CSS and Buffer Zones

The Competition Standard Scratch (CSS) score is a well discussed point following every completion we have at Helsby.  It’s sometimes surprising and other times makes perfct sense but is always calculated using a pre-defined formula devised by our handicap regulation body, CONGU.

The CSS is a complicated number and difficult to explain, thank the lord for Howdidido which calculates this on our behalf and automatically adjusts handicaps in line with CONGU.

So can you explain the Competition Scratch Score and how it is calculated?

We will try, as previously stated this is not a straightforward calculation. Broadly speaking, the calculations are as follows:

  1. The computer first off calculates the percentage of players who competed in the competition in each of the handicap categories 1, 2, 3 and now 4 after the recent CONGU changes.
  2. Then the percentage of scores returned by players in their ‘buffer zone’, or better are calculated.
  3. Finally using the percentages from (2) and (3), the Competition Scratch Score is defined by the computer referring to the table (A) supplied by CONGU for this sole purpose.

CSS Table

So why have a CSS and how does it affect me?  Well CSS is used by CONGU to track your performance and so manage your handicap.  If you achieve a net score below the CSS you will have your handicap decreased, however you will only receive a handicap increase if your net score is higher than the buffer zone.

What is a ‘Buffer Zone’?

A player’s ‘Buffer Zone’ is a range of scores returned in competitions where the player’s handicap will not be changed. The buffer zone is different depending upon the player’s handicap category. A player returns a score within his Buffer Zone when his Nett Differential is within specified limits.  So a 10 handicap (Category 2) returning a Nett score of 73 in a competition where the standard scratch is 70, has missed his buffer zone and will gain 0.1 on his handicap.  If the same player returns a 73 in the next competition which is a standard scratch of 71 his handicap doesn’t changes as he is just within his categories buffer zone.

Handicap of player Buffer Zone (Nett Differential)
Category 1: Handicaps up to 5 0 to +1
Category 2: Handicaps 6 to 12 0 to +2
Category 3: Handicaps 13 to 20 0 to +3
Category 4: Handicaps 21 to 28 0 to +4
Category 5: Ladies Handicaps 29 to 36 0 to +5

What is ‘Stableford Adjustment’?

Clubs must apply ‘Stableford Adjustments’ to Nett Differentials calculated after a Medal Competition. This adjustment has the effect of converting Nett Differentials under medal play to those which would have been calculated had the competition been played under Stableford format, eliminating any distortions resulting from unusually high scores (such as a 10 on a hole, for example).

Here, players’ Nett Differentials are reduced for each stroke scored on the players card which is more than two over Par after any handicap strokes have been subtracted for that hole (a ‘ Nett Double Bogey’).

I have returned a score outside buffer zone but my handicap has not changed. How is this possible?

Under some circumstances (when few net scores in a competition are close to the Standard Scratch Score of the course or better) the Competition Scratch Score will be identified as ‘Reductions Only’. Here, no increases of 0.1 may be applied to a handicap (although anyone returning a Nett Differential below zero will still have his handicap reduced!).

Referencing Point

We have used our system to show the CSS for the previous 12 months competitions that qualified for handicaps.


On only 1 occasion did the CSS drop below the Standard Scratch of the course (SSS), 70. On 18 occasions the CSS was higher than the SSS with 25 times being exactly SSS.  On no occasion last year did a course setup for handicap qualification become a non qualifier.  It is also staggering to see that 1 in 10 rounds last year our little country course showed its big nasty teeth and produced a CSS 3 above SSS or put in simple terms, brutal!


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