‘The Problem with the Handicap system……………,

How many times have you heard, or said, those words. Our handicap is arguably the most precious possession we have in the game that we all love to play.
We wring our hands in angst when we have played badly and get a 0.1 increase in handicap and we feel a little glow of pride if we go around the course just one shot better than our handicap and get a cut of up to 0.4 

The workings of the handicap system can also feel like a bit of a dark art or black magic – our scores in qualifying competitions are tapped in to the computer and the output can often be different than we expected because of ‘standard scratch adjustments’ or ‘buffer zones’. So we all scratch our heads, have a little grumble, and accept without necessarily understanding it all.

However, if the computer messing about with our passport to happy golf wasn’t bad enough, there is then the added scourge of the Handicap Committee – the injustice of it all ! 

At Floresta Parque Golf Club the handicap committee are tasked with ongoing, balanced and fair assessment of everyone’s game. Its a thankless task but in our case there is a particular need because, unlike most clubs in the UK (or Germany, Switzerland, Holland or Ireland), we play a disproportionate amount of non-qualifying, fun, team based competitions. It would be unfair to all the other members if we didn’t have an occasional adjustment to the handicaps of regular prize winners to ensure that things are always as even as possible. This is allowed under the rules of golf as General Play adjustments which, the R&A says, should be used by local committees in exceptional circumstances – our high proportion of non qualifying competitions fits the bill on this one.

Following a handicap committee recommendation, which has been discussed with the Club Committee, I am about to write to a small number of members who have been lucky enough to play very well on a consistent basis recently to tell them that their handicaps have been reduced by one shot. I know they will be delighted at the recognition their success deserves.

My commitment to you is that these changes, which are always a bit controversial, have been thought through, discussed, dissected and applied with the agreement of your committee. We won’t do this too often, just often enough to ensure we all stand on the first tee with, as near as possible, an equal opportunity to win a coveted 10 euro voucher. At the end of this blog I have copied an extract of the guidelines from CONGU regarding General Play adjustments.

Turning to other matters, we have been invited to join in a Tri-club tournament, which we hope will prove popular and become an annual event, with Palmares and Boa Vista this coming November.
The idea being that we each field a team of 20 players and have a three way competition, probably based on pairs better ball format, followed by a meal and prize prizegiving. The first event will be held at Boa Vista and we will then rotate it each year between the three courses. The bad news is that the first tee has been reserved at Boa Vista at 7.30 am – oh what a different life they lead.

With regard to our financial situation, we are becoming more confident that, as a result of the decisions we made earlier in the year to limit some of the event sponsorship of earlier years, we will finish this year with our target of 15,000 euro cash intact. I am grateful for everyone’s understanding and patience. We have a draft budget already built for 2017 that we will discuss at our committee meeting in August and hope to be communicating with everyone in plenty of time for discussion before membership fees are due for 2017.

As the cartoon rabbit used to say – That’s all folks

Happy golfing wherever you are.

Extract from CONGU guidelines

Section 3 – Handicap changes under clause 23 (General Play)

What is a ‘General Play’ adjustment?

A General Play change is a manual adjustment of a player’s handicap usually made by the Handicap Committee of a Club. These manual adjustments are required to be made when the player’s ‘Home Club considers that a player’s Exact Handicap is too high and does not reflect his current playing ability’.
Normally, these adjustments are done once a year at Annual Review (a review of players’ handicaps undertaken by the handicap committee during the winter months). However, in exceptional circumstances, General Play changes may be made during the season.

Are there limits on adjustments made under ‘General Play’ (or Annual Review)?

There is no maximum amount a Handicap Committee may cut a player’s handicap under General Play. However, a minimum of 1 whole stroke applies in England, Scotland and Wales.
Handicap Committees may not reduce the handicap of a category 1 player nor may a category 2 handicap be cut into a category 1 without agreement from their ‘Area Authority’ (typically their County Union). They will need to enter a password into any software they are running to complete the adjustment. The password should be obtained from the club’s Area Authority.
Handicap Committees can also increase handicaps under General Play. This is not very common and under some circumstances is subject to prior agreement from the ‘Area Authority’.

How does the Committee decide what adjustments to make under General Play (or Annual Review)?

When making a General Play change, the Handicap Committee is required to set the Handicap to a value that matches the player’s ‘current playing ability’. How the committee determines an appropriate value is the subject of much debate!
The following guidelines are laid down in the Handicapping Scheme:
The committee shall consider all available information. In particular
How frequently the player has returned scores in competitions to or near to their handicap,
How the player has performed in non-qualifying competitions, such as match-play knockouts, Fourball Better Ball competitions, etc.,
If any stroke play competition scores have been unduly affected by one or more particularly bad holes.
The Handicap Committee are advised to deal more severely to Handicaps for those players which it knows their standard of play is improving rather than those who have returned some low scores but whose general playing ability is not improving.
The Handicap Committee may NOT apply any formula to the calculations made under General Play.
Appendix M identifies that a single good (low) score is not sufficient evidence alone to justify a General Play reduction.
Peter H. Wilson (an English Golf Union representative to CONGU) provided further insight for clubs when he penned an article in ‘English Golf’, the English Golf Union’s journal in May 1998. Although these related to the previous CONGU Handicapping scheme, they remain relevant for the Unified Handicapping System. Included in his article were the following points:
Handicap adjustments under Clause 23 (‘General Play’) should be made in the following circumstances:
Exceptionally, where a player is trying to achieve a handicap higher than his ability justifies,
Where a player returns poor scores in Handicap Qualifying Competitions, but has been successful in Match play and Best-ball events,
A player whose standard is clearly improving and who has returned two or more scores well below his handicap in a short period of time,
A player who, because of health or advancing age, is quite unable to play to his current handicap and does not compete in enough competitions for his handicap to be adjusted accordingly.
An example of (3) was given whereby a category 3 or 4 player who returns two nett differentials of –5, say, in quick succession should have an aggregate reduction of 5 strokes taken from their handicap.
Examples of players who might be expected to achieve this are young players, those taking early retirement or those made redundant or unemployed.
Where the golf club is managing their players’ handicaps using computer software, they will also have access to a computer report that makes recommendations for handicap adjustments. This report, specified by CONGU, analyses the players’ scores over the season and compares the scoring pattern to that expected for a player of equivalent handicap. Where there is a significant variation, the report recommends an adjustment to the handicap. The report, however, is limited to analysing players’ scores in stroke-play competitions only; it does not cover scoring in Match-play competitions, etc
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