Competitions have now arrived and so has a new term on the lips of golfers. Getting the hang of the World Handicap System, says Steve Carroll, is going to take a bit of time ‘Why have I been cut?’ Thoughts and prayers for all the golf club managers dealing with that cry ringing round their office as players picked up a pencil in anger for the first time under the World Handicap System. Golfers had finally started to get their heads round the concept of Course Handicaps – a relationship that’s been fleeting enough thanks to successive Covid lockdowns – then the start of the competitive season brought with it a whole new term: Playing Handicap. Here’s how the new allowances hit me like a hammer. Parring the 6th hole at my home club, a 175-yard par 3 over water, is a challenging enough feat. But aside from a brief smirk of satisfaction as the putt dropped in regulation on the opening medal of the year, an odd thought then occurred to me. Forever more, I’ll be carrying two numbers in my head. I’m a scorecard watcher. It pleases me to know where I am at any given point of a round. That was easy under CONGU. I was however many over or under my handicap. The Playing Handicap has changed that. On this hole, though, I received a stroke under the Course Handicap but saw it taken away when the Playing Handicap was applied. Even though a Course Handicap determines the number of strokes we get on any golf course, there’s this little thing called equity that gives rise to the Playing Handicap in tournaments I’ve read the CONGU explanation about it, and I’ve read what the R&A and USGA have to say too. The best description I’ve found came on Bracken Ghyll’s website. Here’s how they describe it... “When playing in competitions, the R&A has set mandatory handicap allowances dependent on the format of the competition. “These handicap allowances effectively reduce your Course Handicap to provide equity for players of all levels of ability in each format of play.” Sounds fair enough. But here’s the kicker. The Playing Handicap only applies to the competition. What goes forward for a golfer’s WHS record – what affects their index – is taken from whatever they scored under their Course Handicap. Maybe I’m neurotic, but for the last 12 holes of my round I found myself computing two scores – one for the competition and another for my handicap. I'm sure you're all waiting for the member that picks up in a Stableford competition, because they thought they couldn't score, only to later learn they still had a putt for a point with their Course Handicap. We'll get used to it. But the enquiries of confused members is just one more thing for club managers to deal with following what's been a pretty challenging 12 months. And it seems I wasn’t the only one getting to grips with the new ways. There...
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