Madeleine Winnett: My latest gripe with the handicapping system

The Scoop

I have just read the greatest work of fiction since Harry Potter. And it goes under the title of ‘England Golf Handicapping’.

By Madeleine Winnett

If this had been sent out on April the 1st, then I could have laughed it off as a very good spoof. But it didn’t, so are we really expected to take this latest content seriously?

The directive concerns the compulsory return of non-qualifying scores, but it has more holes in it than a slice of Leerdammer!

It begins encouragingly enough by stating that England Golf made these alterations “in order to promote the integrity of the system and maintain player confidence in handicapping”. That would be marvellous, only no-one has had any confidence in handicapping from the moment that CONGU took it over!

This is not my usual rant at the system as a whole, just the latest debacle to do with compelling people to return nonqualifying away scores, and requiring clubs to set up a process to enable this to happen. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Genuine bandits are a tiny minority. Clubs know who they are and can act accordingly without all this.

If you are not aware of the latest changes yet, and have no idea what I am talking about, the next quote should help. “The rule does extend to betterball events and teams where, for example, two or three scores from a group of four will count. Scores returned in mixed gender competitions must also be returned.”

Allow me to point out one or two teensy-weensy problems as I see them here. A number of years ago I played in a 4BBB competition during which my score counted on 17 out of the 18 holes. I played under my handicap, and my partner didn’t play anywhere near hers, and yet if that happened now, England Golf would expect both of us to submit our total number of points to our respective clubs.

Theoretically then, her handicap could come down as a result, even though she only contributed to our score on one hole. I don’t think so!

Mickey Walker

By the same token, someone could play very well individually in a team of four, but if his or her fellow team mates under perform, the overall points total would reflect negatively on that person, which could be used as evidence latterly to increase their handicap. It’s just ridiculous.

In fairness, towards the end of the Q&A section, it does say “4BBB and Team competitions are not suitable for handicapping purposes” but that people will need to be investigated further if they keep coming near the top of leaderboards. So then, of course, the scores will be used in judgment after all.

There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that I will be returning a score that is not entirely of my own making because it is nonsense. It is bad enough that the CSS already means that my score is completely irrelevant in a competition, and that my handicap is solely a reflection of how other people have played, but now the madness is compounded: “The club are only required to give the players a facility to record the scores returned. It is then up to the club to decide what action they are going to take following the return.”

So, depending on how individual clubs choose to act, the same Open Day score returned by three different people from three different clubs could mean that one person might go up, one go down, and one stay the same.

Thankfully, they are not demanding that social swindles be turned into qualifying competitions, but even here clubs are advised in annual reviews to “take into account circumstances where a member of a swindle regularly outplays their official handicap.” So, if your best friends keep winning the money, now is your chance to become really unpopular and stitch them up!

And just to add insult to injury, we are told: “A club may suspend a member’s handicap under CONGU rule 24.1 where that player does not comply with his or her obligations as imposed by CONGU.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem in a nutshell. CONGU lost sight of the fact that amateur golf is a fun, social game which is meant to be enjoyed on the day they took over, and they have continued their high-handed, authoritarian approach ever since.

In complete contrast, the R&A and USGA have done an absolutely sterling job of proposing 30 new changes to the actual rules of golf. If only they could have had control of the handicapping system as well!

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