Most golfers in the UK have relatively few opportunities to play against handicap. Is this something that needs to change?
Ask amateur golfers across the UK what their main golfing objectives are and, more often than not, a response will be, “to lower my handicap.”
The majority of keen golfers are striving to improve and handicap is the primary gauge of progress. But at most clubs there are few opportunities to play against, and reduce, handicap – one weekly competition, perhaps fewer. This also affects golfers whose handicaps are climbing. With infrequent counting rounds and an increment of 0.1 a time, it can be slow going to find a level. Wouldn’t it make sense then, for more rounds to count towards handicap?
In the UK, the CONGU Unified Handicapping System uses scores returned by players in competition. So, is the answer for clubs to hold more competitions? Some clubs could certainly look to put on more weekend and midweek comps. But it’s an extra administrative burden and, in some cases, it simply might not be possible to block off more slots for competition, potentially losing vital visitor and society income.
In the U.S. a player must post a score for handicapping for every 18-hole round completed, so long as 13 of those holes are played in accordance with the Rules of Golf. Effectively then, every time a player tees it up, their handicap is on the line.
This seems extreme, but could a modified version be introduced here? Many clubs now have electronic systems storing players’ handicap and scoring information. Wouldn’t it be possible for a player to go into the pro-shop or clubhouse before a bounce round and declare, “this one will be be against handicap,” sign in as they would for a Medal, play by the Rules of Golf against SSS, then post a score into the computer after the round?
An argument against this is that the pressure of the Medal round and a player’s ability to deal with competition conditions contributes to their correct handicap. Would too many have a handicap unrepresentative of their true ability if scores were posted from friendly games? The fact a five handicapper from the States is generally no match for a five handicapper from the UK suggests that might be the case.
What we think:
Golf clubs should hold as many competitions through the season as is practicable, affording keen golfers the maximum number of opportunities to play against handicap. It’s only in proper competitive conditions that a player’s true ability can be determined.