If you’re paying an entry fee, play to the Rules of Golf, mark a card, and get a prize, isn’t that the definition of a competition? Steve Carroll gets on his soap box

It was £5 to enter. We’d draw the balls out of a hat and battle would commence. It was serious stuff. We played individual Stableford off the furthest possible tees, often with a handicap allowance, and strictly to the Rules of Golf. Everything was holed.

The scorecards were collected, the numbers checked and verified, and the victors got paid.

At its peak we had a couple of dozen rocking up on a Saturday and Sunday morning. We’d dole cash out for front 9, back, overall, and closest to the pins.

The prize funds could get sizeable – occasionally far more than you’d pick up for winning a club competition. Get into a decent vein of form for a couple of weeks and you could comfortably get the round in.

In many ways, these were some of my happiest times on a golf course. A great morning with pals and a decent competitive run out to boot.

We used to be able to tell who was going to do well in the official club events based purely on the numbers they’d been recording in our weekly roll up. We were sharp and battle hardened.

And, let’s face it, we were also playing in a competition.

Putting in supplementary scores back then would have risked giving some of the club staff a stroke. Imagine being the one tasked with inputting 20-odd separate scores every Saturday and Sunday. You’d soon grow to hate your job.

The World Handicap System, though, has made it much easier to handle that ourselves. We pre-register, fill in the card, have it checked and attested by our marker, and return the score on the computer or on an app.

So shouldn’t we do that for what is essentially a regular and organised event?

When WHS was barely a twinkle in the R&A and USGA’s eye, England Golf were asking clubs to keep an eye on swindles and consider altering the handicaps of those who dominated them at annual reviews.

At their recent WHS workshops, handicap experts advised club committees to encourage golfers who play in frequent, ‘organised’, events to return their scores.

I’ve said before the system relies on regular input to work at its most optimal. I’ve also speculated that, in the future, it could be mandatory – as it is in other countries – to return scores from all competition and social golf.

In reality, I think that would be too much of a culture shock for players in GB&I, where we have a clearly defined competitive season.

If world handicap chiefs wanted to find a halfway house, and do more than simply encourage, could they specify what a competition is more thoroughly in the Rules of Handicapping?

If you pay an entry fee, play to the Rules of Golf, mark a card, which is verified, and then receive a prize, how does that differ from a club-organised event? Except that you’ve taken it upon yourself to do it?

Of course, there are ways around it. Scores are not acceptable for handicap purposes if they’re not played to the rules. If your roll up involves gimmes, and lots do, or is a team event, then you can’t submit it.

If some of those members are then dominating club competitions because they’re playing regular, organised, golf, and aren’t returning those scores, how do you deal with that?

Leave well alone, or hand out adjustments for those who are playing just a little too well? It’s very easy to blame WHS for our competition ills, but handicap committees do have lots of power where there is evidence to show a player’s handicap index is inaccurate.

Who knows what will transpire when the Rules of Handicapping are reviewed next year? Might we see fourball or match play scores classed as acceptable for handicap purposes in GB&I?

Here’s an easy starting point, though. We should just accept that when a group comes together and the cash is down, it’s not just a ‘social’ event. It’s a competition and you return a score.

Listen to our views on roll ups and tee times in the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade Golf

What do you think? What is a golf competition? Should organised roll up times, played to the Rules of Golf, count for handicap or should we just leave well alone? Let me know with a tweet.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

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. Steve is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 3-Wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Hybrids: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Irons: TaylorMade Stealth 5-A Wedge Wedges: TaylorMade Hi-Toe 54 and 58 Putter: Sik Sho Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Handicap: 11.3

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