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World Handicap System cross border scores

Does your club ban general play scores? Here’s why they have to STOP

James Luke, the country’s head of handicapping and course rating, has moved to stop clubs who are refusing to allow players to submit such scores for their World Handicap System indexes

 

Clubs that are banning players from submitting general play scores have been warned to stop by England Golf’s top handicap chief.

James Luke, the governing body’s head of handicapping and course rating, said they could neither prohibit nor limit what players could input into their World Handicap System records.

Speaking on The NCG Golf Podcast, he revealed he’d already spoken to clubs and counties that had restricted golfers from putting in general play cards.

He added he would find and ‘educate’ others that were doing so, stressing the R&A and USGA – the two organisations behind the universal system – felt “very strongly on this subject”.

“You cannot restrict someone from putting in general play scores,” he said. “I have seen clubs say, ‘you can’t have any general play scores in the last 20’. That’s not allowed.

“England Golf’s policy is that we do not restrict general play”.

WHS general play

WHS general play scores: ‘It is not allowed – point blank’

Luke said clubs could ask for more competition scores, or general play scores, as part of their terms of competition entry. He contrasted what some clubs were doing with the organisation’s own Competition Entry Policy which, for some over-subscribed events, measures the gap in scoring differentials between competition and general play scores for those players with more than four of the latter in their last 20 rounds.

But that policy does not stop golfers from participating in general play rounds and Luke added: “At club level, we’re all just golfers at the end of the day. The most important thing is to go to the golf club, put the ball in the hole and write down how many it’s taken on the scorecard. It’s as simple as that.

“If golf clubs out there are saying, ‘you are not allowed any general play scores on your record’, that is not allowed – point blank.

“I will find those golf clubs, and I will talk to them, and I will educate them on what they can and can’t do. The R&A and USGA feel very strongly on this subject.”

With one of WHS’s big criticisms the fear that general play scores can be manipulated, some clubs might argue restricting their number can protect the integrity of competitions.

Asked to respond to that argument, Luke said: “It’s plain and simple. If a golf club can say, ‘we know x, y and z are using general play scores to manipulate their handicap, I would say to the handicap committee, ‘you’re the handicap committee. You know these people and you know what they are doing. You can choose to review their records and if you see a big discrepancy between general play and competition then you’ve got evidence to act on that’.

“We’ve seen clubs do it. My own has done it against golfers. It’s as simple as that if we’ve got the evidence and the data to show where people might potentially be manipulating their handicap.”

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

James Luke, England Golf’s head of handicapping, joins Steve Carroll this week on the pod. They talk about the recent changes to the World Handicap System and an exciting new way clubs can get tee set rated at their course. Listen to the full episode here.

Have your say

What do you think of this WHS general play debate? Has your club tried to ban you from submitting general play scores? Let me know your thoughts with a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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