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It’s time we stopped moaning about WHS

Being able to submit general play scores digitally brought the usual complaints in some quarters but, with WHS well into its third year, should the debate now be moving on?
 

The World Handicap System is golf’s Brexit. Don’t worry, before you start reaching for the asprin, this is not going to be a polemic on the rights or wrongs of our exit from the European Union.

What I mean is that, like Brexit, people’s opinions on how our handicaps are now administered are largely fixed. They’re either positive, or negative, and no amount of arguing, opinion, evidence, or facts, is going to change whatever side of the fence on which you sit.

There are some of you who think WHS is a genuine addition to the game, that it’s much more responsive than its CONGU predecessor, and offers a more flexible way to enjoy your golf.

Some of you think it provides a haven for manipulators, that it has ruined competition play for lower handicap golfers, and that no score can really be trusted.

I’m not going to change your mind here. What I am going to suggest, and I argued it on this week’s episode of the From the Clubhouse podcast, is that, again like Brexit, it might be time to move on.

There is a view that the old CONGU ways should be restored in full and that we should abandon WHS as a bad experiment.

I’m afraid those of you who advocate this are living a fantasy. We’re now coming up to 1,000 days of the new system, which has been adopted by more than 100 federations across the globe.

It’s the result of a partnership between the USGA and the R&A – the game’s two big governing bodies. Anyone who seriously believes our home unions are going to suddenly split their affiliation from those organisations and go off on their own handicap adventure has had one too many.

For those of us in Great Britain & Ireland, we’ve had to get used to an entirely new way of calculating our handicaps – a move from an aggregate to an averaging system. We’ve had to learn terms like Slope, Course and Playing Handicap and we’ve had to banish thoughts of .1s from our brains.

That has come with some growing pains, not helped by the Covid pandemic which imposed lengthy delays at precisely the time we were supposed to be getting to grips with the new ways in the winter ‘off-season’.

But the reality, as much as those opposed to the scheme may not want to hear it, is that we are not going back.

We need to cease the petty squabbling and work to try and make WHS better. It’s not a perfect system. Every attempt at handicapping, in every sport where it’s applied, has its flaws.

If we strive, though, to approach those questions with evidence – rather than simply yelling into social media, grumbling at our handicap committees, or slagging off our home union – then we can change the narrative.

When we do this, we can achieve results. Everybody knew the Playing Conditions Calculation didn’t work properly. England Golf presented WHS chiefs with millions of anonymised scores showing this and the algorithm was altered.

If you believe there are players at your club who are manipulating their handicaps up or down, do something about it.

If exceptionally low scores are winning competitions, collate those results over a time period. Is there a pattern or is it an anomaly? Does your course and slope rating need a re-think? Publish those results or give them to your governing body.

Surely that’s a better way of tackling any issues your club might have with WHS, rather than grumbling in a corner of the bar, on twitter, or withdrawing from competitive play altogether.

It’s time to stop moaning about the World Handicap System and time to start engaging with it. It’s not going anywhere and the sooner we all accept that, the happier some of us will be in our weekend rounds.

What do you think? Is it time to move on, or should the World Handicap System be confined to the bonfire of history? Let me know with a tweet.

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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