When we think about people manipulating their handicaps, why do we forget a playing partner’s starring role? England Golf's James Luke tells Steve Carroll why the marker is as responsible as the player

Manipulation is the World Handicap System complaint that never seems to go away.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s just an urban myth, or whether club committees are constantly on patrol looking for players fiddling their general play scores, whenever a WHS story appears so does the ‘cheating’ chatter.

But when we think about what it takes to do that, and the lengths players might go to, we tend to neglect a really important factor: the marker.

Yes, it takes two to tango. For a golfer to put in a score that would send handicap chiefs into a rage, someone else must be a willing party – both to agree to mark it, and then to certify it.

It’s right there, written in Rule 3.3b in the Rules of Golf and Rule 4.4 in the Rules of Handicapping. When, though, does the golf scorecard marker ever come up in conversation when people complain about golfers bending the rules? Hardly ever.

It’s something England Golf have been looking to educate clubs about as they have undertaken their workshops across the country. If you’ve got doubts, don’t just focus on the player.

Talk to their attester too, as a score MUST be witnessed and, under ‘Appendix A (Rights and Responsibilities)’ of the Rules of Handicapping, golfers must act with integrity and certify scores of fellow players.

James Luke, England Golf’s head of handicapping, explained: “At our workshops, one of the things we say to people when they’re talking about golfers potentially manipulating their handicaps is, ‘Have you ever thought about having a chat with the marker?’

“They say, ‘I didn’t think about that.’ That person has got a responsibility to make sure that the card that’s handed in – or is submitted through the app – has the scores that the player recorded on those holes.

“When I think about attesting, I want to make sure that the Rules of Golf have been followed, and that the gross scores put down on the scorecard are what the player says they are.

“Through the MyEG app, you can reject a score if you feel it has not been done appropriately. Ultimately, the tester has as much responsibility as the player.”

While some critics have rounded on the app, arguing it makes it easier for those who want to cheat to do so, Luke said the digital record that’s created when a player and a marker pre-register for a round, and certify afterwards, leaves electronic traces that clubs can use as evidence if they need to prove manipulation has taken place.

He added: “What you’ve got to remember is that the attester has the same digital footprint as the player – so a club can tell exactly who has marked the score and where they did it.

“So, for example, there was a player in the north who was putting in a round and their attester turned out to be in Bury. The two were 100 miles apart!

“The great thing about WHS is we’ve got all the data and the digital footprints to make sure that the game is moving forward in the most equitable way.”

Luke also reiterated the power that handicap committees have, and the tools they can use, when they suspect foul play. If they do suspect any wrongdoing, the handicap committee must act, investigate, and follow their disciplinary procedure.

“They are responsible for the golfers at their club and ensuring people are playing by the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Handicapping,” he added. “They have to power to freeze handicaps, even withdraw handicaps, if they need to.”

What do you think? Do we neglect the role of the golf scorecard marker, or should the player themselves ultimately take the responsibility? Let me know with a tweet.

Want more on the World Handicap System?

England Golf’s head of handicapping James Luke joined the From the Clubhouse podcast for an in-depth chat about all things WHS. You can listen to that here, or on your preferred podcast platform.

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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