In discussion: The 3/4 handicap difference rule in matchplay

Golf Tips

Or is it a way for better players to guarantee victory? We debate this...

Joe Whitley (JW, 7 handicap): To me, the 3/4 difference rule in matchplay makes no sense at all – why should higher handicappers give up shots on more skilled opponents? It seems very unfair.

Will Shucksmith (WS, +3 handicap): I completely disagree – until recently 3/4 handicap was standard in England. Until the rule changed I can’t think of a time when a high handicapper complained about not getting full shots in any variation of the matchplay format.

JW: There’s a reason it changed – it isn’t right. I remember when I played off 24 and was up against a 3-handicapper in the club knockout. Instead of getting 21 shots, I received 16. I was essentially five-down before we got going.

WS: Matchplay enables more attacking golf than strokeplay, and the odd blob, which would destroy your round in a medal, just counts as a lost hole. Higher handicappers are clearly more likely to have these blowouts than their lower counterparts. It therefore makes sense that the lower handicapper get some benefit for the fact they are now at a disadvantage for being a more consistent golfer.

JW: I don’t think it puts you at a disadvantage at all. You’re still going to get holes given to you for simply keeping your ball in play. I think it’s greedy and unfair to rob beginners of the shots they obviously need to compete.

WS: I wouldn’t belittle your higher handicap friends as beginners! Higher handicappers are more than competent at shooting good scores and getting the ball round, especially with all the good work equipment manufacturers are doing to make the game easier. New advances in technology helps the higher handicapper more than the lower handicapper. A scratch golfer playing an 18 handicapper would now give 18 shots, four more than previously. It’s just too many, especially when most matchplay games at clubs are played off the club tees rather than the back tees, which generally favours the higher handicapper.

If you’re off scratch and playing against someone off 18, there should be 18 shots given, not 14. It makes no sense. JW: Is it really? If you’re off scratch and playing against someone off 18, there should be 18 shots given, not 14. It makes no sense. And as for the tees, if you play off the closer ones too no-one is at an advantage. You will also be hitting a shorter club into the green so it shouldn’t make any difference.

WS: Completely disagree, shorter holes means gives higher handicappers many advantages. Better players in general hit it longer and straighter, so on a shorter course this removes a lot of the lower handicapper’s key advantages and enables the higher handicapper to be able to keep it in play more rather than having to hit the big dog to get to the fairway.

JW: The same could be said for you. From the forward tees you can hit loads of hybrids to take the risk out altogether. Surely you’ll be better in every respect so it shouldn’t make any difference to the score.

WS: Put it this way, the change in rules has deterred me and many other category one golfers I know from playing in any singles club handicap matchplay knockouts. This is a real shame. It was always a fun game, and you did have a chance, now it is just impossible with all the shots I have to give, and many a high handicapper I know agree. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

JW: Well it’s your loss. Why better players feel they deserve what are essentially courtesy shots is beyond me.

  • Who do you agree with? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below and the best ones will be published in our next magazine.
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