With all that's going on, is a new handicap system the last thing we, as golfers, need? Our writers have put WHS to the test and now they have their say

We’ve spent years talking about it and now it is finally here – the World Handicap System launched in a blaze of publicity this week.

We’ve already been out and put the new order to the test on the course. But is it living up to the hype, or are opening week jitters exposing flaws? Two of our writers discuss….

‘Not all of us play the game with our handicaps at the forefront of our minds’

Of all the days to begin a new era of handicaps, somehow it was the same one that involved trying to persuade the Government that there was no need to close golf courses as part of the new lockdown, says Dan Murphy.

In such circumstances, it seemed a little inconsequential to be worrying about how to submit an away card or which tees would give us the best chance of playing to our new handicaps.

At Ganton on Monday, apart from a small group of ladies, only Steve and I seemed particularly engaged with WHS. Elsewhere, there was plenty of golf being played but it had more to do with lifelong friendships and weekly fourballs than it did course ratings and handicap indexes

Therein lies a truth of golf in this country: not all of us play the game with our handicaps at the forefront of our minds.

The advent of WHS, we were initially told, would involve the recording of every score. But it’s clear that is not now the case, and may never well be.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that you might want to play golf for the exercise, the company, or many other legitimate reasons that don’t involve a competitive handicap.

Another truth is that many golfers never understood the previous handicapping system – so there should be no surprise that so few have engaged with the new one ahead of its launch.

Perhaps that is just as well, because it’s fair to say that the switch has not exactly been seamless.

Arguments have ranged from whether a golfer needs to be a member of a club to have a WHS handicap, to the potential GDPR implications of members’ data being handed over to England Golf.

More prosaically, it will be interesting to see how accurate the course and slope ratings prove to be and how much and how often they change. 

Any such system is only as good as the data that is fed into it so we should reserve judgment until at least next summer, when we have all had chance to post some scores from a variety of tees and indeed courses and watch what happens to our handicap index.

Right now, you can’t help but feel that this is an issue that can be put to one side because golf – in England at least – has bigger fish to fry. Not least the challenge of when we will next be able to access a golf course after lockdown.

‘Anyone who thought it would be seamless was being naive’

WHS D-Day came with a hefty sense of deja vu for me, writes Steve Carroll. Something new had arrived and people were complaining.

This isn’t too much of a surprise. People don’t like change and this is a big one. Cast your mind back to the alterations to the Rules of Golf, at the start of 2019, and some of us were acting as if the knee high drop was going to end the sport as we knew it.

Does anyone still drop it the wrong way now? I don’t even think about it anymore and, in the coming months, I reckon it will be the same with the World Handicap System.

Did it go faultlessly on day one? Of course not. With anything of this magnitude, there are going to be teething issues. Anyone who thought it would be seamless was being naive.

Things will settle down. We’ll get used to having more control over our handicaps and reading charts will become second nature – just as it is in every other part of the world where Slope is very well established.

Our handicapping authorities will iron out the quirks and will listen to the concerns of players and golf club managers. The time to judge is not now, or even in three months, but when a full season – and one that hopefully isn’t played out in the shadow of a pandemic – is in the books.

Ultimately, the aim of WHS is to give us a more flexible and accurate measure of our ability, as well as a chance to compare ourselves with golfers around the globe and to play a round that counts for our handicap at any course we might choose. Let’s give it a chance to see how it performs.

Have you played a round under WHS? What do you think of the new system? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us.

Need more information on the World Handicap System?

Visit our dedicated WHS page where you will find everything you need to know and details of how to contact us if you have any more questions.

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