Handicapping Help: Understanding the T-Score and how it has changed

Article contributed by Tom Johnson, CGA Director of Handicapping


The USGA first added Section 10-3, which deals with the reduction of handicap index based on exceptional tournament scores, to the USGA Handicap Manual in 1991.   This procedure was added to automatically reduce the USGA Handicap Index for any player who returned two or more exceptional tournament scores in a 12-month period.  The purpose for this procedure was to ensure fairness and make sure that players who performed exceptionally in a tournament atmosphere saw those results reflected in their Handicap Index, even if the scores they posted on a regular basis were higher.

The USGA conducted a study of more than 7.5 million scores to prepare for the 2016 version of the USGA Handicap Manual in order to refine and improve the USGA handicap system going forward.  One of the most obvious findings of this study was the need to clarify the definition of a tournament score.   The USGA found that designating too many competition rounds as Tournament Scores dilutes the table value in the Handicap Reduction Table for exceptional tournament performance; therefore the procedure was not performing the way it was originally intended because too many scores were being posted as tournament scores.

The USGA wants to make sure the Committee is cautious when determining whether an event is designated as a tournament score so that the integrity of the handicap system is maintained.   The Committee should only designate significant events as tournament scores, such as the club championship or member-guest.  (Tournament scores must be 18-hole stipulated rounds, so many member-guest events do not qualify as tournament scores.)

We are frequently asked about traditional tournament score designations for events such as interclub matches, league play and fundraising events.   These types of events MUST NOT be designated as tournament scores under the new USGA guidelines.  The 2016 tournament score definition now provides the Committee a flow chart to help determine which events should be designated as tournament scores (see below).


You can learn more about rules related to tournament scores in the USGA Handicap Manual by clicking here.

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