A couple of months ago I said in this column that under the 90% allowance in 4BBB Stableford competition, 50 points was possible for a couple of highish handicap players on a good day. It did not take long. In the veterans three counties competition (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset) held at Saunton GC recently, the winning 4BBB score was (drum roll) 51 points!
Having now visited 15 of the 16 regions in the UK, the subject of handicaps is right up there as far as topics of conversation go. Comments I have heard include “Low handicap players are not entering 4BBB comps as they feel they cannot compete”, “Charity days are not attracting the same number of entries as teams come in with ridiculous scores” and worst of all “The system seems to reward failure”.
So before putting pen to paper I visited the CONGU website and read through all 113 pages of the latest Unified Handicapping System. Whilst I was there I checked out who was CONGU. Of the names listed it is not known how many manage a golf club and deal with handicaps on a daily basis.
The object of the handicap system is stated as “To enable golfers of differing abilities, men and women alike, to compete on a fair and equitable basis”. But as George Orwell famously said “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
Having gone through the manual twice, I have to say that there seems to be something missing.
Bearing in mind golf as a sport is competitive in its nature, and in general those who are successful at sport are those who devote time and money (lessons) and practice regularly. Yet in the CONGU manual I could find nothing that encouraged an amateur golfer to improve, lower their handicap and become a better golfer.
As I have heard many times this year, when the allowance was three quarters, or three eighths, etc, there was inherent in the system a slight advantage to the better player that encouraged all golfers to improve and lower their handicap. Currently the feeling seems to be that the system has gone too far in the opposite direction. Once upon a time the best Christmas present you could get for a high handicap golfer would have been golf lessons. Now a tin of silver polish seems more appropriate.
Look at it this way, if the same system were applied to athletics, a Chelsea Pensioner could win the Olympic 100 metres beating Usain Bolt in the process.
Is that what we want to see happening in golf?
Please let us have your thoughts at GCMA HQ.
Finally, may I wish all of you and your families a very happy and peaceful New Year.