Pros advice

New handicap rule aims to stop bandits

A new handicap rule has been introduced for members of English golf clubs which aims to stop rogue players manipulating the system for their own advantage.

There have been numerous cases over the years of players protecting inflated handicaps, only to repeatedly collect high-value rewards when playing competitions away from home.

Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager, explained, “We’re not talking about a sleeve of balls. These are big prizes including luxury trips overseas, sets of clubs and electric trolleys.”

New rules which have been implemented means that any player participating in non-qualifying competitions away from home must return their scores to their home club, with players who ignore this responsibility facing the possibility of having their handicap suspended.

England Golf is the company behind adding this clause of the CONGU handicapping system, and the idea is to provide clubs with evidence to support handicap reviews.

“It’s essential to do this to protect the integrity of the system,” added Gemma. “We can’t sit back and let people manipulate the system, but without evidence clubs can’t take any action.”

So, how will the new rule work? The idea is that it will highlight players who, for example, take part in lots of competitions at home, and whose handicaps creep up 0.1 on every occasion – but who repeatedly win prizes away from home.

It will also show the players who hit the greens for a bare minimal of competitions at home, but who are known for their away successes.

The rule applies to all stroke play scores returned under competition conditions; including team events.

“It’s not about recording every score in a fourball betterball, but returning the team score,” said Gemma.

“If the same individuals or teams keeping winning or coming near the top of leaderboards at events away from home, that should at least indicate to their club handicapping officials that further investigations are required – and the only way to achieve that is by asking for all the scores to be reported.”

Social golf is not affected, however, but golf clubs have been advised to be aware of performances in swindles, which the handicap committee may consider at the annual review.

England Golf also recommends that golf clubs which run non-qualifying open competitions should inform the prize winners’ home clubs of their scores.

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