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The Problem With Handicaps...Golfers?

The Problem With Handicaps...Golfers?

07 July, 2022 - Robert hardie


Deep into the second full season of its introduction in the UK it’s no longer the “new World Handicap System” but it still gets talked about ALL the time.

Talk to any golfer for more than 30 seconds and the chances are handicaps will already have been mentioned: perfectly understandable as it’s a universal language by which golfers the world over can judge each other. And judge they do.


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  • "The World Handicap system is the worst handicap system ever. Apart from all the other ones."

    • Robert Hardie

"The World Handicap system is the worst handicap system ever. Apart from all the other ones."

  • Robert Hardie

Tell some your handicap is more than 18 and they’ll call you a bandit: tell them your handicap is in single figures and you’ll be told you’re playing too much golf.

Everyone’s got a view on everyone else’s handicap - and it’s almost always that it’s too high - but the one thing you never hear a golfer say is “my handicap’s too high”.

WHS gets the blame, which is ridiculous: how difficult would it be to design a system that manages to gives only one person in the world an accurate handicap but gives every other golfer one that’s too high?

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The problem is averages. For more than 150 years now the system has been revised and revised in search of something that will give an indication of how good a player is or isn’t and attempt to level the playing field in handicap competitions, but players don’t play the same every time they play and competitions aren’t staged over long periods of the time - they’re on the day.

That’s an impossible dream, just like handicapping horses in flat racing: if that worked every race would end in a dead heat for all the horses running, but they never do. Any time someone wins a club competition, especially by a decent margin, the whispering starts: “we need to do something about their handicap” etc. It’s never very clear who are the “right” people to win competitions are, just that it’s not the ones that do.

Gloriously, every golfer is able to play well below their handicap and well above it in any two consecutive rounds: playing below it is why we keep trying, playing above it keeps us honest about how good or bad we really are.

We should be celebrating someone’s success when they win, not tarnishing it.

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  • Had a Stewart Golf trolley for over 10 years……play below my handicap it’s effortless….play above my handicap at least I have a trolley to play with to keep me amused.
    New WHsystem is much better quicker reductions and increases to signify form.

    Andrew Oakes on

  • Not sure I understand the gist of this article, it’s not really saying anything at all about the effectiveness of the WHS!
    I personally think the WHS is the very best “averager” we’ve had.
    Just as long as golfers record every time they play, that should be a rule such that recent recordings should be a requirement for entering competitions.
    As for the multipliers, what nonsense – just keep it the same for everyone and let the handicap indices look after themselves.

    Ian Clark on

  • I agree in the sense I do not understand why we have a multiplier for slope difference then have to reduce by 5%. Why on earth do we not have a handicap with a multiplier inclusive of the 5% difference to simplify it. Better still just have a simple handicap without multipliers. It seems so complex and fundamentally so simple.

    Bill Henry on

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