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world handicap system

‘That was the tip of the iceberg’: The 100,000 errors found as England moved to WHS

Talking to The NCG Golf Podcast, England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson revealed the scale of what handicap teams found during the move to the World Handicap System

 

England Golf discovered almost 100,000 discrepancies when transferring records over to the World Handicap System in 2020, chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson has revealed.

Speaking on The NCG Golf Podcast, he said while he had “sympathies” for people who had enjoyed the old CONGU UHS method, the move to a unified and unform way of assessing the ability of players was “long overdue”.

Asked what he thought of WHS, which continues to be criticised by a vocal section of players some three and a half years after it was launched in Great Britain & Ireland, Tomlinson told the podcast: “The whole introduction of the idea of a World Handicap System, I think was so long overdue it was unreal.

“We did have a situation where handicapping had gone a little bit awry. I’m certainly, for and on behalf of my predecessors, going to take some blame for that.

“Obviously the R&A and USGA could see that on a global scale and decided it was the right thing to do to try to unite.

“Certainly across England and the other home nations, we’ve seen this situation where now we have a handicapping system where there is really one place of truth – and that is with that central database, which is held with the governing bodies.

“I think there has never been such a high level of integrity, certainly with regards to the record keeping of handicaps, so I think that’s been a really good thing.

“But let’s be real. It’s like any new initiative. Obviously we are the conduit, as England Golf, for the R&A and USGA. We didn’t invent it, but we certainly are the facilitators and, quite rightly, the advocates.

“What we’re seeing now in this latest update, these latest improvements, is exactly that. We’re seeing tinkering. We’re seeing improvements. They’re listening to us. We go to them. Every year, we do our surveys, we listen to club golfers, and we listen to our iGolfers, and we tell them the directions we think we can go in.

“They listen to all the different federations, countries around the world, they then try to create a set of rules, or a new set of updates, that can then enhance where the handicapping system is.

“They’re small changes but I do think WHS is a fair system. It’s more inclusive. It is, as ever, reliant upon the integrity of golfers – because that’s what golf is all about. We have to have a reliance on that. And I think we’re getting better at administering it, both at a national level, a county level, and a golf club level.”

England Golf

England Golf WHS move: ‘There were so many differences it was unbelievable’

Expanding on what had gone “awry” with handicapping prior to the introduction of WHS, Tomlinson said there were a large number of errors and anomalies revealed when the governing body went through transition.

He explained: “With anything in life, you can look back and go, ‘back in the day it was brilliant’. But there was a reality to it. We saw that reality never more so when we were transferring the records across in November 2020.

“To say that we had close on 100,000 errors – differences in handicaps between what was being held at a golf club and what was being held on the central database. That was, I honestly believe, the tip of the iceberg.

“There were so many differences, it was unbelievable. Of course, as ever, there were many, many clubs and many, many counties that were doing things really, really well but there were just anomalies.

“And I think there was too much latitude with regards to the ability for different clubs to be running things – believing, of course, that it was the right way of doing things – but things being run in a way that was slightly differing from what the club down the road was doing.

“That was real. That actually did happen. I do have sympathies for people who liked the old system, because it was a simple system. You could understand it. You could calculate where your handicap was going. Whether that was by design or not, I don’t know.

“But WHS, you can’t calculate it that way, except for working out, of course, it is just that average – it’s your best eight out of 20, which is pretty fair. There is a certain allowance for general play, more so than there ever has been in the past.”

Tomlinson added: “But I do think we have moved things forward. There are so many good people out there that are a lot more expert in handicapping than myself, and I can understand some not liking the fact they are not quite as much in control as in the past.

“But, as ever, we hope to continue to bring them with us as the changes and improvements continue to happen.”

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson joins Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin to talk club membership, WHS, iGolf, and the governing body’s important Respect in Golf campaign. You can listen to the full episode here.

Now have your say

What do you think of the England Golf WHS move? Are you getting the hang of the latest updates? Let me know your thoughts by leaving 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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