World Handicap System Continues to Cause Confusion
Last year's introduction of the new World Handicap System was a significant moment for the game, a process that was engineered to make the sport fairer and more accessible.
Naturally, any major change is going to be met with scepticism, with governing bodies undertaking a comprehensive education programme to prepare golfers and clubs for the new system.
But now, essentially a full season into the new era, how successful has that been and has the everyday golfer embraced the WHS?
We recently published the results of our survey into the World Handicap System, which highlighted a mixed bag of findings. Some of you believe it is a fairer system, others still cannot make head nor tail of it, while others struggle to understand why things were changed in the first place.
However, one clear positive is that more golfers understand the WHS. Back in October 2020, just 30% of golfers said they did, but that number has now risen to 48% - with the figure reaching 54% when specifically canvassing golf club members.
Now, only 15% of golfers state that they don't understand it, compared to 21% last October. 37% of golfers said they "sort of" understood the WHS.
This highlights that progress has been made, but there is still room for further education and understanding.
But when we published the results of that survey, more feedback was submitted, showcasing the concerns and confusion that some golfers still feel around the WHS.
This is from a Golfshake reader who does not like the new system:
“The WHS is the biggest disaster to the game of golf. The claim that it would be fairer is simply not true. I play seven days a week and my handicap has gone up dramatically. I stopped putting cards in every time I play and my handicap came back down. It's a cheats’ charter. Your handicap will increase if you play four or five times a week. The average golfer may have a good score every six or eight games but overall the average golfer has a round four to seven shots over their handicap, so it is bound to increase. Bring back the buffer - this allows and gives golfers a target while playing. Golf is a leisure pursuit not a win or bust game where you end up stressing out trying to put in your score at the end of a round. And in any case that can only be done if the system works. Clubs and members should stand up against the WHS and demand a return the old reliable system."
But there is a counter view, too, as this reader described in response:
"If your handicap is going up despite playing regularly then you're not capable of playing to your current handicap. The fact that your worst 12 scores from your last 20 don't count towards your handicap is a massive buffer."
The slope rating is a significant feature of the WHS, but not everyone has embraced that process:
"So I earn my WHS handicap, index 19.5 (about where I was before). Then I walk out at my home club and get given two shots! I would have expected to play off 19.5 when I visit another club then would go up or down depending on course rating."
Perhaps the most intriguing comment was submitted by a handicap secretary, who was sceptical of whether all golfers would have played entirely within the rules during non-competitive rounds:
"I haven't put any general play cards in yet, and I'm the Handicap Secretary at my club. The reason - all of my casual rounds are not played according to the rules, that is, we will often give a putt if it is close, say one foot or so. This saves time, but any such score must be invalid. And do players make sure they are playing off the correct tees for the score they submit? I very much doubt it."
However, as one golfer noted, if clubs are managing the system properly, then there shouldn't be significant problems:
"If the Club Handicap committee are doing their job, any cards submitted via club apps will be pre-registered and any golfers not submitting cards after registering will be penalised. This prevents players picking and choosing which cards to submit. The app insists on pre-registration and then scores cannot be submitted for reasonable time afterwards. Most players did not bother to learn about the WHS before it started and now just let the computer work everything out. Golf is a game of trust and integrity and there will always be a few that abuse that but experience at my club is that there is no evidence of manipulation of handicaps. A good handicap committee will also explain any queries members have."
Ultimately, the World Handicap System is here to stay and early teething problems will diminish with time. Our survey has provided evidence that while there is still work to be done in terms of educating and understanding the system, an increasing number of golfers are becoming comfortable with the new way of doing things.
For more information on the WHS, visit www.randa.org/en/worldhandicapsystem
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