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So what do we REALLY think about the World Handicap System changes?

You’ve had a week to digest the big WHS news, now sit back as our From the Clubhouse team give you their verdict

 

Those big WHS changes have certainly got your tongues wagging.

But while we’ve told you in great detail about what’s coming to Great Britain & Ireland next April, what do we really think about them?

In this week’s From the Clubhouse podcast, Tom Irwin and I discussed a trio of the really big alterations that are going to have an impact on our games from the spring.

Is Course Rating minus Par a good thing? Are the new fourball betterball rules a fudge? And what’s Tom’s issue with Par 3 courses being eligible for Course Ratings?

Here are a selection of our thoughts…

Our verdict on the big World Handicap System changes

Golfers with scorecard

Course Rating minus par

Steve: “This is one of the things you can genuinely criticise handicap chiefs about – not implementing Course Rating minus par in the first place. I’ve never really been able to get a satisfactory answer as to why they didn’t.

“The problem that created has been two-fold. The first was that golfers just naturally lean towards the par of the course. So when you get your scorecard and it’s got a par of 72 on it, you ignore what the Course Rating is. You don’t care. You just go to the par of the golf course.

“But over the last couple of years, without Course Rating minus par, we’ve not been playing to the par we’ve been playing to the Course Rating instead.

“That’s just confused golfers from the very outset. I don’t know how anybody thought it was a good idea to change that when world handicapping came to GB&I – particularly given so many other jurisdictions in the world implemented Course Rating minus Par.

“The second thing is that now we’ve just got Course Rating established, with people getting their heads around it, and you’re implementing CR-par which, again, is a massive change.

“So while it feels to me like we’re on the right track with this now, we probably should have done it in the first place.”

world handicap system

Fourball betterball rules

Steve: “What I would say, in the defence of anyone criticising this, is that clubs asked for it – in numbers. Apparently, across CONGU nations, the majority asked for something to deal with betterball competitions.

“That’s because there is a belief that fourball competitions, in particular, can be manipulated by teams of players who are not necessarily playing a lot of individual events throughout the season.”

Tom: “You can say all you like about the reasons why they have done it – like ‘it’s going to encourage more people to submit more cards’. It’s to try and stop sandbaggers winning pairs’ competitions.

“If it was for any other reason, they would have gone down the most likely score route which is what you’ve got everywhere else.

“So if you ask me what I think about it, I think it’s an absolute fudge that is responding to people moaning at them. And I think that absolute fudges, as a result of people moaning at you, never end well.

“Because it’s not a reasoned decision. It is a decision taken to try and keep a certain section of people quiet.”

golf participation statistics

Shorter courses eligible for course rating

Steve: “The criticisms I have seen around this is that it isn’t proper golf. I don’t agree with that. I think golfers and golf clubs are just going to have get their heads round this. They’re going to have to start separating competition golf from handicaps – because the two things are now separate.

“The R&A and USGA’s stated aim is to make handicapping as available to anybody who wants one and, traditionally in GB&I, a handicap has been aspirational. It’s something that is on a golfer’s journey.

“WHS has smashed all that up, particularly with the advent of general play scores. But there are still people who will say, ‘you shouldn’t have a handicap if you’re not playing in competitions’.

“The rating of shorter courses does allow an opportunity for people to get on the handicap ladder right at the start of that journey. That doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to turn up in competitions and win them.

“I do welcome the possibility of people getting handicaps much sooner because I think when you get a handicap you start to feel like a proper golfer. I think that’s something to be welcomed.”

Tom: “I think if you’re a category one or plus handicap golfer, who is trying to get into an elite amateur event or whatever else, it becomes too easy to manipulate your handicap down.

“Shooting a good score for nine holes is easier than shooting a good score for 18 – just on a maths basis as you have to be good for less time. And if you’re playing a par 3 course you have to be good at one aspect of the game, which is with your wedges and with your putter.

“Losing a ball is totally removed from the potential outcomes on every shot that you hit. So when you’re trying to measure someone’s golf game, and their suitability for entry into a scratch competition, then the way you are judging them is not fit for purposes because it’s in a totally different set of circumstances.”

Now listen to the From the Clubhouse podcast

You can listen the latest podcast by tapping on the banners in this article, or listen to this specific episode by click here.

You’ve heard our say, what you do think of the World Handicap System changes? Why not let us know by leaving a comment on X.

World Handicap System Changes 2024

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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