From next season onwards, the rules will change for shot allocation in fourball betterball.

Higher handicappers will receive 90 per cent of the difference – compared to 75 per cent at the moment – following changes made by the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU), the body responsible for handicapping in the British Isles.

What do all the new handicap changes mean? CLICK HERE

Here’s an illustration of what the rule will mean in practice:
Tom, who plays off 4, and Dick, a 10 handicap, are playing a fourball betterball match against Harry, 20, and Gary, a 28 handicapper.

Under the existing system, Tom gives Dick 5 shots, Harry 12 shots and Gary 18 shots.
Under the new system, Tom will give Dick 5 shots, Harry 14 shots and Gary 22 shots.

Under the existing system, if Tom and Dick were a pair playing against the field, Tom would receive 3 shots and Dick would get 8 shots.

Under the new system, if Tom and Dick were a pair playing against the field, Tom would receive 4 shots and Dick would get 9 shots.

Under the existing system, if Harry and Gary were a pair playing against the field, Harry would receive 15 shots and Gary would get 21 shots.

Under the new system, if Harry and Gary were a pair playing against the field, Harry would receive 18 shots shots and Dick would get 25 shots.

Is this the right move from the authorities? Will it make it fairer for higher handicappers? Or does it put lower handicappers at an unfair disadvantage?

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

James Savage (17 handicap) – I think this would be a welcome move.

I’ve been saying for some time that it’s unfair when I have to give up five shots when a four-handicapper would only have to give up one.

Even if the four handicapper had to play of scratch, they are still losing less shots. The lower handicapper is also far more likely to play to their handicap on regular basis as they will undoubtedly be more consistent.

I understand that you get two bites of the cherry when playing with a partner so therefore there’s a better chance that one of you will make a par but I find it a bit demoralising when a hard-fought six counts for nothing. Golf is supposed to be fun.

Tom Lenton (3 handicap) – This is now massively stacked in favour of the high handicapper in doubles matches – it’s bad enough in singles.
A lot of low handicappers will just be cross to lose to a 24-handicapper”
Tom Irwin (Scratch) – I think it is a good move.

If you are going to have a handicap system, which I have said before is up for debate, then this should be as simple as possible.

By its very nature it favours the receiver of shots so simplifying and moving back towards full difference is in line with what it is supposed to do – make the game fun and competitive for the less able.

I speak as a scratch golfer and am happy enough with my opportunities to compete with other scratch golfers in events that allow it.

In handicap comps, even if I lose we all know in our heart of hearts I am still better.

Dan Murphy (3 handicap) – Here’s what this boils down to: Lower handicappers believe they should always beat higher handicappers because they are better at golf.

What they fail to understand is the whole point of the handicap system is to allow golfers of differing abilities to compete against each other.

I don’t doubt that CONGU have based this change on research showing that under the old system, the team giving shots in fourball betterball matches won more matches than those receiving. And that lower-handicap teams typicaly returned better scores than high-handicap pairs. Probably significantly so.

In raising the allocation to 90 per cent of the difference, CONGU believe that more games will be close and that everyone will have a chance of winning a competition.

They did the same thing in singles matchplay a few years ago. I think the new system is better. Playing at my own club and giving shots, I would still expect to win – all other things being equal.

What going from 3/4 difference to full difference has meant is that I have to play better to do so and I think that is fair enough.

A lot of low handicappers are just cross to lose to 24-handicappers more often than was previously the case.

The same now is going to be true in betterball but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fairer system.