Would you really want a handicap under new complex system?

Handicaps, eh? They are now being offered to golfers in Scotland who are not club members through a new OpenPlay scheme, but what an absolute guddle the new World Handicap System is.

Marking a scorecard under the World Handicap System may still be the same but calculating an actual handicap is now a complicated process. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images.
Marking a scorecard under the World Handicap System may still be the same but calculating an actual handicap is now a complicated process. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Having come into effect in Scotland last November, a good few people may well have got their heads around it by now, but my one is still spinning from a rare competitive outing in a midweek medal.

Before venturing out in a competition these days, you need to know two things and, in fairness, finding out my handicap index then my course handicap wasn’t really too much of a problem.

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My handicap index, as I discovered from the Scottish Golf app, was 10.4 and, using a chart situated opposite the first tee, I learned that my course handicap off the whites at my home club was 11.

Great, I’ve played off that for the best part of a decade, admittedly without any success whatsoever but, for some unknown reason, I almost feel comfortable being an 11-handicapper, stupid as though that sounds.

Anyway, getting the ball in the hole proved as problematic as ever with a card in my hand and, with two holes to play, I had calculated in my head that a par-par finish would give me an 80 for a net 69.

That would have left me just two shots off playing to my handicap and breaking 70 would have felt like a small triumph, which was actually the case after I did indeed cover those final two holes in par but with a birdie-bogey finish.

Ah, but wait a minute. As I entered my score digitally, as you do on returning home due to the ongoing Covid-19 precautions in golf, it was calculated as a net 70 as my handicap, apparently, had been 10.

Bloody hell, that’s me disqualified was my initial reaction, but, on emailing a copy of the card to our excellent match secretary as the last step in the current process, which I have no problems whatsoever about as golf continues to take a sensible approach with all matters in our pandemic-hit world, I was relieved to hear that wasn’t the case.

“You haven’t done anything wrong and, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll explain,” he said in reply.

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“The course handicap is actually calculated to three decimal places, so to be precise, your course handicap is 11.044.

“So, on your card, you enter 10.4 and 11 as the two figures at the top of the card. For handicap purposes, you are playing off 11.

“However, in competition play, you only receive 95 per cent of your course handicap. So, using the unrounded course handicap of 11.044, you get 10.492 which is rounded to 10 as your handicap for the medal.”

Sorry, but, in my humble opinion, this new system, which was developed by the R&A and USGA, is way too complicated, even though I agree with the principle of trying to enable players from anywhere in the world to play and compete with others on a “fair basis”.

“Imagine how much fun it is providing this explanation ten times every medal,” said my match secretary, expressing a view you just know will be shared by lots of his counterparts around the country.

How many people will be introduced to the complexities of that World Handicap System through Scottish Golf’s OpenPlay scheme remains to be seen, but, as expected, that has been met with mixed feelings.

Listen to some people and it is going to have a detrimental effect on golf club membership due to the fact golfers in Scotland will no longer have to hold that status to have an official handicap.

According to others, though, the new scheme for independent or nomadic golfers can help create a “pathway into club membership”.

Only time will tell who is right, but, if there are indeed 500,000 people in Scotland who can potentially be enticed to play a bigger part in the game’s future than is the case at the moment, then surely it makes sense for organisations like Scottish Golf to be involved in that process.

The R&A, too, and few people in the game seem more switched on about how the traditional offering of the game needs to change than Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the St Andrews-based governing body.

That bloody handicap system, though, is definitely not designed to make the game either easy or attractive. Just saying.

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