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What is the Peoria Handicap System in Golf?
Published Feb 11, 2024
by Gil Larson

The Peoria Handicap System stands out as a unique solution for calculating handicaps in single-round golf tournaments, and is especially useful in lieu of official handicaps. This system allows golfers of varying abilities to compete on more equal terms, making it an ideal choice for club tournaments and charity events where golfers with a wide range of skills participate.

Golf clubhouse with the golf course in the background

Understanding the Peoria Handicap System

The Peoria System is a handicap calculation method that selects a random set of holes to determine a player’s handicap for a single round of golf.

Typically, six holes are chosen—two par-3s, two par-4s, and two par-5s—to represent the course’s diversity. The selection remains secret until the completion of the round to prevent strategic play on those holes. Golfers play the entire round unaware of which holes will count towards their Peoria handicap, ensuring that every shot contributes to their overall performance. This method calculates a handicap that reflects the player’s ability in that specific round, providing a snapshot of their skill level relative to the field.

The Selection of Holes in the Peoria System

The strategic selection of holes is why the Peoria System’s is so effective. While the specific holes used to calculate the Peoria handicap remain a secret until after play, they are carefully chosen to ensure a fair assessment of a golfer’s performance across the course. This mix typically includes a balanced representation of the course’s challenges, with holes varying in difficulty and layout. After the round, when the selected holes are revealed, scores on these holes are used to adjust each player’s gross score to a net score, reflecting their Peoria handicap.

Calculating Your Peoria Handicap

Calculating a golfer’s Peoria handicap involves a straightforward process once the designated holes are revealed. The player’s total strokes over par on these holes are multiplied by a standard factor (often 3) and then adjusted based on the course’s difficulty, typically through a set formula.

For example, if a player is 5 over par on the selected holes, and the multiplier is 3, their adjustment would be 15 strokes. This number is then subtracted from the player’s gross score to determine their net score for the round.

The precise formula may vary slightly depending on local rules or tournament specifics, but the essence remains: the Peoria System provides a quick, fair handicap based on actual play, allowing all competitors an equal footing, regardless of their experience or official handicap status.

Advantages and Limitations of the Peoria System

The Peoria System shines in its ability to quickly and fairly level the playing field in tournaments where players may not have established handicaps. However, its reliance on a random selection of holes means it might not always perfectly reflect a player’s consistent skill level across different courses or conditions. While this adds an element of luck, it also encourages players to perform their best on every hole.

Implementing the Peoria System in Your Tournament

For tournament organizers looking to implement the Peoria System, clear communication is key. Participants should understand how their performance on the undisclosed holes will impact their final score. Organizers should ensure the selection of holes is genuinely random and represents a fair cross-section of the course’s challenges. After the round, revealing the selected holes and explaining the calculation process can add to the excitement and transparency of the competition.

The Peoria Handicap System offers a practical and equitable way to calculate handicaps for golfers in single-round tournaments, ensuring everyone has a fair shot at competition. Good luck and enjoy!