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At Last - Positive Feedback About The World Handicap System

By: | Thu 13 Jan 2022

WE CAN say, without fear of contradiction, that no subject within the game of golf has exercised the minds quite like the introduction of the World Handicap System. When we published the results of our survey into the WHS last year it was clear that many of you are still not fans.

However, there was some encouraging feedback. There are growing signs that we are learning to live with the WHS, although the slope rating system continues to cause some confusion. 

Here we look at some of the feedback we received from Golfshake subscribers.

"I like the WHS. Previously, I used to have two or three decent qualifying rounds in July and August and dropped a shot or so. The rest of the year, I couldn't play to that and it would take most of the year to get the shot back with 0.1 for missing the buffer zone. Very few cards were submitted because there were so few qualifying comps. Now, I put cards in almost every time I play singles. I still don't play to my higher handicap most of the time.”

"I don't have any problems with the system per se. However, as a non club member, I signed up to the igolf app to be able to get an official handicap. The problem is that 95% of the people I play with in our society are not club members and therefore I cannot submit any scorecards, as they have to be marked by a "member". As golf is supposed to be a game of integrity, I am unable to submit scorecards as I play, because of the membership status. I am also the secretary of my society and we use the Handicap Master system to log all scorecards of all players for every game.”

"I think it a much fairer system for the honest golfer. There will always be cheats, people who keep their handicap high to win competitions and people wanting to keep a low handicap for status - I don’t think they realise that 12 poor rounds don't count, hence it's a good indication of your current standard if you log scores regularly. Since coming back from lockdown, my handicap has shot back up to 28 (from 24) as I am shooting around 100 instead of low 90s. In the old system, I'd probably still be struggling off 24.6 or, worse, even less as I managed one low 90 and that may have been enough to earn a cut.”

Are Handicaps Open to Abuse?

World Handicap System

A recurring theme in everything we have published on the WHS is a concern among established golfers that the system is open to abuse. It is interesting to note that is almost exclusively club members who are worried about this. But at some point there needs to be some trust. As with the old handicapping system, if a golfer is determined to make it work for him (or her) then there is precious little we can do about it. Golf is a sport that prides itself on the honesty and integrity of those who play the game.

"When my old club closed I joined another with a similar slope and course rating (coincidence) so my handicap stayed the same. It had started to improve under the old system, thanks to my various efforts, and it has continued to do so under WHS. I play one qualifying comp a week, which counts towards my CONGU handicap. I don't submit supplementaries for social rounds etc, and I do look for for the ratings of other clubs I visit and use the recommended handicap.”

“I like the system, on the V1 app I can see my past 20 rounds and note how they are using the best eight of those, and also as gradually rounds are 'disregarded’ I have gone from 29.7 to 16.5 since the middle of April when I became a club member. It is slightly curious when you have a score over par and yet one's handicap may fall! I recently scored 31 points but dropped from 17.7 to 17.2 so this must have been because a poor score of mine must have been discarded from the best eight. The other day I scored 39 and went from 17.2 to 16.5, which seems reasonable. Your handicap is a 'snapshot' of how you have played over a given period, and my handicap reflects my general improvement as I have had lessons and am now doing some practice for the first time in years.”

Slope Rating Uncertainty

But there is still some confusion surrounding the slope rating:

"I think the scheme is sound. For me the worst aspect is the course/slope rating calculation. I regularly play two courses, one of which I regularly play to five or six shots less than the other, but the course/slope rating is almost exactly the same; in fact it says the easier course is tougher off the white tees (both courses are only really significantly affected by one hole on each course off the back tees. I'm a full member at the harder course, and a season ticket holder at the easier one, so I can only really submit cards from my main course. Having said this, my last eight significant cards out of 20 appear to indicate that I have averaged at least a shot less than my handicap index, but my handicap index remains the same - two of my past three rounds have been three and four shots less than my course/playing handicap, but my index has remained almost exactly the same. I'm not sure this reflects my current playing standard accurately, especially as the ground conditions and weather have been so bad recently.”

"Where there's a problem is that courses aren't consistently rated by counties. Rye Old Course off the white tees in Sussex has a far lower Slope Rating than my home course in Hertfordshire but I would maintain that Rye (Slope Rating 113) is much more tricky. It's about the same length as Letchworth (Slope 133) but Rye's par is 68, has many more bunkers and has sea breezes to contend with.”

Concern About High Handicap Golfers in Competitions

There are still those who continue to have problems with high handicaps. Here are a couple of examples:

"Mucking about with handicaps doesn't grow the game and having blokes off 35 suddenly winning the monthly Stableford doesn't endear them. Competitive golf should be about people who are actually good at the sport. If they want to encourage beginners, let them place the ball anywhere all year round. All they want to do is get the ball in the air and hit a good shot. They don't care about handicaps."

"No player should have more than a 28 handicap. It is making a joke of competitions. Golf has been trying to make the game faster but you give a player 54 shots - how does that work if he plays to his handicap? 72 par plus 54 = 126 shots. It  takes a long time to play 126 shots. If he has a day out and plays well a single figure handicap player has no chance.”

The whole point of raising the handicap limit to 54 was to give beginners - and those who only play a couple of times a year - the opportunity to be competitive. Besides, we all have to start somewhere. Speaking personally, I have always enjoyed playing with high-handicap golfers and helping them to improve. I would never profess to be a teacher but I have been able to point beginners in the right direction when it comes to teaching them to grip the club properly and in helping them to address the ball properly. Let’s get this straight - not everybody who plays golf wants to enter lots of competitions. But just because they don’t have much ability, they should not be penalised or ostracised. Golf is meant to be an inclusive game.

The Positive View

World Handicap System

Thankfully, not everybody agrees with the above comments:

"You're just proving that you selfishly want to retain any victories to only better players. My wife and I play regularly. Her handicap is 52, mine is 24. Are you seriously telling me that my wife shouldn't be allowed a handicap and we can't play together in our own little society, along with our other friend, playing off 42? Competitions can always then have a maximum if necessary. Otherwise, if the wife doesn't make her usual duff shots then she can beat me. And I can tell you from experience this sort of game makes you keep on your mettle rather than being lazy assuming you'll beat a worse player."

"I think the World Handicap System is a big success, as it is fairer to everyone who plays golf, and takes into account how easy or difficult a course is. I don't belong to a club, as I like to play lots of different courses, but I have kept a record of my scores at home instead. Although my handicap has gone up by about five or six, compared to when I was playing in society competitions, I think it is fairer. I also think it is better that handicaps can now go as high as 54, compared to the previous 28/36 upper limit, as it will encourage people to take up golf who may previously have been afraid to do so in case they showed themselves up.”

These comments make a good point. Rather than complaining about having to give a 54-handicapper a bucketload of shots, a low handicapper should focus on their own game. Nobody should feel embarrassed about their ability - or lack of it. The whole point of a handicap system is that it gives golfers an opportunity to gauge themselves against the par of the course they are playing. And does it really matter if somebody takes 120 blows as long as they remain aware of the golfers around them. In my humble opinion, etiquette is more important than ability.

It has taken a year but it seems that most golfers are now in some sort of harmony with the WHS.

Related Content

Golfers Just Want a Handicap System That is Fair

World Handicap System - A Step Forward Or Cause For Confusion

Golfers Give the World Handicap System a Thumbs Up

The World Handicap System - Golfers Have Their Say

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