What Golfers Think of 54 Handicaps

By: | Tue 11 Feb 2020 | Comments


Golfshake's Derek Clements recently wrote two feature articles on the World Handicap System and Senior Golfers, both of which raised points that divided opinion. Gathering the views of the Golfshake Community, Derek responds in this piece.


Many of you will know that a maximum handicap of 54 has been introduced across the game. When I sat down to share my views about this I had absolutely no idea what a hornets’ stir I was about to stir up. I have always believed that golf is an inclusive game, for players of all abilities, and it is my view that a 54 handicap is no bad thing. Apart from anything else, I do not subscribe to the view that anybody playing to such a handicap would be a bandit.

It is a starting point. From there, they will surely want to work at their game and do everything they can to reduce that handicap. Seriously, who would want to boast to their friends that they play off 54?

The article I wrote for Golfshake certainly generated a response - and it wasn’t the one I expected. Here, we share a few of the views we received. Never has any article I have written generated so many comments. Have a read of just a few of them and let us know what you think. We would also invite you to respond to the survey at the end of this piece.

“That would ruin this great game! 54 is a joke 28 is more than adequate think about it in most cases that is 100 blows to get around. All clubs face challenges with the pace of play and people’s etiquette, people off 54 will simply serve to increase the problem. I’m not saying they will not have etiquette but those around them will lose patience. On top of which for people to be able to win a comp on -18 for one round having taken 108 shots to get there is just wrong. Everybody should be encouraged to play but they should see their PGA Pro, invest in lessons, and once they are capable of going round in under 100 blows be welcomed into any normal competition. Once capable of breaking 80 they should be encouraged to player in harder competitions like the scratch medals etc.”

"Everything is wrong there, the only way that is acceptable is if they play in their own category of handicap for comps say 36-54 HC in their own comps only fair!  As that says you can go shoot 100 and still get 46 playing off 54 HC should maybe practice a bit more and not take the absolute p*ss accepting that handicap.”

"Too many sharks out there who will abuse the system to clean up at comps, 54 HC is just ridiculous. Clubs should bring in a max handicap limit of say 21 for all comps.”

I have problems getting my head around the fact that anybody would be a shark while playing off 54.

“If you need a 54 handicap then sorry you simply can’t play the difficult game golf is. Increasing the handicap limit will not increase the numbers of people wanting to play our great game, as it will be offset by people leaving who have invested time and money learning how to play the game properly!"

Isn’t the real issue here that we all need to start somewhere? And a 54 handicap allows beginners to do precisely that. 

"I can understand the concerns of regular golfers with a “proper handicap”, we have all been faced with an incredible score in the monthly medal by a guy off 25, it is then up to your handicap secretary to nip it in the bud and cut this person, which does not always happen. I personally would not enter a competition if the handicap limit was above 28!”

"Let’s be honest here, I can just about put up with someone playing off 36, but really! How long do you think a round will take if you have got a bunch of 40-54 handicappers? 5 hrs? 6 hrs? Anyone’s guess, I play off 8 and I play with some work colleagues who play off anywhere from 20-34, sometimes the round can be a bit slow but its bearable and I like seeing them improve also, considering everything is about speeding up play how will that work when you have 54 handicap in comps?! Hypocritical if you ask me!”

"No way playing off 54 can be enjoyable, go find another hobby.”

"Being off 54 means you can't hit the ball, get a set of bowls or a rod."

This was a view shared by quite a few subscribers, but I repeat - 54 is a starting point. Nothing more.

There were some who support the changes, but they were few and far between.

"This is great for getting more people into golf, obviously never really going to be having 54 handicappers playing in comps of any importance so what’s the problem?”

A good point, well made.

"Seriously people, lighten up! It's just a game. Most clubs will sensibly either introduce a cap on comps, 28 or so. When I started, I was on 34hc. I've now gone down to 23hc. According to some of you guys I should never have taken up golf I the first place? What a load of bollox. So, you guys must have picked up golf clubs and immediately played off 15hc or whatever, yeah right. If you are that paranoid about bandits etc, talk to your club secretary and get them to clarify your comp rules for when WHC kicks in. Otherwise shut up and put your egos back in your pants."

"The whole point of this is to integrate golfers across the board, as outlined by the R&A and the USGA 12 months ago, whilst I disagree with having a 54 handicap playing with a 28 and below the handicap reduction per hole only and has only ever applied during stableford scoring. It does not affect medal scoring at all. Stableford is a different situation. If anyone doesn't know the difference, please let me know. Besides all of that I'm glad that the revelation organisations have got together and are trying to bring in something to get golf going again.”


What is Wrong With Golfers Having a 54 Handicap?

The World Handicap System - All You Need to Know


I also wrote a piece in support of senior golfers. There have been suggestions that because they play more than most they should be charged more to play. This is not a view I subscribe to. Quite simply, I believe that seniors are the lifeblood of most golf clubs. Not only do they play four or five times a week, but they spend a lot of money in the clubhouse and in the pro’s shop. They introduce visitors, they generate additional income through matches against other clubs and through their weekly seniors meeting.

Once again, there was a surprising amount of antipathy. It seems that many of you believe that seniors are too slow and damage the course by using buggies and failing to repair pitchmarks. Many of you also point to the fact that many seniors only buy a cup of tea or coffee in the bar. My own experience is a very different one. Most of the seniors I play with will have a beer and either a sandwich or a meal when they finish playing. And they do so four or five times a week.


What do you think of the maximum handicap limit being 54, the World Handicap System, and the role of senior golfers? We'd love to hear your views - and here is your opportunity. We have just launched a Special Survey to capture your feedback, something that will inform future articles and features on Golfshake. 

Visit the 2020 Golf Handicap Survey!


What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)


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