Exceptional Score Reduction (ESR)

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USGA Handicap System (pre-2020):  When a player submits two or more Tournament Scores (T-scores) within a 12-month period that are at least 3.0 strokes better than their Handicap Index®, they are eligible for an automatic Handicap Index reduction.

  • The amount of the reduction is determined by the number of T-scores submitted by a player within the last 12-months, as well as the difference between the Handicap Index and the average of the two best T-score Handicap Differentials.

Rule Change for 2020:  When a player submits a score that produces a Score Differential™ of 7.0 strokes or more below their Handicap Index, they will be subject to an exceptional score reduction (ESR).

  • When the Score Differential is between 7.0 and 9.9 strokes below their current Handicap Index, a -1.0 reduction is applied to the most recent 20 score differentials. When the Score Differential is 10.0 strokes or more below their Handicap Index, a -2.0 reduction is applied to the most recent 20 Score Differentials.
  • Scores submitted after the exceptional score will not contain the -1.0 or -2.0 adjustment (unless they are also exceptional), which will allow reduction to gradually work itself out of a scoring record.

Reasons for Change:

  • To simplify the automatic reduction process.
  • Section 10-3 of “The USGA Handicap System” is nearly five pages long. Exceptional score reduction will be covered in less than one page in the Rules of Handicapping.
  • This new procedure will be straightforward and intuitive. When a player submits an exceptional score, they will receive an automatic adjustment of -1.0 or -2.0.
  • Handicap research shows that players who have shot 7.0 strokes below their Handicap Index are more likely to do so again in the future.
  • Under the old USGA Handicap System, only rounds played in events designated by the Committee as T-scores can lead to an automatic reduction.
  • There has been confusion as to which competitions should receive the T-score designation, and as a result it has been applied inconsistently.
  • By considering all scores in the exceptional score reduction procedure, a player’s Handicap Index will be more responsive to exceptional performances in competitive and recreational play.
  • Since T-scores under the USGA Handicap System are retained for 12-months and compared to the Handicap Index at each revision, it is possible for T-scores that were not exceptional at the time they were made to become exceptional at a later date. This will no longer take place in 2020.