Cork golf: Clubs need to ensure there is fair and consistent handicapping

Golf in Ireland into the second year of the new World Handicapping System
Cork golf: Clubs need to ensure there is fair and consistent handicapping

Barry Lynch (Raffeen Creek) who was elected to the board of Golf Ireland on Saturday Picture: Niall O'Shea

THIS weekend will see the return of handicap qualifying competitions for many clubs, and Golf Ireland want to ensure golfers are aware of the rules and responsibilities of counting competitions. 

Winter rules have been in place in most clubs since November, and rules that allow for placing would have made the competitions non-counting for handicap purposes.

Golf Ireland are spearheading an awareness campaign for fair and consistent handicapping in advance of the competitive season. The governing body for the sport in Ireland is now starting into the second year of working under the new World Handicapping System which replaced the older CONGU system in the four home nations.

Golf Ireland have been issuing infographics and information on handicapping, which aim to educate players and clubs alike. Handicapping is a fundamental aspect of the game and as the governing body Golf Ireland want to raise awareness that golfers should aim to play the best golf they can.

Golf is one of just a few sports to have a handicapping system that is designed to allow every player to compete on an equal basis, making the game as inclusive as possible.

Not only does it level the playing field, but the handicap system also makes allowance for beginners, children and adults alike, players of declining ability and golfers with disabilities. It is because of the handicapping system that parents get to compete side-by-side with their children or grandparents get the chance to tee it up alongside a grandchild.

Golf Ireland President-Elect Jim Long with Monkstown members Anthony O'Sullivan, John O'Reilly, Mary Bergin and Sieglinde Murphy.
Golf Ireland President-Elect Jim Long with Monkstown members Anthony O'Sullivan, John O'Reilly, Mary Bergin and Sieglinde Murphy.

Unlike most sports, golf is largely played in the absence of a referee. The game, and the handicapping system, rely on the integrity of the individual. Golf Ireland states that for club golfers, it is essential that everyone observes the spirit and intent of the handicapping system to make the game as fair and equitable as possible. Keeping a handicap that is too high or too low are equally incorrect.

The new system came in for plenty of commentary in 2021 with many golfers complaining about large movements in the handicap index under the new averaging system. Previously under CONGU handicapping, a golfers handicap would normally see marginal movements from a fixed handicap.

The new averaging system means that changes to a handicap index can happen more frequently and scale of movement is often greater. However having used the WHS system for a full season in 2020,

When a golfer has a full playing record of 20 rounds, the best eight rounds count towards your handicap. But if the best rounds are the oldest, these will be excluded once you play more counting rounds. This means that a golfers handicap can rise rapidly.

The opposite can happen if the oldest of the eight counting rounds are the higher than other counting rounds and the new scores are lower.

The concept of a stable handicap has been part of Irish golf for decades but golfers are now getting to grips with the changes involved in the new system.

One change that is coming into effect today is the way scorecards are to be completed. Last year golfers were advised that their course handicap was required on the card. From today golfers are required to include their handicap index.

Additionally, if a golfer has indicated that they intend to return the score but fail to do so, a penalty score can be applied automatically. Thousands of incomplete scoring records were on the system from 2021, and golfers will also receive email reminders to complete their score returns.

The new process is designed to automate the process through the GI app and reduce the number of unfinished records.

While Golf Ireland advises and guides clubs on the handicapping process, it does fall to clubs to administer it.

One of most important things for clubs to remember is that club Handicap secretaries should not act on their own, and it is important that decisions are made as a committee in accordance with the rules. In addition, each club has a dedicated handicap advisor, who can assist them.

With the new season starting, the Golf Ireland AGM took place on Saturday and Monkstown’s Jim Long was elected as President-Elect and he will take up the role of President in early 2023. Long was the outgoing Chairman of the Munster Regional Executive, and prior to that he served as the Chairman of Munster Golf for four years.

It was the first Golf Ireland to be held in person and there were a number of Monkstown members present including the 1994 GUI President John O’Reilly.

There was further local interest when Raffeen Creek’s Barry Lynch was elected onto the Board.

He was a regional nominee for 2021 and his election on Saturday will see him serve a four-year term on the board.

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