It usually happens about an hour in. At every meeting there’s a tipping point – a moment when faces start to droop and concentration begins to wander.
Not here. There are more than 100 officials and handicap secretaries from clubs across the West Midlands and they are hanging onto every word spoken by Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager.
She is leading them through the finer points of the new World Handicap System – or what the organisation can reveal at this point anyway – and she’s got an engaged audience in front of her.
They’ve come with plenty of questions too, asking about anything from the printing of new scorecards to what to do with junior handicaps.
The new handicap arrangements are going to be a big change and we already know some of the answers even though the system is far from finalised.
And there were plenty of nuggets that came out of the near 150-minute meeting to keep everyone interested until we start to find out some of the specifics in the autumn.
So we’ve picked out some of the more interesting, with Gemma’s answers, to give you a flavour of the meeting and the thinking as we move towards #WHS2020…
What if my course hasn’t been rated by the time the WHS is implemented?
We are working to get every course re-rated under the USGA system by 2020 but that isn’t going to be possible. We are not going to get to all 1,800 golf clubs in the next two years. We know that.
We are working with the USGA and the R&A to come up with a provisional, or temporary, rating we can give those clubs that we aren’t able to get to. We will get to you by 2023, which was our deadline of 10 years, which we set out to do in 2013.
If the average golfer plays six qualifiers a year, won’t it take them more than three years to get to 20 rounds?
That’s the average golfer based on qualifying scores. What we are saying is that there will be more scores available, and more opportunity for players to return scores.
Will there be a time limit (on how far back you would go to hit 20 rounds)?
The aim at the moment is that there isn’t going to be one but the idea, eventually, is that we will try and get it to a two-year cycle. That’s not going to happen straight away and we are going to work our way into that.
What if you haven’t got 20 scores in your record? What if you are a new player, putting three cards in, and getting a handicap for the first time?
The initial handicap will be the best score minus two. When a player has got, for example, nine scores it then becomes the average of the best three scores.
It’s like a sliding scale. When a player has got 15 scores, it will be the average of the best five scores out of those 15 and it will continue to develop that handicap until we have all 20 scores in a record. That’s what we call a fully developed record.
So this is where we can think now and say ‘have we got anybody who hasn’t got 20 scores in their record? Can we encourage them now to start putting in more scores?’
It’s one of the reasons CONGU relaxed the supplementary score rule, because we want to encourage people that might not want to play competition golf to put in more scores.
The more people we can get with a fully developed record, by midway through next year when we start looking at converting handicaps to a World Handicap System handicap, the more accurate that handicap is going to be.
How far back in time would you be prepared to go for a player to reach 20 cards?
We will go back as far as we have got data for. The Central Database of Handicaps (CDH) has only got data going back five or six years. If we need to go back any further you start questioning how relevant that data is.
How are you going to do that conversion?
We’ve not got that far yet because there are a lot of things we have got to consider, such as slope rating and course ratings, so that we can unpick the current CONGU scores.
We are leaving that to the stattos, who are very good at things like that, who work for the R&A and USGA, to come back to us and say what we are going to need to do for players who are already in the system that need converting to a new handicap.
What would you do about a player who persistently NRs in a competition under the World Handicap System?
Within the system, there is a procedure for dealing with no return. There’s a scheme regarding what happens when someone no returns, at what point they did, and then you follow the path.
Anybody that has that one bad hole should continue to play because that’s what the Stableford adjustment is there for.
Will the new system only apply to qualifying competitions or every card you play?
The idea is we are trying to give people more opportunity to record a score for handicap purposes. There are competitions, and social and recreational golf, and they are two different things and why shouldn’t they both be acceptable for your handicap?
Turn the page to find out what scores will count for a daily course conditions adjustment, how handicap allowances for events might change and when we can expect to see our new handicaps…