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90% handicap allowances

It’s time to get rid of 90% handicap allowances

Our Angry Club Golfer hasn't always been the way he is. But there was one tiny tweak to the game that sent him over the edge
 

I wasn’t always furious. In a certain light I could even have been described as optimistic. That lost version of me would almost frolic on the fairways and sign up for all the comps – even those odd Par/Bogey events that occasionally littered the calendar like Polyfilla sealing a big crack in a wall.

But it took just one little phrase to send me over the edge, to ensure I’d forever stalk the course in a fit of rage: 90% handicap allowances.

I look back to that glorious time of three-quarters the way a Brexiteer remembers power shortages and the three-day week.

Golf, nay Britain, was really Great back then.

Fourball betterballs were won with a score under 50 points. If your handicap hovered around the single digit mark you could take on a couple of higher players without the fear of being utterly tag-teamed by the turn.

I stopped participating because I found myself routinely shaking hands with two miles still to walk back to the clubhouse.

I can still remember the explanation vividly. “Research has shown that setting the handicap allowance at 75% is not fair for those players with a higher handicap therefore the allowance has been increased to 90% to ensure more equitable competition.”

Forgive them Lord, they know not what they did.

The handicaps, actually, aren’t the issue. It’s more the number of shots that those at the higher end of the scale can carry forward with 90%.

Maybe I’m the one with the rose-tinted specs on, but three-quarters always seemed about right. The games were often tight affairs. Sometimes you won, others you lost.

What I wasn’t routinely doing, though, was finding myself and my partner level par gross after half a dozen holes and still three down.

I don’t play off scratch. I hover around single figures and, as a player of moderate ability, my bad days outnumber the good. Breaking 80 is still a significant achievement.

What I’m saying is this: under 90% it doesn’t take much for a higher handicapper, with greater capacity to improve, to have a reasonable day and send me packing. That’s even if I play well.

But you get shots back under nine-tenths as well, I hear you cry. Does the odd one make that much difference to me?

I think psychologically, the difference in going from, say, 24 to 18 and, as it is now, from 24 to 22, is much more of a mental boost.

Perhaps I’m just bitter from one too many defeats. But have 90% handicap allowances really made things fairer, or has it just moved the needle a touch too much in favour of those who were already getting plenty of help?

You can follow the Angry Club Golfer on Twitter.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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