As the governing body presses on with controversial plans to offer official handicaps to golfers who are not members of a club, details have emerged about how scorecards will be monitored
England Golf will form a committee to monitor scores inputted by nomad golfers when a scheme to offer them an official handicap is launched.
Richard Flint, the governing body’s chief operating officer, said the integrity of the World Handicap System had to be maintained if indexes were going to be offered to players who do not hold a membership at a golf club.
Speaking on a video call hosted by the Golf Club Managers’ Association, Flint sought to reassure clubs and golfers who have raised concerns about the accuracy of any handicaps obtained by independent players.
“As golf club managers know, they have to form a handicap committee as part of the Rules of Handicapping under those obligations,” he explained.
“So England Golf will form its own handicap committee, likely made up of regional and, or, county handicap advisors.
“Part of the beauty of the new WHS system, not just in our country but around the world, is there are flags, checks and balances within the system that automatically flag potential concerns, not just for independent golfers but members as well.
“The system will flag that. We will have our own handicap committee.”
England Golf have set up a working group to create a national platform that will connect independent golfers and offer them a handicap.
A business model will be produced in the first half of this year after England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson explained it was a core strategy of the R&A.
He told managers the governing body would not dictate to them how they connected with independent golfers, but Flint revealed some interesting details about how the integrity of the scoring system could be maintained.
Independent golfers would input their scores through the My England Golf app and a geo-location tool within that would mean an individual would have to be within a kilometre of a clubhouse to download a scorecard.
“All independent golfers, as members do now for general play scores, would have to pre-register,” said Flint. “Clearly, they would be registered on our system.
“There would also be a timing device within the app that independent golfers couldn’t just input scores within five or 10 minutes of downloading that scorecard.
“It would at least be an hour, maybe a little bit longer if it’s for nine holes. So geo-location and timing within the app is absolutely critical.”
For marking and verifying scorecards, Flint added an individual playing with an independent golfer would also have to be registered on the system – “so another registered independent golfer, or a member of a golf club, to mark and verify that card.
“Everything would be automated through the system, so there would be no administration requirements on the golf club itself.”
On course set up, Flint reminded managers that, under WHS, there were no longer non-qualifying competitions.
“If a course has been rated, and there are no significant adverse weather conditions or playing conditions, then acceptable scores can be played across that course at any point throughout the season – and any point throughout the year.”
Earlier in the call, GCMA chief executive Tom Brooke laid out to members what he believed the initial business plan for an independent golfer scheme would be.
He said players would pay £40 a year to access a handicap, and that the plan was to roll out to 125,000 golfers by the fifth year. Costing £300,000 a year to run, Brooke said that would make £4.7 million of annual profit for England Golf.
Tomlinson said the only thing that been decided with regards to the project was “that we’re going to do it”.
He added: “We haven’t agreed upon anything yet and there is a figure out there, that is part of a proposal, that it could be around about £40 with regards to a fee – whether you’d actually call that membership or affiliation – which would then actually get an independent golfer, or could get them, a handicap and some insurance.
“You are right with regards to the target of a minimum of 25,000 within the first rolling 12 months after launch. But the number of £300,000 is really an expenditure level – that only would be advertising and salaries.
“As part of an overall figure, it would be closer to £750,000 that we would look at as our overall costs.”
He added: “As you start to look to year five, with that £5 million forecast, in fact the total expenditure goes up to £2 million,” he said.
“But, nevertheless, it’s still a lot of money and would create a surplus of some £3 million.”
Tomlinson stressed that England Golf is a not-for-profit organisation that created surplus. He explained: “It’s not just a play on words. It’s reality. Everything that we do is designed to be there to be able to put money back straight into the game, which would be very different from the commercial operators right now that are making profit from issuing unofficial handicaps.”
Do the measures suggested by England Golf ease your concerns? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.
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