2024: The Year Of The Short Course - MASSGOLF

World Handicap System Update Will Allow For Score Posting At Your Local Short Course

By Steve Derderian

Par-3 and short courses are often a great equalizer. I, like many, learned the fundamentals — and had my first chip-in — at the old 9-hole, par-3 Stonybrook Golf Course in Southborough, and I would give anything for one more chance to play it for old-time’s sake. For such courses that exist today, they have become a refuge for an expedited round before or after work and a place where the chasm in skill is often reduced among playing groups. After all, most golfers — including yours truly — count their lucky stars when they’re on the green in regulation, and at these courses, it’s attainable on almost every hole.

While their sustainability had been in flux in the new century, short and par-3 courses are thriving now more than ever, particularly at marquee destinations like The Cradle at Pinehurst and the new Shorty’s at Bandon Dunes.

Despite their value in improving one’s game — after all most golf shots are played inside of 100 yards — many courses have been kept in a separate category for their entire existence, as scores recorded there were not eligible to count toward a Handicap Index®. What’s more, they were an afterthought in an era where courses kept pushing the limits of distance.

Starting in 2024, that’s no longer the case, as the World Handicap System™ now includes courses with a minimum of 750 yards for nine holes and 1,500 yards for 18 holes, into the fold of acceptable rounds for handicap purposes. As a result, more than 600 additional golf courses (mostly par-3 courses) now qualify for a Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™ if desired.

This update is being embraced by longstanding par-3 courses like Holly Ridge Golf Club in Sandwich, the 78-acre course that is a short drive from the bridges spanning the Cape Cod Canal. The decision is long overdue according to co-owners Joe O’Connor and Jennifer Webster O’Connor, who said rounds of golf at Holly Ridge are up 50% since the post-pandemic golf boom.

We’re excited about it because it gives us another benefit to offer our customer base,” Joe O’Connor said. “The majority of our golfers don’t play any place else. But many golfers take their game on the road, and oftentimes determining a handicap can make it difficult. This will give them the opportunity to get a handicap and travel with it. This decision is a good thing for golf on all levels.” 

The 11th at Holly Ridge plays from an elevated tee to a green severely sloped from back to front left with a bunker on the right front. (Contributed)

Cyprian Keyes in Boylston, just north of Worcester, was ahead of the game when it opened its 9-hole, par-3 course as part of the facility’s original design by Mark Mungeam in 1997. With holes ranging from 85-165 yards, the course has largely been enjoyed by beginners and families, but now regular and hardcore golfers are filling up the tee sheets as well.

“With the trends in golf, where people are enjoying the game more socially, we’re seeing a bigger mix of players,” said Dave Frem, general manager of Cyprian Keyes. “Having it this whole time helps us make an impression of this being a fun place to play. Being able to have it rated is another bonus to make sure it stays successful.”

The Links at Mass Golf in Norton is among the list of par-3 courses that are part of the Youth on Course program, which provides $5 rounds for registered youth golfers ages 6-18 at any participating course throughout the Bay State and across the country. For the $20 annual membership fee, members also receive a Handicap Index, which can now be updated through playing par-3 courses like The Links.

Not only will this handicap update help juniors learning the game, but those who play the majority of their golf at shorter courses.

“As the USGA continues to evolve for the betterment of the game, this is a wonderful opportunity for all golfers that play mostly at a par-3 golf course,” said Drew Chapman, head golf professional at The Links at Mass Golf. “Now, if they want to compete with one another socially or in tournament play, or just play a different golf course, they can do so on a level playing field.”

The Links at Mass Golf is bustling throughout the year, and soon golfers will be able to post their scores from rounds played there. (Mass Golf)

While excitement is building for the new season, especially with this new change in place, there is still work to be done to implement this change. Many courses, such as The Links, will still need to obtain Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™ values before scores can be posted on the GHIN Mobile App or other score posting services. 

Active Score Posting season in Massachusetts begins April 1, so be sure to check the GHIN Mobile App or contact the club you plan to play if you anticipate posting your score. After all, we want that ace (or two), or those elusive birdies to count as much as possible. 

About Mass Golf

Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport.

With a community made up of over 120,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.

At the forefront of junior development, Mass Golf is proud to offer programming to youth in the state through First Tee Massachusetts and subsidized rounds of golf by way of Youth on Course.

For more news about Mass Golf, follow along on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.