Last Updated: 06/16/10


According to Clapcott's " The History of Handicapping", compiled for the English Golf Union in 1936, "Dr. Laidlaw Purves set out the rules for universal handicapping (1898) which were evolved at Wimbledon. These rules indeed may be regarded as the basis upon which the British Golf Union's Joint Advisory Council has built up their system of uniform handicapping (average of the best three scores over two years of metal scores)." And Issette Pearson was instrumental in developing an early form of uniform course rating; she assigned the first ratings to member clubs of the LGU. Robert Browning, in A History of Golf, says of the LGU, "Their biggest achievement was the gradual establishment of a national system of handicapping… No doubt it was uphill work at the start (1893), but within eight or ten years the LGU had done what the men had signally failed to do--established a system of handicapping that was reasonably reliable from club to club."

Activity in the United States brought about the next step in the U.K. At a USGA Executive Committee meeting on February 8, 1896, Dr. E. C. Rushmore, club champion at Tuxedo Golf Club, appealed to the USGA to appoint an official handicapper. Mr. John Reid, of St. Andrews Golf Club, in Yonkers, New York, disagreed and no action was taken. Leighton Calkins, later president of Plainfield Country Club, in New Jersey, proposed in 1905 to the Metropolitan Golf Association the British system of averaging the best three scores. It was adopted, and he was quickly appointed Handicap Chairman of the MGA. Another prominent golf association of the period, the Massachusetts Golf Association, quickly adopted the formula, but insisted that bogey be the scratch standard; Calkins had argued for a par standard, which was adopted by the Metropolitan Golf Association.

At a meeting on October 11, 1911, at the Baltusrol Golf Club, the USGA adopted a modified form of Calkins' system, the first USGA Handicap System. A year later, the USGA created the first national USGA Handicap list for use at the 324 USGA member clubs, naming those golfers who were eligible to enter the U.S. Amateur Championship, which at the time required a 6 handicap or better. The USGA also accepted Calkins's proposal that par ratings be based on the standard of ability of the U.S. Amateur champion, Jerome Travers. Rating courses according to the "expected" score of the national champion became accepted, and Course Rating was born in America. Calkins was angered, however.

History of Handicapping, Part 2

History of Handicapping, Part 3