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The Peoria System

What happens if you play with a group of golfers who don't have handicaps?

But then, if everyone would like to play a match that same day, each golfer will need to approximate a handicap 'on the fly.' One method that attempts to accomplish this is The Peoria System. The Peoria System uses scores from that day's round to gauge a golfer's potential. To calculate a Peoria handicap, an impartial observer select selects six holes - a par 3, 4, and 5 from each nine. On each hole, the amount over/under par (with a maximum of a double bogey) is summed, and the total is multiplied by three. This number acts as the golfer's Peoria handicap.

In the example below, we calculate the Peoria handicap for three golfers. At the beginning of the match, holes 3, 4, 5 and 16, 17, 18 are selected for the calculation.

Peoria System

While each player shot five over par on the six selected holes, Steve had two triple bogeys that only counted as two strokes (again, the maximum is two strokes per hole to be used in the calculation). Multiplying the totals by three gives each player their handicaps (15, 15, & 9). These handicaps can then be used as proxies for any match that was played.

We heard of a group of ten friends who hold a reunion every year in Las Vegas. During their trip they play a round of golf every day. Because most of the players do not play enough to keep a handicap, on the first day the group uses the Peoria system to approximate handicaps for the non-handicap players. That handicap is then used for the matches during the rest of the week. In addition, each following day they adjust the Peoria handicaps again using that day's scores.
Ensuring Fairness
The most important thing to ensure when using the Peoria system is that the holes are chosen impartially and without prior knowledge by the players. Choosing holes to benefit one player over another removes the fairness from the system. Similarly, players who know which holes will be used to calculate their handicap may throw those holes away (especially in match play). If you trust your fellow players, then you shouldn't be concerned. But, if you'd like to ensure fairness, one of the easiest ways is to draw numbers out of a hat after the round. The first par 3, 4, & 5 on each nine pulled out of the hat are the holes to be used.
The Peoria system is a good quick and dirty way to approximate handicaps for golfers. But remember that the Peoria System will never be as accurate a measure as the traditional handicap calculation and it should only be used as a last resort.

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