The rules of handicapping have been (temporarily) modified to help combat the coronavirus

March 22, 2020

As the world battles the spread of coronavirus, some golf courses (ones that are still open) have found smart and unique ways to allow golfers to keep playing while also practicing social distancing.

One of the most effective ways we’ve seen this accomplished is by golf course superintendents modifying the cup—either by flipping it upside down or not putting the cup in all the way, leaving an inch or so showing above the putting surface. In both of these scenarios, if a player hits the hole, they can count their putt as made (without having to dig it out of the bottom of the cup), and a nice bonus is that you no longer have to worry about pesky lip-outs.

But are scores on these holes actually legit when it comes to handicapping purposes? The USGA says yes.

The governing body released a statement on Friday titled “Rules and Handicapping Guidance During COVID-19 Era,” in which it addressed common questions from golfers playing amid these tweaks. While a handy separate page was created with FAQs based off submitted questions (which will be updated periodically), the USGA addressed the most common question, the act of “holing out,” in its main press release.

“From the perspective of the Rules of Handicapping, the most frequent questions received are primarily related to the acceptability of scores for posting to a player’s scoring record,” a section of the statement read. “In particular, relating to modifying the hole and not requiring the player to ‘hole out’ as required under the Rules of Golf. These are founded in a desire to minimize the possibility of exposing golfers to coronavirus and have included leaving the hole liner raised above the putting surface or placing various objects into the hole so the ball can be more easily removed. In these specific cases, provided guidance from health and governmental officials is being followed, a temporary measure is in place within the United States to accept scores played under these conditions for handicap purposes using the most likely score guidelines, even though the player has not holed out.”

The USGA added that this temporary measure will be in effect until the USGA advises otherwise.

You can read the entire statement here, and check out the USGA’s FAQs page — which covers scorecards, bunker rakes, flagsticks and more — while playing golf amid the coronavirus here.

To receive GOLF’s newsletters, subscribe for free here.