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WHS golf

I put in every card for handicap for six months – what did I learn?

From May until the end of October, every time our club golf editor played a score went onto his World Handicap System record. So what happened, and what advice does he have?

 

Five months, 164 days, 22 rounds of golf. From the end of May until the last day of October, every time I played a round of golf I submitted a score for my handicap.

It was an adventure which took me from my home club of York to Ireland and a tour of England’s North East links layouts. Nine different courses in all.

What did I learn about WHS golf? Is it a system that rewards consistency? Is it easy to manipulate? What are the big takeaways?

For my initial impressions, take a look here. But, in this article, I’m going to focus on what happened to my handicap, the potential problem of ‘away’ scores, and a couple of brickbats around the apps we use to enter scores…

WHS golf: What happened when I played ‘every score counts’?

world handicap system

What happened to my WHS golf handicap?

Not a lot. My WHS index began at 10.9 and ended at 11.0. My high index was 12.2 and my low was 10.7.

There were two 78s and an 80 – all at York (par 70, course rating 70.6, slope rating 128 for men) and eight scores over 90. When I was good, I was decent. When it was bad, it was horrid.

And yet it all evened out in the end. Look at my handicap on the graph and it’s pretty much a straight line.

Submitting scores consistently has raised two things. The first is that I am not a single figure player in waiting – no matter how much I try to tell myself I can still make that grade.

The second is that using a lot of bad scores to manipulate your handicap is more difficult than people think.

Before my two 78s, I’d been scoring poorly in competitions for some time. I had been at a low WHS index of 7.3 but getting from there to 12.2 took 42 rounds and 25 months.

I was held down by my low handicap index, which restricts the maximum number of shots you can go up in any 12 months to five. I was also weighed down by the soft cap once I had increased three shots.

To get to 12.2 in the first place, my golf was desperate over a sustained period of time. Critics will tell you that you can just play every day, put in 20 terrible scores, and reap the rewards of a big handicap increase.

I don’t believe it is as simple as that. In my 42 rounds, I think I received a tiny cut on three occasions. That was enough to hold me in check and while my play was terrible at times it still varied in its destructiveness.

Anyone who blasts off a load of high scores to then slot in a low one in a decent competition is going to stand out like a sore thumb to a competition committee.

I’m not convinced your average handicapper is either that Machiavellian, or has the skill, to temper their bad and very bad scores over a period of weeks and months to avoid detection.

There’s potentially more of an issue in betterball competitions – which chiefs are trying to deal with through the 2024 changes – or with players who don’t put many scores in and keep themselves off artificial handicaps in order to capitalise. But my own experience suggests it’s not easy to run up huge numbers to try and cheat the system.

Bishop Auckland golf

The potential problem of away scores

That said, some of my worst scores came at unfamiliar courses and I wonder whether it’s worth exploring a weighting system which takes that into account when scores are adjusted for WHS golf records.

I played plenty of ‘away’ rounds. I like that WHS allows me to put my handicap to the test on those courses. I did not manipulate. I put in my best efforts. But I also ran into plenty of trouble I just would not see at my home club because I didn’t know the terrain

The 10th hole at Seaham is blind off the tee. I hit what I thought was a great drive only to find a huge gorse bush was over the hill and the ball nowhere to be found. Add a stroke-and-distance penalty to the scorecard.

When I add up the differentials of these scores from playing different courses, and crudely convert those numbers into a potential WHS index, the number comes out at 16.8. That’s a bit bigger than my current mark.

If I wanted to increase my handicap index – without overtly manipulating or cheating – I’d just go and play a lot of different courses.

As I say, the portability of handicaps is one of the most endearing features of WHS. But should there be an element of the calculation which recognises when you’re playing on an unfamiliar venue and makes an allowance for that? I think there is a case for it.

Pick up

England Golf’s MyEG app, and I’m sure others do the same, allow you to finish a hole where you’ve not holed out by selecting a ‘pick up’ function. You’ll then get net double bogey applied to that hole. You can see it afterwards in the scorecard as the number is ringed in black and has an asterisk next to it.

With the app measuring both gross score and Stableford points, it allows golfers playing the latter not to have to hole out when they can’t post a score that would count.

That is to its credit but I believe this feature can also be open to misinterpretation. Let’s say you hit an errant shot off the tee. You can’t find the ball and know that stroke-and-distance applies. But behind you, there is another group standing on the tee. It’s a busy day and going back is going to interrupt the flow of play and cause delays.

Do you cause that disruption, or just click ‘pick up’? Maybe you would not have improved on your score. But maybe you would.

Handicapping chiefs insist you play to the Rules of Golf and to the best of your ability. There is a lot riding on integrity in both the rules and WHS, and that responsibility obviously comes down to us.

But there will be players who have clicked this feature thinking they were playing by the rules and there will be those who simply couldn’t be bothered to carry on.

World Handicap System cross border scores

Make it easier to input scores into the app during a round

England Golf’s MyEG app is very impressive on the whole – in its simplicity of use, the way it clearly and simply shows information, and the more recently added verification features that ask your playing partner to sign your phone.

But if you want to input your score during your round, on a hole-by-hole basis, prepare to be frustrated. You’ll have to reload the app multiple times as it boots you out. Occasionally, it logs you out entirely and you’ll have to reset – so make sure you can remember your password.

I suppose you could just enter the scores at the conclusion of a round, but that necessitates you keeping a scorecard. How does that fit with sustainability?

WHS golf: Would I do it again?

No. I’m definitely planning to put more cards in than I did previously, and I’m confident my handicap reflects my ability, but I’m not keen on the idea of making every single score count.

At times, it was a drag. When I was playing badly, I wanted to do anything other than mark a card – and yet I’d committed to do it. Sometimes I just enjoy having a knock, scooping up a gimme, and leisurely moving on to the next hole.

I equate scoring with competition – that’s my issue – and think of social golf as something entirely separate.

Just play your golf and the score will take care of itself, I will be told. But I’m just not keen on there being something riding on every shot.

I’ll accept it has made me look at competitions differently, as the distinction between the two formats has blurred. I’m definitely far more comfortable when I approach an event.

But I don’t always want to play a ‘competition’.

So while I’m very likely to increase the number of cards I submit for handicap purposes in 2024, and I’ll certainly use general play more often, I won’t be doing it every single time I tee it up.

Now have your say

Do you put in every score for your WHS golf record? Are you opposed to doing it? Let me know your views by leaving me a comment on X.

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