A crackdown on “handicap cheats” is under way as two national golfing bodies bid to stop club players manipulating the system in order to win lucrative prizes in amateur events.
Culprits are being warned their handicap could be suspended as action is taken in response to “public concerns” about handicap cheating in the game.
The campaign to stamp out the problem is being led by the Golfing Union of Ireland and Irish Ladies Golf Union, with England Golf also vowing to get tough.
Scottish Golf is set to “monitor” a new rule being introduced south of the Border before deciding if a similar measure is required, claiming that is not the case at present.
It is well known that some amateurs take part in as many competitions as possible at their home club and do so mainly to see their handicap go up 0.1 on every occasion by finishing outside the buffer zone. Using an inflated handicap, they then enter open competitions at other clubs and win some incredible prizes thanks to the rules on the monetary value permitted in amateur events having been relaxed back in 2011.
“There is a culture of tolerating handicap cheating which isn’t the case for other forms of cheating within golf,” says Pat Finn, chief executive of the GUI which, in tandem with the Irish Ladies Golf Union, is running an innovative month-long #TheFairWay campaign in March in a bid to educate players and clubs alike.
“The finger seems to be pointed at the GUI or the branches of the GUI or indeed to club committees to deal with this problem. I don’t think it can be. It is endemic and the only real way of tackling it is at member-to-member level where everybody takes a proactive approach in dealing with the issue and calling out fellow members on their behaviour and saying it is not going to be tolerated anymore.”
The GUI is highlighting how golf relies on the “integrity of the individual” and has pointed out how it is “up to every single player to observe the spirit and intent of the handicapping system”. “Playing in a qualifying competition and setting out with the aim of ‘getting 0.1 back’ or not trying your best at any point in the round with the aim of manipulating your handicap is cheating,” is the message it is trying to hammer home.
England Golf has gone a step further by introducing a new handicapping rule, which requires everyone playing in non-qualifying competitions away from home to return their scores to their home club. Players who ignore this responsibility could, as a last resort, have their handicap suspended.
“We’re not talking about a sleeve of balls,” said Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager of the rewards claimed by players manipulating the system. “These are big prizes including luxury trips overseas, sets of clubs and electric trolleys. It’s essential to do this [introduce the new rule] to protect the integrity of the system. We can’t sit back and let people manipulate the system, but without evidence clubs can’t take any action.”
A Scottish Golf spokesman said: “We will monitor England Golf’s implementation of their new handicapping rule with interest. However, at this time, Scottish Golf will not be placing a similar requirement on players, as we’ve not had the same level of issues reported to us.”