If you live and play golf in a “seasonal” area of the country, chances are your 2016 golf activity may soon be coming to a close. Many golf associations in the northern and Midwest parts of the country are now or will soon be observing an inactive season for handicap purposes. The USGA defines the inactive season as “the period during which scores made in an area are not accepted for handicap purposes determined by the authorized golf association having jurisdiction in a given area.”
This means your local state or regional golf association likely has the jurisdiction in your area and they are responsible for declaring the duration of any inactive season. A golf club located within the area covered by an authorized golf association must observe any inactive season established by the golf association (a club or facility may not “opt-out” of this requirement.)
Since course ratings are based on the difficulty of a course played under normal mid-season playing conditions, the change in off-season conditions could affect the ease or difficulty of play, based on those conditions (turf grass is harder, perhaps grass is dormant, no leaves on trees, green speeds are slower, the course is not irrigated regularly, etc.) This is why based on the variety of off-season conditions, that a golf association will declare an inactive season.
Most northern and Midwest golf associations declare their inactive season anytime from mid-October or November in the fall through mid-March or April in the spring. If you get a nice day to play in the fall during your facilities inactive season, you may not post your score for handicap purposes. Check the USGA Handicap Active/Inactive Season Schedule to see if your state participates in an active or inactive season.
Some parts of the country do not observe an inactive season and therefore are active year-round (most sun-belt states and the southern parts of the country.) The USGA Handicap System Manual states, “Scores made at a golf course in an area observing an active season must be posted for handicap purposes, even if the golf club from which the player receives a handicap index is observing an inactive season.” This means if a player is a member of a facility in Minnesota and she plays golf in Arizona in February, any scores played in Arizona are acceptable and must be posted at the player’s Minnesota facility. If the player is a member of a golf facility in Arizona, scores must be posted to the player’s Arizona club. If not a member of an Arizona facility, upon return from the trip to Arizona, the player must post these away scores prior to the next handicap index revision.
Reminder, if you are in a part of the country where there is an inactive season and you play during that inactive season, take advantage of a nice fall day to play since you won’t be posting your scores for handicap purposes. If you travel to a year-round posting area, you must post any scores played as away scores when you return home (unless you are a member of a second facility that has a year-round season, you would post your scores at that facility.)