more user friendly. I added a sheet to list all the courses and the slope and ratings for each tee box so when you go to add a score, you just start typing the course name and a drop down lets you make the choice and fills in the appropriate data in the right places for you. You just have to add your score and your adjusted score and your new handicap is auto calculated as well as updating other sheets in the doc. So I can add a round in all three pages in less than a minute and keep everything up to date. It’s not sanctioned, but I don’t care. It’s accurate enough for my purposes and absolutely accurate for the courses with proper slopes and ratings as long as I enter things honestly.

    And it’s free by the way. Not sure I mentioned that. I made a copy directly into google docs from a link the author provided. If your have an interest in it, let me know. I can make a clean copy available so you can copy it to your account and use it too. Fair warning though, I’ve got scores color coded and the handicap too, so if you want to see green highlights instead of red or yellow, you better score well. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      Sounds like you have everything under control wrt your handicap. Golf Canada offers analytics as well and I have not used it much in the past. I appreciate the offer, but for now I am good. I found in the past that I was overwhelmed by stats and not try to keep things as simple as possible.

      Cheers Jim


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