Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

We hope that your day is filled with fun and candy!

In light of this fun-filled holiday, we have prepared a little treat for you!

Just to warn you, our treat may not be chocolate-coated or bite-sized but it is sure to come packed full of rich history!

There is nothing sweeter than knowledge!

This Halloween we are going to unpack the history of Handicapping. This “unpacking,” if you will, is going to be a three-part series. Today we will begin the series by learning about the origin of the term “handicap.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States Golf Association’s Handicap System

Golf is the only sport in which elite athletes can compete fairly against players with less talent while both are giving maximum effort. Everyone plays by the same rules. This level playing field is made possible due to the United States Golf Association Handicapping System.

The Handicap System takes into account each players skill level as well as the difficulty of the golf course to properly apportion handicap strokes. It is a system that is entirely dependent on both the integrity of the players in posting scores and the peer review of those scores within the setting of a licensed golf club.

While many of us are familiar with the breakdown of the handicap system, what many of us don’t know is how the term “handicap” entered the golf lexicon in the first place?

Where did the term “handicap” come from anyway?

The term “handicap” was not regarded an official word in the golf lexicon until the 1870s, according to the USGA. The term first originated from a trading game that was popular in pubs in the 17th and 18th centuries but was known as “hand in caps.”

The game would require two players and one referee. Each player was required to have an item to trade with one another, and it was the referee’s responsibility to determine the value of each gift and assess the difference in value.

The players would place money into a pot, and then put their hands into a cap. When they pulled their hands out, an open palm would signal an acceptance of the trade, while a fist indicated rejection. If both players agreed of the trade then the referee would receive the pot.

However, if the players (traders) disagreed then the player accepting the deal received the pot. The key of the game was for the referee to assign the difference in value equally, because he would directly benefit only if both sides agreed. If the referee was not fair then he would lose.

Therefore, “Hand in cap” became known as “handicap” and transferred to other associations with betting –first in horse racing and then followed by golf.

For more information check out the USGA: History of Handicapping Site!

By: Cassandra Gonzales

USGA-WSCGA Intern

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