Is the handicap system good or bad? Does not having an official handicap put people off from playing more often? Is it too difficult/daunting for a beginner/casual golfer to obtain an official handicap? Does it matter whether you have one or not? Are handicaps inclusive or divisive?

Members of the team at National Club Golfer debate the issue.

JS (James Savage) – I think it would be better if more casual golfers had official handicaps. It might help them feel more involved and encouraged to play more often. Therefore I think they should be easier to obtain. 

A lot of people think they need to be a member of a golf club to get one. It does help but a club can still maintain your handicap if you are not a member. I think handicaps can encourage people to become members which is great but there must be the same level of flexibility applied to handicaps as there is to membership. 

DM (Dan Murphy) – Higher entry-level handicaps would be a good start. You have to be quite good at golf just to get on the scale with the current men’s limit we have of 28. Beginners and novices can’t imagine breaking 100 in a medal. 

TI (Tom Irwin) – I think they should be scrapped.

Where is the satisfaction in winning a match when receiving shots? It’s much better for the ‘higher handicapped’ player to win less times on equal terms. 

It’s like wearing your A Level results on your head and you don’t want people knowing you got 1 D in General Studies.

DM – The sooner you can get in the system, the sooner you can start charting your progress and that’s an addictive thing. You should be given a handicap immediately and if it’s too high then it can quickly be reduced.
It’s like wearing your A Level results on your head and you don’t want people knowing you got 1 D in General Studies. JS – The process could be easier. With the formats that most casual golfers play, getting three signed cards is not as easy as it sounds and they may be too embarrassed to put in a big score. Clubs could attract more members by making the process easier and less daunting. Fewer cards, nine holes instead of 18 etc… If the casual golfer only currently manages 3/4 rounds a summer it makes it nearly impossible

MT (Mark Townsend) – It would be interesting to see how many entries the club knockouts would get if handicaps were scrapped. Around 12 maybe or however many enter the scratch. 

KH (Karl Hansell) – It’s pretty cool to have a handicap, whether it’s decent or not, as it means you’re officially a ‘golfer’, and although it may be daunting when the first thing a new opponent asks is “what handicap are you?”, anyone who plays in a competition quickly learns that handicaps generally are a good indicator of how well you’re going to play  – way to state the blindingly obvious eh?

TI – I think the worst thing is that it creates an apartheid between those with and without handicaps
Players of unequal ability can easily work out an informal handicap system amongst themselves to make matches falsely close if that is how they want it.

If it was scrapped then ‘wags’ would no longer be able to snort ‘my swing’ when asked about their handicap. That is reason enough to ditch it. 

KH – If you’re in the 20s, you’re going to duff some shots, and your playing partners generally accept that – no matter whether they’re also in the higher numbers or if they’re down at scratch. After all, we were all high handicappers once.

I’ve found low-handicap golfers to be surprisingly inclusive and welcoming, so long as you’re respectful of the course, and some of the best rounds I’ve ever played have been with much better golfers. 

The confidence you get from being aided by a handicap and therefore having a chance to win each hole, instead of being blown away and losing a matchplay round 10&8, makes the game much more interesting than it would if there were no such thing as a handicap.

MT – I’ve no idea how people have come to the conclusion that 28 should be the limit. A lot take up the game late in life and they are then expected to bogey at least eight holes. 

JE (Jordan Elliott) – The handicap system is a great way to give golf a level playing field! However, too often the handicap system is corrupt with “bandits” and those who “protect their handicap” for the benefit of winning competitions.

I don’t want to play out of my skin, get 38 points and realise I haven’t even won a prize because some 22 *cough! cough!* handicapper has 46 points….

KH – Having recently taken the plunge from the kiddies paddling pool into the large, full size swimming pool, I would have found myself out of my depth without a handicap keeping me afloat. How’s that for a metaphor about why I’m all for handicaps?

MT – One conclusion I’ve made from playing Americans or Europeans is that their handicaps are too low and that they struggle to play close to them so I never see that as much of a level playing field.

We seem to have hit a stalemate if you will. Maybe the solution is much more difficult than we anticipated. What do you think?



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