Madeleine Winnett: My problems with CONGU

News & Tour

Our columnist takes another shot at the handicap system...

As the decking of the halls is in full swing now, and I am putting the finishing touches to my third running of the ‘Carols by Candlelight’ night at the golf club, at least I won’t have to spend much time worrying about present ideas.

I certainly won’t be short of stocking fillers for people this year, with my Pink Ribbon charity calendar. However, as well as raising lots of money for a very good cause – (around £3,000 so far), and solving my present dilemmas, creating the calendar has also proved to be invaluable in a way I hadn’t foreseen. It has now made me seemingly invincible!

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword – and indeed, it doesn’t pay to annoy me just before I am about to write my column. However, they also say that a picture paints a thousand words – and now that I have learned the art of photoshopping, that skill seems to have made me unbelievably powerful.

A case in point is a friend of mine. This friend has many admirable qualities, but correspondence doesn’t necessarily happen to be one of them. 

So, when I needed an answer to a question, I simply threatened to superimpose her head onto one of my naked calendar girl photos where the subject happened to be in the bushes, and said I would remove a couple of leaves for every day that I didn’t hear back from her. 

This threat seemed to work so spectacularly well I have now decided that blackmail and extortion are clearly the way to go in order to get on in life. And now that I have realised that, if only I knew who the nameless, faceless members of CONGU were, I could threaten to publish all sorts of embarrassing, fictitious photos of them unless they agree to give us the old handicap system back! 

Well, they say the camera never lies… Clearly, I have created a monster!

With this being the season of joy and goodwill, I don’t wish to put everyone off their Christmas festivities by mentioning the handicap system again, but I am still approached by people wherever I go asking if I can do something about it since they think it is so awful and they hate it so much. 

They also ask me to keep writing about it although, apart from the odd one line dig here and there whenever an opportunity arises, I have actually been remarkably quiet about CONGU bashing for quite a while now that I think about it.

Only this week a senior lady I hadn’t previously met told me how depressed she is by the handicap system and how it has ruined her enjoyment of the game she had enjoyed for many years. The interesting thing to me is that people hate it for different reasons. Depending on your mix of players, at some clubs the CSS seems to go up regularly in competitions, so ladies who merely play to their handicaps come down when they don’t want to. 

At other clubs, the CSS seems to come down with monotonous regularity, so you don’t come down as much as you deserve to if you do play under your handicap, and still go up if you are just in your buffer zone. However, the one common denominator is that people resent the fact that their handicap is now largely determined by how other people play rather than how they play themselves. This is not only annoying, it is also ludicrously unfair.

It is supposed to be a unified system, working the same for men and women, but that is complete nonsense. Having a variable standard scratch doesn’t work anything like the same for men’s and women’s competitions. 

Trust me, I have studied the scores and CSSs for both sets of competitions this year and there is no correlation. The higher handicaps and their larger buffers, the relatively small fields and the smaller number of category 1 players playing in ladies’ competitions all distort the CSS figures compared with the men.
Just think of the joy that could be brought by an incentive to don your thermals and skip out into the frosty morning with the prospect of hope in the air. So, I decided this year that I was going to follow a number of my low handicap peers at other clubs, and wasn’t really going to bother playing in qualifying competitions. I pay a lot of money to play golf, and I want to enjoy it. Nothing makes me more annoyed than the CSS coming down so, when the weekly competition results have come through, rather than feeling miserable, I have smiled to myself as I have repeatedly watched the CSS drop, and just reinforced the message that I was so glad that I wasn’t playing.

It’s a very sad admission in many ways because I am a hugely competitive person and I am working as hard on my game as ever – and am playing as well, or even better, than ever. I have had success in am-ams, knockouts, scratch matches and county matches, and am now enjoying myself in the blessed three-month winter period of non-qualifying events.

Someone recently said that instead of non-qualifying competitions in winter – and most clubs I know introduce these to get round CONGU and encourage ladies to play – they would like competitions to be reduction only. 

That would be fantastic. Just think of the joy that could be brought by an incentive to don your thermals and skip out into the frosty morning with the prospect of hope in the air. 

To stride out under your umbrella knowing that even though the fairways are muddy, your heart is getting lighter because there is a glimmer of hope that you still might shave 0.1 off your handicap.

The only trouble is, that prospect is about as remote as Santa actually coming down your chimney for his glass of sherry, because CONGU are only interested in a system of punishment not rewards.

So, a very merry Christmas to all my readers – and bah humbug to every member of CONGU!

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