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Golfers Just Want a Handicap System That is Fair

By: | Fri 23 Oct 2020 | Comments

THE clock is ticking and, like it or not, the World Handicap System is about to be introduced in the UK. Our recent survey on the subject attracted a huge response from you, with 89% of club golfers saying that it was important to have a system that was fair to everybody

A total of 78% of club golfers who responded said it was important to have a handicap that allowed them to compete against other players - one of the key targets of the new system.

Asked whether they felt the new WHS system would reduce the number of trophy hunters and bandits, 23% were confident that it would, but 31% said no, while 46% remain undecided. Many of you believe that golfers simply will not submit cards. 

The reality is that if somebody is determined to abuse any system then they will find a way to do so. Governing bodies around the world have got together to produce a system that should be fairer. It is only natural that we are resistant to change. It is human nature. 

I have to say that when I first looked at the proposals, I felt that my brain was going to explode, but I now believe we are on the right lines. Speaking as a seven-handicapper who struggles to play to that figure, I believe that, moving forward, my handicap will more accurately reflect my ability. And that can only be a good thing.

Golfers Competing

One general area that has most polarised opinion for a couple of years has been the introduction of the CONGU maximum 54 handicap, with almost all off you suggesting it was a bad idea. The reason it was introduced was to allow everybody an opportunity to be competitive and to have the chance to gain a handicap. The vast majority of you have been horrified at the prospect.

It is actually quite likely that most people who would fall into the 54-handicap level actually won’t bother to submit cards because they would prefer to go out there for a social round with their friends - and simply don’t care whether or not they have a handicap.

While many of you remain confused about the WHS, it is encouraging that large numbers of you believe it is an improvement on the existing system and will go some way towards discouraging “bandits”, and will provide us with a level playing field, something that organisations such as England Golf are determined to achieve.

“I hope that it weeds out the bandits playing off 25 and getting 45 points."

“It should be fairer to the honest golfer and stop golfers manipulating handicaps."

"I currently play in Spain, where the system has been up and running for some time. It stops trophy hunters. I like the system and it seems fair for all golfers whether you are a single figure player. Or higher handicap player."

"I think it could be better than the current system but there will always be bandits who abuse any system but hopefully this should make it fairer for all."

"I think we need to see how it pans out."

"If it addresses the bandits, then yes, it is a good thing. It needs to be administered by club officials though. I'm aware of a club where at least two members don't compete in comps, but their handicaps are active and they play to three or four shots below said handicap in opens. The integrity of the system is flawed because of such occurrences".

"If the system delivers what is stated, then it is good for the game especially regarding the possible curbing of trophy hunters and bandits and also making it fairer when visiting and playing other courses. I have visited and played in America for a number of years and the slope system seems to work reasonably well there, so why not here?"

But not everybody agrees:

"I don’t think the way handicap is worked out is fair. It will encourage cheats to increase their handicaps when big competition come around.”

"If golfers submit cards, as they are meant to, handicaps will actually be more accurate."

"I feel that bandits will still be able to protect their handicaps and rip off comps and prizes."

“I think it will result in less true handicaps and slower rounds due to more 'qualifying rounds' being played.”

"If applied properly, the system should actually have the opposite effect and create more “true" handicaps."

"Many rounds will not be submitted. Those who want to use the system to their advantage will probably find a way. Seems complicated now but no doubt will become familiar."

"The benefit is that handicap can follow current form far more rapidly. The problem is that it does not require all countable rounds to be submitted. How else can a system know a player's true ability level and how it changes?”

Many club golfers complain that existing handicaps are difficult to play to - one of the purposes of the WHS is to correct this.

"The system should be designed to favour golfers that work hard to improve, but present and new systems are designed so that low handicappers are at a disadvantage, that’s why most low handicappers don’t play in knockout competitions at my club, As a four-handicapper I would need to break the course record to stand a chance of winning any medal competition, so the old and new systems are unfair.”

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of you just hate the idea of anybody being given a 54 handicap. The argument that everybody has to start somewhere simply doesn’t wash with you.

“Two shots on a par three for anyone is ridiculous."

"54 handicap is ludicrous and will destroy matchplay. Honest golfers will get hammered by the cheats and bandits."

"54 handicap is ridiculous. It makes a joke of playing a sport where an absolute beginner can compete equally with a single figure handicapper. It's like a small league football club playing Chelsea in the FA Cup 1st Round and being given a 20-goal start."

"54 handicap - trying to speed up the game, can't see how this will help."

"54 seems too high to me, 28 wasn’t broken so why fix it."

"54 is surely too high. Although my handicap is currently creeping up if you play golf regularly 18 is sufficient.”

"A 54 handicap can never be good for golf."

"A 54 handicap means the individual hasn't bothered to spend time to learn how to hit a ball. It will slow down the rounds without question."

"Being a 17-handicapper, I would not like to give someone three shots on a short par three."

"Can't see the need for a new maximum handicap of 54. I often play courses where if you have no official handicap you need to show some level of competence. To have a handicap of 54 would show a lack of competence."

"Devised by idiots. The game is slow enough as it is. With handicaps up to 54 things will only get worse. Once upon a time a player had to be reasonably proficient to get a handicap. The new handicap system is now a now a laughingstock."

"Handicaps are vital for golf comps but there has to be a limit. I would reduce maximum handicaps for men to 18, and 36 for women. Until they achieve that standard they shouldn’t expect to win. This should encourage lesser players to practice more and encourage winners to feel a big sense of achievement after a victory."

"54 handicap is far too high for any golfer. Two shots per hole is probably enough for beginners and after that reduction based on games played and skills improvement."

But not everybody agrees. A small minority of you believe that maximum handicaps needed to be increased.

"I've always thought that 28 was too low for the maximum handicap and raising it to a reasonable figure will ensure that those of who are not so good will stand a better chance when competing against others."

"It gives everybody a chance when playing against other players. For too long high handicappers have been penalised for not being very good, so it is good to see a system that will give us all chance."

"There will still be prejudice against higher handicap golfers and tournaments with unfair maximum handicap limits and odd percentage reductions."

There is an issue that seems to have been overlooked here. Many people simply want to play golf for fun. They have neither the time nor the inclination to play once or twice a week, but do want to play some occasional golf. They are not interested in improving because when they go out to hit a golf ball they do so because they enjoy spending time with like-minded friends. Whether or not they have a 54 handicap, they are always likely to be looked down upon by established golfers - but they have just as much right to be able to play as the rest of us.

There are also concerns about how the new system is going to affect competitions...

"I feel that members of our club will be penalised when playing matches against other clubs as our course is very difficult.”

The slope system has been introduced precisely to tackle this issue.

"I’ve read an awful lot of comments from US golfers who seem to think very little changes after it, other than the kudos of being a member of a ‘difficult’ course, and it’s a big fuss over nothing really."

"If the majority of rounds are loaded onto the system then players' handicaps will more closely reflect their playing ability. Many seniors don't play qualifying competitions; therefore their handicaps are based on their past few competitions which, in many cases, were a long time ago. Also, allowing all cards, nine and 18, to be recorded will make handicapping much more relevant."

“Players should have to play more qualifiers per year. We pay £3 per competition so you have to pay £9 a year getting a high handicap go to another club open and rip it up. There are a lot of bandits out there if they have to play about 20 qualifiers it won’t be financially viable."

So, let’s take a deep breath and get ready. The WHS is here to stay.

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