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Celebrity Handicaps

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Greetings Golfers,

A few weeks ago, GOLF DIGEST magazine had an article about celebrities’ USGA handicaps. These celebrities are a combination of actors, athletes, and musicians. I thought it was an interesting article – a person’s golf handicap can add some insight into who they are.

But what really hit me, was how much lower the handicaps were than their normal scores. I’m not saying that these people have phony handicaps to look good … I’m saying that the way the system works is that it’s rare to play to your handicap – or even to play NEAR your handicap.

Here are some examples from the article. Each of these celebrities had 20 scores on their card and their corresponding USGA handicap. I’m going to go from best to worst. John Smoltz leads us off with a plus 1.7 handicap – that means he ADDS shots to his score!

John Smoltz          +1.7    12 scores over 78 out of 20 scores
Steph Curry            0.2     9 scores over 77 out of 20 scores
Michael Jordan     1.9     10 scores over 80 out of 20 scores
Jake Owen             2.8     11 scores over 79 out of 20 scores
Kenny G                  3.5     12 scores over 80 out of 20 scores
Steve Kerr               4.5     10 scores over 84 out of 20 scores
Samuel Jackson     6.9     10 scores over 84 out of 20 scores
Wayne Gretzky       8.5     13 scores over 86 out of 20 scores
Tom Brady               9.2    11 scores over 87 out of 20 scores
Mark Wahlberg     13.0    15 scores over 90 out of 20 scores
Dennis Haysbert   13.4    14 scores over 90 out of 20 scores
Ray Romano          16.2    13 scores over 97 out of 20 scores

I found this shocking. You hear that someone is a plus handicap and you expect them to break par, not to probably shoot over 78 like John Smoltz. Or that a 3.5 handicap player like Kenny G is probably not going to break 80? How about a 4.5 like Steve Kerr probably going to shoot over 84? Or a single digit (8.5) player like Wayne Gretzky normally shooting in the high 80s? And then a 16.2 like Ray Romano not likely to break 100?

What’s going on? Do you want these guys as your partner in a match?

Why can’t the USGA handicap system just average the scores?

I realize that the USGA is doing everything to make handicaps fair and equitable – but am I the only one who thinks these handicaps are misleading? And it seems to me that misleading handicaps lead to manipulation.

How would like your USGA Handicap card with your last 20 scores and handicap printed in a national magazine?


Tom Abts
GM and Head Golf Professional