THE key inter-club golf events for ladies and gents are set to change next year as a new eight region system is set to replace the provincial areas currently in place.
It was also announced that the 2020 Cups and Shields finals will be deferred until early 2021 when Donegal Golf Club will host the finals.
It’s the first time since 1975/6 that the finals haven’t been finished but all of the finalists, including Berehaven, will be happy the finals will be going ahead.
Those finals will mark the end of the current Mens competitions, the formats will change in 2021. While Munster won’t see too much of a change, it does mean that the traditional Munster finals will no longer take place with pennants being awarded to each of the two Munster region winners.
Those winners will then go forward to the All Irelands, which will now feature quarter finals to accommodate the eight qualifiers.
The work on this project has been ongoing for nearly a year, the GUI currently has a four region model while the ILGU operates a five region model.
The extra ILGU region takes account of the large number of clubs and golfers in the greater Leinster area, and the new regionals structure also takes account of that. From next year there will be one region in Connacht, two in each of Munster and Ulster and three regions in Leinster.
A recent update from Golf Ireland gave details on the new model for the inter-club events. A survey was issued in December 2019 and asked golfers to assess options on the geographic make-up.
Golfers were asked if they wanted a provincial structure or a new structure based on eight equal zones. A large majority selected the option for the eight regions and this has been adopted the new national governing body.
With 66% of the respondents opting for the eight zones, that was more than double the number of golfers wishing to retain the current structure.
Golf Ireland then set about further consultation to build out how the new competition structure might work. Last weeks update from Golf Ireland presented a comprehensive picture of how the future will look for Cups and Shields competitions.
“Due to the overwhelming support for Option 2, the Transition Board of Golf Ireland decided to further investigate the potential of this format. As part of this, an exercise in composing the eight ‘Competition Areas’ was undertaken by GUI and ILGU volunteers in each of the four GUI Branches and five ILGU Districts.
"A final round of consultation was then held with representatives from the GUI Branches and ILGU Districts in June 2020 to present the totality of the work undertaken by both the Transition Board and the staff and volunteers of the GUI and ILGU.
"It also served as an opportunity to receive feedback in relation to this work and to make further amendments to the proposed format.”
Munster will be split in an East – West format but given the size of the province there is still going to be some travel involved for clubs.
The vast majority of Cork clubs have been placed in Munster East. Charleville, Doneraile, Kanturk, Berehaven and Glengarriff are in the West section but the remaining 23 Cork clubs are in the East.
That includes Bantry and Skibbereen which will mean a long journey as the home and away format is to be continued. The home and away format will also apply to ladies events in the Cups and Shields.
ILGU clubs voted not to hold the 2020 inter-club events so 2021 will be the first time that they will use the home and away format. The format was deemed to be a success this year and the Golf Ireland statement went on to confirm the continuation of the approach.
“All 2021 Inter-Club matches will be held on a home & away basis until the Area Final. For clarity, this will mean one leg matches only, i.e. where there are five matches – three will be home & two away; where there are three matches – two will be home & one away etc.
"It is felt that this approach is prudent and appropriate due to the ongoing uncertainty in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The launch of the world handicapping system came into force this week and that too will have an impact on the inter-club events.
The handicap bands and limits for all Inter-Club competitions will be published at the end of the year. That allows Golf Ireland to undertake a detailed examination of handicap data when it becomes available following the introduction of the WHS in Ireland.
To be eligible to compete in all Inter-Club competitions in 2021, a player needs to have a valid Handicap Index on 1 January 2021, and this will be the player’s qualifying handicap for the year.
The “four-card” rule currently operated in a number of GUI competitions will no longer apply and the “three-card” rule currently operated in a number of ILGU competitions will no longer apply.
Most club golfers will have checked into their the new Golf Ireland website to get their new handicap index. Guidance from the steering committee indicated that low handicapped golfers may see their handicap drop while high handicappers may see an increase.
It was expected that most mid handicappers would not be affected to any great extent.
The use of the January handicap index is as a qualifying threshold is likely to be the only time the index itself will be used. Under normal playing conditions the handicap index is only a reference and the playing handicap will change for each round played on a different course or from different tees.