• Clubbing Down

Should Stableford scoring be used more often on Tour?

Will Tidey July 29, 2013
2012 Reno-Tahoe Open champion J J Henry © Getty Images

Club golfers are well versed in the Stableford scoring system. It's a popular choice for amateur tournaments because it forgives the odd quintuple bogey and, when handicaps are applied, allows players of varied abilities to compete with each other.

Lost four balls and 30 minutes of your life at the watery seventh? No problem. Forget it, birdie the eighth and you could still win the tournament.

You knew all of this already of course. But what you might not know is that a tournament on the US PGA Tour, the Reno-Tahoe Open, is using a version of Stableford to decide who walks away with the $540,000 winner's cheque this weekend.

Modified Stableford is designed to encourage the Tour pros to attack, but until last year hadn't been seen on the US pro circuit since the last edition of the International, in 2006. Aside from the fact handicaps are irrelevant, here's how the points system differs from what we're used to:

STABLEFORD: Bogey - 1 point, Par - 2 points, Birdie - 3 points, Eagle - 4 points, Albatross - 5 points

MODIFIED STABLEFORD: Double Bogey - Minus 3 points, Bogey - Minus 1 point, Par - 0 points, Birdie - 2 points, Eagle - 5 points, Albatross - 8 points

So, the pros have nothing to gain for par. In theory, the incentive is to go bold and try to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

"The difference between going from say a par to a birdie is two points," said Padraig Harrington before playing last year in Nevada. "The difference from par to bogey is effectively one point. It's like a shot and a half. Missing birdie putts is a lot worse than missing par putts."

Last year's winner, JJ Henry, took the title with 43 points - achieved with the help of 17 birdies and three eagles (full details at the PGA Tour website).

Henry clearly relished the points system. Tournament director Chris Hoff claimed the whole field did. "Every single one of them was raving about the Stableford format," he said last July.

If nothing else, the Reno-Tahoe Open has come upon a way to make their tournament stand out. Some people don't like it, but there are far too many Tour events these days and every one of them needs to fight for our attention. Why shouldn't they try something different?

Moreover, club golfers should relish the opportunity to watch the pros compete in a system close to that they know so well. It's the same when we watch the world's best in match play action at the Ryder Cup.

But what do you think? Is the Reno-Tahoe Open just making a PR statement? Or should more professional tournaments follow their lead and give us a greater variety of competition formats to enjoy?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Will Tidey Close
Will has covered Tour events. majors and Ryder Cups and interviewed the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Rory McIlroy. He once inhaled the cigar smoke of the coolest man in golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez, while watching sports cars tear around Brands Hatch. As a left-handed hacker he's been humiliated at esteemed venues including Carnoustie, Wentworth, Kiawah Island and Pinehurst No. 2.