Have you noticed that over the last 6 months that your handicap index has increased?
If you have – don’t despair, as in most cases your index is probably just following a trend that occurs every winter, which in this case shows that the average Handicap Index for men has gone up from 13.91 in March to 14.21 in August, and from 20.39 to 20.74 for women.
This trend is due largely to golfers playing less, coupled with less favourable weather and course conditions.
There is some good news in all of this, in that it is likely going to improve again in the summer!
We have asked John Cockayne, the renowned golf journalist and golf professional to contribute to future HNA newsletters, and the following is his introduction.
What’s in a word?
Well, in terms of handicap, wherever you look the definitions are so similar that they can be summarised as follows:
‘a set of conditions, or circumstances that make progress or success difficult’.
Hardly the description intended, one would think, at the time of the first national golf handicap system, which was unveiled in the United Kingdom in 1911.
Much has changed since then, even to the level where the word ‘handicap’ in many situations is no longer considered politically correct, and where disadvantaged, disabled, to name but two options, are considered more appropriate, in relation to people with physical and mental disabilities.
The other aspect in golf with the term ‘handicap’, in its most general sense, is probably a case of perspective, and whether you see your glass being half-empty, or half-full, which will likely depend on the handicap of the player, or players, you are competing against!
For example, if you are an 18-handicap, playing against someone off 4, then it would be fair to say that you are being advantaged, or enabled in terms of this match-up.
Conversely in this same combination, in all probability the lower handicap could consider him or herself to be disadvantaged, especially if the higher handicapper is a having a particularly good day on course – which can happen!
If you are playing against the course itself, i.e., in a medal format or similar, then everyone, irrespective of their handicap, should be able to feel ‘advantaged’, as allowances are being made in their favour against the golf course.
Everyone that is, except for the plus handicap golfers!
One member at Southbroom, on KZN’s South Coast, where I was the head professional for some years in the 1980’s, put it succinctly, when after we had exchanged scorecards on the first tee, and were waiting for the fairway ahead on the first hole to clear, remarked: ‘how does it feel to be 4 over par today, before you have even hit your first tee shot?!’
Excluding this very small niche of ‘elite’ golfers, perhaps the term ‘golf benefit’, might be a more effective description?
Whichever moniker we think might be better, for the basis of this discussion – golf handicap it shall be!
How can we best summarise what a golf handicap is and its purpose?
Perhaps the R&A (Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland and one of golf’s two ruling bodies – the other being the USGA (United States Golf Association) – might shed some light on the matter?
Developed by The R&A and USGA in close co-ordination with existing handicapping authorities, the WHS provides golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.
OK – so this refers to the system adopted globally in 2020, but is not really enlightening, so perhaps the following summary might be more effective –
A golf handicap is the numerical measure of a golfer’s ability, or potential ability, and is employed to enable players of differing ability levels to compete against each another effectively.
OK – so that it good for players at one club, or in a particular country, but what happens when golfers travel, and how fair is their handicap in a different region or country?
The history of the golf handicap shows that the rules governing handicap systems, have varied from region to region, with a number of different systems in force around the world.
Because of incompatibilities and difficulties in comparing handicaps equitably between the different systems, golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and The R&A, working with the various handicapping authorities, devised a new World Handicap System (WHS), which began its global roll-out in 2020.
Just like your own golf game this is a work in progress! – but the endgame is clear and along with the continuing improvements to the system, it now offers a much more accurate and transparent system, allowing handicaps to become portable globally.
Over the next few issues of the HNA Newsletter, we shall be exploring how the handicapping system has evolved, from its earliest days, into a very ‘clever’ mathematical intervention, which enables all players, whatever their golfing abilities, to compete on a pretty equal terms wherever they go on course together, whether as partners or opponents.
This discussion will be hosted by HNA Newsletter’s new guest editor – John Cockayne.
“I have found the game to be, in all factualness, a universal language wherever I travelled at home or abroad.” – Ben Hogan
The Handicaps Team