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Explaining the Callaway System
How to Use the Callaway Scoring System When Official Handicaps are Unavailable

The Callaway System (or Callaway Scoring System) is a sort of 1-day handicapping system that can be used in events where most of the golfers do not have real handicap indexes.

For example, at a company outing, most of the golfers may not carry official handicap indexes. How can they all - with widely different playing abilities - compete fairly at stroke play?

Golf Glossary
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Related Terms
Peoria System

Related Resources
Handicap FAQ
More Golf FAQs

The Callaway System - while, like the similar Peoria System, based in certain part on luck - allows a "handicap allowance" to be determined and then applied to each golfer's score.

When the Callaway System is in use, all competitors tee off and play stroke play, scoring in the normal fashion with one exception - double par is the maximum score on any given hole (i.e., on a par 4, 8 is the maximum score).

Following the round, gross scores are tallied. Based on each golfer's gross score (using the double par maximum), each golfer tallies up a prescribed number of worst scores from their scorecard, then applies a second adjustment that may add or subtract additional strokes.

The result is a total that is something similar to a net score using real handicaps.

A couple points:

• The higher a competitor's gross score, the more holes that player will be deducting;
• Holes deducted begin with the highest score; if a player gets to deduct one hole and his highest score is an 8, then an 8 is what gets deducted;
• Scores on the 17th and 18th holes may not be deducted, even if one (or both) of them are the competitor's highest score.
• Even after high scores are added together for the allowance, the second adjustment must be made; this adjustment might add or subtract 2, 1 or 0 strokes from a player's Callaway handicap.
• Once the appropriate number of high scores has been tallied, and the second adjustment is made, the player is left with a net score.

Sounds complicated, eh? That's why the Callaway System comes complete with a handy reference chart.

The chart below should make things much easier to grasp. Look over the chart, then look below the chart for an example.

Gross (using double par max.) Handicap Deduction
70 71 72 Scratch
73 74 75 1/2 of Worst Hole
76 77 78 79 80 Worst Hole
81 82 83 84 85 1 1/2 Worst Holes
86 87 88 89 90 2 Worst Holes
91 92 93 94 95 2 1/2 Worst Holes
96 97 98 99 100 3 Worst Holes
101 102 103 104 105 3 1/2 Worst Holes
106 107 108 109 110 4 Worst Holes
111 112 113 114 115 4 1/2 Worst Holes
116 117 118 119 120 5 Worst Holes
121 122 123 124 125 5 1/2 Worst Holes
126 127 128 129 130 6 Worst Holes
-2 -1 0 +1 +2 Handicap Adjustment

Before our examples, a couple notes about the chart: This chart applies to a par-72 course. If par is different, simply add or subtract the number of strokes - corresponding to the difference in par - from the Gross Scores. For example, if par is 71, then subtract 1 from each of the Gross Scores listed above.

Also, half scores are rounded up. If a player is deducting half of 7, then that 3.5 is rounded up to 4. And finally, the maximum a golfer can deduct under the Callaway System is 50 strokes.

OK, an example of the Callaway System in action:

Tiger shoots 64. No deductions or adjustments are made because Tiger's score is lower than the scores listed on the chart. Vijay shoots 71, which is on the chart, and the column to the right ("Handicap Deduction") shows that a player shooting 71 plays at scratch - no adjustments.

The Golf Guide, however, shoots 97. Find 97 in the chart above, and we see that its row (going across) corresponds to a handicap deduction of "3 Worst Holes." So the Golf Guide finds the three worst holes on his scorecard. The Golf Guide's three worst holes are a 9, an 8 and a 7. Total those up and we get a handicap deduction of 24.

Now we apply the second adjustment. Go back to 97 in the chart above; follow the column down to the "handicap adjustment" on the bottom line. The column for 97 corresponds to a handicap adjustment of -1. That means we're going to substract a stroke from our handicap deduction of 24. So our final, adjusted handicap allowance is 23.

And our net Callaway System score is 97 minus 23, or 74.

So using the chart is a matter of finding the gross score, looking across the row for the handicap deduction, then looking down the column for the adjustment.

Note: We're sometimes asked if the Callaway System has anything to do with the Callaway Golf Company, or was invented by Eli Callaway, the founder of Callaway Golf. The answer is no. The Callaway System was created by Lionel Callaway, a onetime pro at Pinehurst Country Club.

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