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The World Handicap System - The Debate Rages On

By: | Tue 25 Apr 2023

AND so the debate goes on. We recently reported on the feedback from our latest annual survey regarding the World Handicap System, a subject that continues to divide opinion.

And it came as no surprise that the article exercised many of your minds yet again. Here are just a few of your latest views:

Do Some Abuse The System?

"I submit a card almost every time I play a stroke play format, does that mean I am protecting my handicap or trying to get as low as possible? Surely the message should be to submit regular cards for a handicap that accurately reflects playing level?"

As we said, there will always be those who abuse any system. Most club golfers play the game in order to reduce their handicap but we all know that there are individuals who will seek to protect their handicap. Sadly, it is human nature and there really is no effective way of policing this.

Impact on Club Competitions

"The higher handicappers are predominant in club competition. Their handicaps do not move for weeks, (and months), meanwhile they are entering everything and winning or coming well up every week that their handicap doesn't reduce. This is why the lower guys are feeling disenfranchised. The new system, it seems was only designed for mediocre players who don't feel it is the be all and end all to achieve excellence."

Hasn’t it always been the case that higher handicappers tend to do well in club competitions, especially if those are played using the Stableford format. But if the WHS is working properly then handicaps should fall.

World Handicap System

Impossible to Keep Everyone Happy

"You can't keep everyone happy. I prefer the new system to the old as your handicap can go up or down. I do think it should be your best four of your past 20 rounds. People should also put in general play rounds and should put at least 12 acceptable scores in each year."

How true it is that you cannot keep everybody happy. The very fact that this is a subject we keep returning to is proof positive of that. If a club golfer is doing things properly then he or she should be submitting cards for every round they play anyway. But we all know that this simply doesn’t happen. And, quite frankly, more often than not when we go out for 18 holes we are doing so for fun in any event.

Beating The System

"No matter what system you employ there will be some who want to beat the system. I have seen both, people wanting a higher handicap to win competitions and people wanting the prestige of a single digit handicap. I just accept what I am at any given time."

I have played off a single-figure handicap for most of my life. In my experience, you get back what you put into the game. I have consistently played my best golf when I have been able to play two or three rounds per week. When my handicap has gone up in the past it has just made me all the more determined to put the work in to get it back down. Sadly, work tends to get in the way. And as a single-figure handicap golfer I also accept that I am not going to win many competitions - but winning events is not my primary motivation, and hasn’t been for many, many years. Personally, I have no problem with high-handicappers winning, as long as they don’t become serial winners - if a high handicapper keeps winning club events it is quite clear that the individual is protecting his or her handicap and playing the system.

Intriguing Proposal

"The new system does not encourage or inspire excellence or a desire to self-improve. In the long run this is bad for the sport. There’s a significant fault of all handicap systems I've seen in 56 years playing golf and that is: none of them cut improving golfers anything like fast enough. When you get two golfers in one competition coming first and second playing off 20 with nett 62 scores and see them the following week off 18 it's totally demoralising for all of us with a settled established handicap who will probably never shoot much below nett 70 again. Handicaps should be designed to make everyone equally competitive. It should be mandatory to submit all strokeplay scores, including society and social rounds. If you beat par then it can be assumed that half of that was due to your good fortune on the day but half represented a demonstration of your true ability. 44 points: cut four. 40 next week (same gross), cut another two. Initial handicaps should be set by requiring a player to submit cards and work their way UP to a realistic level, not DOWN. First card gross 28 over (no handicap), now play off 14. Next card 30 over, add half the difference of 16, play off 22. Then 24 over, play off 23. Next card 19 over, play off 21 and that's your starting handicap for whichever system is used. Meanwhile you haven't scooped up two or three competition wins playing off 36 or whatever."

It might be time for The R&A and USGA to get in touch with this Golfshake reader and give him a job! To my mind, everything he says makes perfect sense. Let’s be clear - low-handicap golfers do not have a problem with high handicappers winning monthly medals, but we do have a problem with them winning those competitions again and again. When that happens, there is clearly something wrong with the system.

WHS is Better Than Old System

"I hand in a card every round I play. I've found I like the new system far better than the old for the opposite reason of this - I typically will have one or two rounds out of 40 in a year that are way better than my normal score. Under the old system I would potentially have a big cut then take forever to get back to the handicap I should realistically be playing off of. For instance on Tuesday I had probably the best round of golf I have ever played, carding an 85 on our championship course, for which my course handicap was 19. So my nett 66 was -9. Under the old system, this  would have seen me cut around 2.7. On Thursday, normal service resumed. In the space of two days I went from an SD of 9.5 to 19.2, which was a little higher, but not much, of the majority of cards handed in recently. I know the level I normally play at and it's nowhere near that one off SD of 9.5. My handicap was cut on Tuesday from 15.8 to 13.6, after the latest round it is now 14.6. To get to 14.6 under the old system would have taken me 10 rounds."

It is a fact that most club golfers are pretty inconsistent. We all have purple patches where we think we have discovered “the secret”, only to come crashing back to earth. Like the reader above, I also experienced what I considered to be pretty savage cuts in my handicap under the old system. Obviously, the lower your handicap the more consistent you are likely to be because if you play off, say five, it stands to reason that you are going to have a much better technique than somebody who plays off 20.

Playing Honestly

"In my opinion, the WHS is a far better system for players who play honestly and hand in all their cards. I've found it to be a much fairer reflection of my golf on a week to week basis."

And that, in a nutshell, sums it all up perfectly. For those of us who play by the rules, there is nothing wrong with the WHS.

Related Content

The World Handicap System Continues to Divide Golfers

Golfshake Podcast: WHS Debate

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

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