The warm weather signals the start of annual corporate and charity golf tournaments all over the country. Pinehurst will be the host venue for many of these outings.

The events are a welcome day out of the office and a chance for coworkers and friends to enjoy a day on the links. The challenge all tournament organizers face is how to make the event fair and competitive for all participants.

Long-time Pinehurst golf professional Lionel Callaway (no connection to the Callaway Golf Company) developed a scoring system that is designed so that the weekend golfer with no handicap can compete against the skilled golfer in this type of one-day tournament.

Callaway was a key figure in Pinehurst’s storied golf history. Born in England in 1895, he apprenticed under his father who was a golf professional. The family crossed the pond in 1911 and Lionel and his two brothers began working for Donald Ross. His path crossed with golfing legends Walter Hagan, Ted Ray, Harry Vardon, and Francis Ouimet to name a few.

Callaway was an innovator. In a 1966 Golf Illustrated article, he stated he was looking for a fair way to let those with high handicaps compete with those with low handicaps.

“I saw the need for such a system constantly in large convention and industrial tournaments at Pinehurst,” Callaway explained. “Many players in these tournaments did not have handicaps (or invented one) and with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise at stake in prizes, the situation cried for a fair solution.”

Callaway began studying score cards.

“I noticed that a few bad holes invariably ruined most players’ rounds,” he said. “It dawned on me a system of strike outs related to the total score would result in an equitable net for all competitors.”

The Callaway handicapping system was born and is still in use today.

His handicapping system as well as other similar scoring systems are used in one-day corporate and charity outings and prevent the conundrum of “sandbagging.”

Under the Callaway scoring system, the golfer is handicapped based on a set formula after he or she turns in the scorecard. In effect, this levels the playing field.

In 1984, Callaway received the National Golf Foundation Outstanding Service Award for his handicapping system. Callaway passed away on July 12, 1988, at the age of 93. He resided in the Pinehurst area for over 60 years.

Mark Edwards is a retired attorney who lives in Pinehurst.

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