Golf Australia decided a year ago to overhaul the Australian golf handicapping system in favour of the USGA handicapping system, used in most golfing regions around the world including Europe, New Zealand, Canada and of course the USA.
The system is the most used golf handicapping system in the world and its introduction into Australian golf was seen as progressive but long overdue. The reasons for change were numerous but the previous system was not a good reflection on a golfers current game and was prone to some golfers protecting their handicap.
The USGA system was taken on and was to be rolled out in several stages over the next few years. It includes a change to the method of handicapping and a change to the way Australian golf courses are rated.
Any change to the game of golf will bring with it a form of conservative resentment but the first roll-out by Golf Australia which saw a change to the way handicaps were calculated was generally well accepted. Only now are some golfers understanding the system; appreciating its transparency and fairness to all golfers.
However the most recent roll-out has not gone so smoothly. Golf Australia were to implement (among other things) a change which would mean that ‘social rounds’ could be considered for handicapping purposes, not just club competition rounds of golf. In the words of a memo issued by Golf Australia, the response was “overwhelmingly negative” and they decided, for the moment, to pull the pin on the new changes and reassess their options.
This about-face is a huge disappointment and a big setback for Australian golf. I fear it has been rejected by a vocal minority and possibly because of a misuse or misunderstanding of what Golf Australia are calling a ‘social round’.
The roll-out would have seen a system where a golfer could sign-in to play a round (outside of a designated competition) before teeing off. A fellow golfer (with an official handicap) must also play in order to mark the golfer’s card and is submitted at the end of the round.
A few golfers including club professionals claimed the new system would encourage more cheating. As far as club professionals are concerned, they may see a potential loss of income from club competitions and a fear of more doing more work. Both arguments are utterly ridiculous and based on their misinterpretation of a ‘social round’.
‘Social rounds’ are thought of as rounds of golf which can include kicking your ball, granting long ‘gimmes’ and a blatant disregard of the rules of golf. But once a golfer signs in for a handicapped round, it would no longer be deemed a ‘social round’ but should more appropriately be termed a ‘formal round’.
I fail to see how this form of golf will lead to more cheating which is, in effect the same as playing in a competition. The small, but significant number of gutter golfers who cheat would surely have more incentive to win club competitions than get a better handicap.
Australian golfers would still play ‘social rounds’ and they could also play ‘competition rounds’, but they would also be able to play ‘formal rounds’. This would see a golfer’s handicap more closely reflect their game without being forced to play club competitions during designated tee times.
I sincerely hope Golf Australia can adjust their terminology, try again and convince the conservatives that ‘formal rounds’ must be implemented. The worst part of all this is that much of the golfing world is laughing at this farce, including the Kiwis.