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The Problem With Handicaps

By Robert Hardie July 07, 2022 10 comments

The Problem With Handicaps...Golfers?

The Problem With Handicaps...Golfers?

07 July, 2022 - Robert hardie


Deep into the second full season of its introduction in the UK it’s no longer the “new World Handicap System” but it still gets talked about ALL the time.

Talk to any golfer for more than 30 seconds and the chances are handicaps will already have been mentioned: perfectly understandable as it’s a universal language by which golfers the world over can judge each other. And judge they do.


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  • "The World Handicap system is the worst handicap system ever. Apart from all the other ones."

    • Robert Hardie

"The World Handicap system is the worst handicap system ever. Apart from all the other ones."

  • Robert Hardie

Tell some your handicap is more than 18 and they’ll call you a bandit: tell them your handicap is in single figures and you’ll be told you’re playing too much golf.

Everyone’s got a view on everyone else’s handicap - and it’s almost always that it’s too high - but the one thing you never hear a golfer say is “my handicap’s too high”.

WHS gets the blame, which is ridiculous: how difficult would it be to design a system that manages to gives only one person in the world an accurate handicap but gives every other golfer one that’s too high?

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The problem is averages. For more than 150 years now the system has been revised and revised in search of something that will give an indication of how good a player is or isn’t and attempt to level the playing field in handicap competitions, but players don’t play the same every time they play and competitions aren’t staged over long periods of the time - they’re on the day.

That’s an impossible dream, just like handicapping horses in flat racing: if that worked every race would end in a dead heat for all the horses running, but they never do. Any time someone wins a club competition, especially by a decent margin, the whispering starts: “we need to do something about their handicap” etc. It’s never very clear who are the “right” people to win competitions are, just that it’s not the ones that do.

Gloriously, every golfer is able to play well below their handicap and well above it in any two consecutive rounds: playing below it is why we keep trying, playing above it keeps us honest about how good or bad we really are.

We should be celebrating someone’s success when they win, not tarnishing it.

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  • Re Bobs comments on WHS, I agree that high handicappers that only play say “12 times a year” and then come in with 45 points is irritating but the problem is not their “listed handicap”. The problem is the club is allowing them to enter said competition in the first place.
    The WHS index of average of best 8 out of last 20 is fine but it needs to be applied correctly by the competition managers e.g. no entry unless ‘x’ numbers of recorded rounds with ‘y’ weeks to encourage proper recording of current standard of play – IMHO

    Ian on

  • Poor old single handicappers, feel sorry for them, not worth them turning up anymore, how can they get 45 points high handicappers winning every week, golf has given up its integrity and surrendered to the Woke brigade, totally ruined the game, not worth practicing anymore, men over25 handicaps should be wearing skirts !

    Kevin Steele on

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    quy on

  • I’m 64 and play golf because I love it. I hate competitions and playing with folks whose mood swings during a round spoil it for everyone. Sure, I try to improve but happy if I can break 100. I keep a scorecard, but don’t get angry if I hit a duff shot. I took my retirement ‘gift-to-self (Q-Carbon edition Follow me Trolley) out for the first time and shot 94, which is six better than my ’normal’ round. 94 is my new target.
    The trolley certainly helped me maintain energy levels through the full 18 holes, where tiredness tended to affect me on the last 4 or 5 holes. I didn’t think it possible, but I love golf even more now. Great product – thank you Stewart Golf.

    Edward Kolber on

  • The reason for the separate percentage reduction is that it is not part of handicap calculation, but rather the adjustment made for the nature of the competition eg strokeplay, matchplay, foursomes, greensomes and Texas scramble all have different percentage alterations.

    Mike Wood on

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