Everyone has seen them – the 63 points, the monthly medals won by net scores in the 1950s, the high handicaps that seem to be cleaning up on golf courses across the country since the introduction of the World Handicap System a long time ago. little over a year. But are these titles an indication of a broken system or are they exactly that: titles that don’t tell the whole story?

From the outset, it should be noted that change in any sport or lifestyle will never be smooth. Irish golfers were happy to be divided into four handicap categories, to be cut by how much they beat the standard scratch and to recover strokes in 0.1 increments. And, we know, in terms of sports that are reluctant to change, golf is up to the most traditional of all. People don’t like change, golfers really don’t like change.

Thus, on November 1 of last year, the old handicap system was abandoned and the new World Handicap System came into being. Now, one of the most notable things about that November 1 date is that golf clubs across the country were closed as part of the Covid-19 measures at the time. The clubs reopened briefly for December before those gloomy post-Christmas lockdown months earlier this year confined us all to our homes and once again made golf courses a no-go zone. Even when they reopened on April 26, it wasn’t until June 7 that the competitions were officially allowed.

Considering all of this, the World Handicap System may have been officially in place for a year now, but in reality it only works over six months of play.

And this is important, because this system works much more according to the current playing ability of the golfer than to his potential. To put it simply: the more someone plays, the more accurate their handicap index will be.

It’s quite a change Irish golfers need to get used to. In theory, all scores should now count towards a Handicap Index, whether in competition or not, and golfers are encouraged to submit out-of-competition games as general game scores in order to make their score. more precise handicap. However, according to figures from Golf Ireland, only 10% of the 2.3 million scores submitted to Ireland last year were general game scores and 95% of the country’s golfers have yet to submit general game scores. .

This can in part be attributed to the highly competitive culture in Ireland, which means that most golfers play their golf competitively, whether in the weekly stableford single, the monthly medal, the weekdays open competitions. , etc. In other countries, such as the United States, general game scores are much more common, as most golf courses are played outside of a competitive environment.

“Ideally, a player’s record should have a balanced mix of general and competitive play scores and we would like to see all general play turns recorded for handicap purposes either through the club’s computer software or the Golf app. Ireland, “says Pauline Bailie, Chair of Disability at Golf Ireland.

“There are of course guarantees in place for the general game as there are for competition scores. All general game scores must be pre-recorded, for example, and the score must be checked by a marker. A player cannot decide on the third hole that he plays well and wants to record his score for handicap purposes. Likewise, if a player is not playing well, then he cannot decide to ignore the score.

However, the general aspect of the game of the system also lends itself to manipulation with golfers who are thus prone to registering deliberately low scores to increase their Handicap Index. At a club in Leinster, the committee recently made the decision to ban general game scores to prevent such manipulation from occurring. In other clubs, limits have been introduced to say that the maximum handicap a player can play in a competition is 28. Those with handicaps over 28 (the system now allows clues up to 54 for men and women) are still allowed to play but can only receive 28 strokes. According to Golf Ireland, 11% of the country’s male golfers have an index above 28.4 while 35% of women have an index above 36.4.

“The underlying problem here is not with the general game, but with players trying to get around the system to gain an unfair advantage – up or down,” says Bailie. “At the end of the day, golf is a game of honor, and players must act with integrity.

“A player should not be limited in the number of general game scores he can record and should not be banned from using the Golf Ireland app. Instead of a blanket ban, the club could consider using the system to monitor the entry of scores and deal with anything that looks suspicious. Handicap committees play a vital role in the successful administration of their members’ handicaps and if a player is found to be manipulating their handicap, the committee has the option of applying penalty scores, resetting an index disability, consider disciplinary proceedings or remove a disability. index for an agreed period.

Understandably, the majority of talk about the new system in golf clubs and on social media has been based on exceptionally high scores from winning competitions and low handicap players feeling like they waste their time getting in when playing. against players who in some cases might have 54 hits on them.

Throughout the summer, gamers were reassured that the stellar scores were just boot issues and the system would settle down. Whether or not that is the case depends on who you talk to. In many clubs the system has certainly settled and won scores and the handicap dispersion is relatively in line with the old system, while other clubs continue to have problems.

From the interview with the handicap secretaries, most say that it is about constant monitoring and, in particular, a careful evaluation of new membership cards before issuing handicaps. In this sense, the problem for many clubs is that during the pandemic they have seen hundreds of new members join the club, resulting in hundreds of new disabilities.

Generally, handicap secretaries say that the algorithm of the new system can often produce too high handicaps when a new member submits three cards. However, the secretary and the handicap committee can assess the handicap index given and decide to change it if they feel it is not correct but, with a large number of new members joining in the last 18 months , this led to a lot more work.

“If a player consistently scores extremely high or low scores, that player’s handicap can be reviewed by the handicap committee,” says Bailie.

“Clubs can handle this, for example, when evaluating new members. Handicap Committees are advised to establish a player’s sporting history before assigning an initial handicap index in order to establish whether their abilities might be better than expected for a new player.

“The club’s handicap committee should also monitor the handicaps of new members to ensure that they still reflect their demonstrated abilities after submitting more scores. This can be a daunting task for club volunteers, but we encourage this teamwork rather than leaving the responsibility to one person. “

Overall, it seems that the secretaries and committees with disabilities have more work with the new system but, again, this is largely due to the circumstances mentioned. Go to the Golf Ireland app and take a look at the record of any player who has shot an exceptionally high score at your club with an above average handicap and more often than not you will see that they have less than 20 scores on their club. save.

This is another startup problem for the system, as an incomplete record (a record with less than 20 scores) results in significantly more volatility in how the Handicap Index changes. Again, with so many new members joining clubs since the pandemic began, there is a large cohort of players at every club with an incomplete record. In fact, according to Golf Ireland figures, 54 percent of all golfers in Ireland have less than 20 scores.

This further adds to the workload of the disability secretaries who must constantly monitor these files and occasionally take measures to reduce the disabilities if they feel the index is too high.

There is no doubt that the new World Handicap System remains volatile and continues to generate anomalies in high scores and high handicaps in some clubs, while others have been able to manage it better through constant vigilance and intervention. human if necessary. With just over six months of golf played under the new system, there is probably still a way to go before it works properly as it is designed to but, for the time being, the secretaries and handicap committees will remain in place. busiest people in the club.

A brief guide to the World Handicap System (full guide here)

that of a player handicap index is the base number that the system uses to calculate the number of strokes they will receive on the course they are playing, based on the difficulty of that course. The system calculates the Handicap Index by taking the best eight laps of the last 20 laps a golfer has played. For each round played, the system calculates a score differential (the raw score compared to the difficulty rating of the course played). The eight best score differentials are then added together and divided by eight to calculate a player’s Handicap Index.

A course handicap is the number of strokes a player will receive on a course based on the calculation of their Handicap Index, course grade, course rating and the tees they play on during the day. Fortunately, players do not have to calculate this themselves as all courses will have a sheet to tell players how many strokes they will get based on their Handicap Index. The Golf Ireland app is also very handy in this regard as it has a very easy to use Course Handicap Calculator. To level the playing field somewhat in competitions, scores are based on all golfers playing with disabilities. In singles competitions, this represents 95 percent of the course handicap. So, for example, someone with a Course Handicap of 18 will have a Playing Handicap of 17 while another player with a Course Handicap of four will still have a Playing Handicap of four.

Once a score falls on the last 20 on a player’s record, it is discarded. This means that often a player can see their Handicap Index increase if one of their lower turns falls and is then replaced by their next highest score. Likewise, a player’s Handicap Index can drop significantly if they shoot a much better turn than their usual standard, significantly lowering their average of their best eight scores.