It was supposed to be a moment of triumph but there wasn’t a sound as the foursome walked up to collect their prizes. Then the booing started.

At another event, the scene descended into a mini brawl as one of the leading competitors found himself in a fist fight with a disgruntled ‘loser’.

I used to run a charity golf day, which saw fewer and fewer participants with each year that the winning score increased.

Ah, it can only be the team competition – the willing home of the handicap conspiracy. You can replay these scenes at many clubs throughout the land.

You have a lovely day on a nice course, everyone is getting along famously, and then someone comes in with a silly score in a three out of four and it all gets a bit ugly.

worldwide handicap system

In a previous life I was a hard news reporter at a local newspaper so I like to think I’ve seen a few things.

But find yourself witnessing a ‘controversial’ winning score in one of these events and it can sometimes be a match for anything you’ve experienced in a busy city centre on a Friday night.

When golfers get the scent of ‘cheating’, things go downhill quickly.

Now let’s make something very clear. A fair bit of this is often sour grapes.

Just because we haven’t managed 53.5 in the Texas Scramble doesn’t mean it wasn’t perfectly possible for another team to achieve exactly that. It is also perfectly reasonable to expect that a winning team can play above and beyond to bring home the bacon.

We just don’t believe it. That’s our problem.

There’s not a lot you can do about cheating

Having said that, everyone also knows that these kind of competitions can be the haven of the handicap bandits.

They are often hiding in plain sight – the ones who’ve been too busy to play in the qualifying competitions – only to rock up in the events that don’t count for their mark and suddenly start playing like an elite amateur.

They’re the ones who ‘haven’t played for years’ and wield a cricket score of a mark, and then split before everyone finds out they were once off three and used to play for the county.

So how do you react to what is basically cheating? Demand handicap certificates and CDH numbers?

Get the spotlights out and carry out extensive pre-tee time interrogations before anyone is allowed to complete?

The reality is that there’s very little that can be done to stop those who are determined to cheat – whether that’s altering their handicaps in a team competition, dropping a ball in the rough or tampering with their scorecards.

I used to let this wind me up but, these days, I try to concentrate on enjoying company, while having a round where for once it doesn’t matter that I’ve lost six balls and couldn’t win a raffle never mind a medal.

It definitely beats getting the pitchfork out and winding yourselves up into a tizzy.

Out and About


After the drama of the Open, and the thrilling final day of the PGA Championship, it’s been a quiet month on the playing front.

On the occasions I have played, that lack of action has had quite the impact on my handicap, and it’s now creeping up to its highest mark for more than a year.

I had been on the cusp of single figures but, if I’m not careful, I’ll soon be drifting away to mid-table mediocrity.

There are still two months of the season to rescue matters and, occasionally, I remind myself that I can play.

A lovely knock around Brough certainly boosted spirits and getting it round the tight parkland concentrates the mind.

It’s just 6,000 yards off the whites but if you hit too many drivers round here you’re going to get yourself into trouble.

There is something about plotting a path around a course – rather than blasting away – that’s very satisfying. It was an awful lot of fun.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

PGA Catalunya Stadium PGA Catalunya Stadium

The NCG Top 100s Tour is heading to Europe for a multi-day event at PGA Catalunya. Prices start at £799 per golfer.


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