Golf Australia dumps ‘social round’ handicapping

In a blow for Australian golf, Golf Australia has decided to dump the proposed introduction of using ‘social rounds’ for handicapping. The decision is a bad one, it shows poor leadership and smells of rolling over to a small, vocal minority which is not in the best interest of Australian golfers.
It remains to be seen whether Golf Australia can convince the USGA, who own the rights to the system, that these particular parts are unworkable in Australia. They would still like to continue using the rest of their system but in an amended form. Such as the introduction of the slope course rating system for example, due to be rolled out later this year.
This is an issue I have spoken about previously. Golf Australia did a bad job of selling the new system to the golfing public and conveyed a misconception of what a ‘social round’ will be under the now defunct system.
Simon Magdulski from Golf Australia explained the reasons for the scrapping of the proposal in a recent article in Golfer Pacific magazine; to which a recap and rebuttal is required.
Firstly, what was the proposal again?
Golfers, outside of competition times, could pre-register their round (sign a sheet in the pro shop), play with another golfer who holds an official handicap to mark the card and oversee your round, and then hand the card in for handicapping purposes. Just like competition rounds but without paying the competition fee and without playing in a competition. (So possibly a much shorter round given the length of time to play in  weekend competitions these days).
Where is it used now?
The USA, New Zealand and Canada all employ this system. It means that almost every time you play, your handicap is adjusted accordingly.
So why aren’t we using it?
Well according to Simon Magdulski of Golf Australia there were a number of reasons:
  1. “Some of the estimates were that it could double the amount of rounds that were put through the system for handicap purposes,” Magdulski said. “The concern was that it was placing a pretty significant impost on the handicapper and could discourage people from wanting to take up those sort of roles.”
    This reads as if it will be more work for the clubs irrespective of whether it is a good idea or not. I hope most golf clubs don’t use this precedent when they add an extra junior pennant team or a club foursomes competition. The GOLFLink computerised handicapping system is now working very efficiently at most golf clubs around Australia. Compared to the handicapping role of 20 years ago, it is many times easier and quicker.
  2. “Some people are happy to do what they are asked, while for others it is a little bit more challenging to get them to do everything,” he said. “People may intend to fully comply but when it comes to putting scores in, particularly with social scores, that can become a more challenging exercise.”
    Firstly, golfers currently seem to have no problem ‘complying’ with the ‘challenging’ exercise of submitting a card after their competition round. It will be no different. If you fail to hand in your card on multiple occasion the same penalties apply as they do currently.
    Secondly, there is a perception (or fear) that the new system would introduce more cheating and I think this is what Magdulski is getting at here. Cheating occurs now and will always occur. It is very difficult to stop players manipulating their handicaps before large events but I fail to see how it will be any better or worse under the new system.
    Presently, handicaps are adjusted daily but the long term proposal was to update handicaps monthly like they do in the US, reducing the problems with golfers manipulating handicaps.
The system is tried and tested across the globe. Many amendments have been made to the USGA handicapping system over the years. Does Golf Australia really believe it to be unsuitable or unworkable in Australia or have they bowed to pressure from clubs and pro shops worried about providing a better service to your average club golfer?

10 thoughts on “Golf Australia dumps ‘social round’ handicapping

  • Like i’ve already mentioned, we’ve been using this system in NZ for years and it works a treat. Never heard a bad word about it over here. I dont understand what the issue is in Australia.

  • Holy Four-ball! How complicated can this game get? When I first started playing golf in the USA, I was a member of an association league. After joining the men’s club at one of the courses we played, I would post my scores on a scoresheet on a bulletin board in the locker room. Every month a new sheet would appear and next to my name would be my new official USGA handicap.

    It was fun to watch your numbers go up or down, as an indicator of how your game was progressing. What’s the difficulty in that?

    You can download an app on your phone and it will keep your scores. Is the need to prevent sandbaggers so great in competitions?

    The sooner that golf understands that the “competition” side is the smaller part of the golfers who play the game and start to worry more about the people who just enjoy the fun of being with your friends and giving the ball a lash, the better off it will be.

    Look, if you want to do the bookkeeping, be my guest. The group I play with know my game and we can “handicap” ourselves pretty well. Here in Sweden, where the handicap is supreme, upon meeting a fellow golfer it’s always “What’s your handicap?” or “How many points did you have from your last round?”

    I’d much rather be of the camp that says, “Oh, you play golf? Did you have a good time your last round?”

  • As much as I love Australia we as a country have this tendency to think that we know better than the rest of the world… which is ridiculous given the size of our population. Why on earth would we think we know better than so many other countries with ultimately greater complexities because of larger populations than our own?

    Golf Australia need to learn that there’s no way to please everyone and take a longer term view of what’s best for the game than swaying to minority influences. The handicapping system is computerised now so to say that entering numbers into a computer is too hard work is ridiculous.

    And as for cheaters, that’s an issue that Golf Australia needs to learn to manage out with the clubs. It would be a simple exercise to modify golf link to flag golfers that repeatedly submit bad scores to get a handicap advantage which leads them to win the next competition. Simple penalties for cheating would resolve that issue.

  • I commend the decision by GA to exclude social rounds from handicapping

    The club culture and competition culture is something we have unique to Australia. The most important element of competing fairly in these competitions is the trust in your fellow competitors handicap. In a competition it is impossible to know everyone yet alone have some gauge of their honesty and character. Even an inkling of doubt can lessen the honest achievement of a fellow competitor. Therefore it is the perception of fairness that must be upheld to ensure competitions survive.

    If cheats are only being caught after they win by then it will be far too late. I know that I would reconsider entering a competition knowing that there is a chance that a cheat is playing. A competition just loses its integrity.

    Anyway enough rant I can understand that social golfers would like a handicap to compete against their friends. Luckily there are many programs and applications on phones that can provide the very same handicap systems used by GA. It is far easier trusting in the unofficial handicap of a friend that you know and besides the consequences of letting a friend win in a social game are easier to swallow.

  • Anon, your comments come across as sounding that you think competition golfers are “better” than social golfers?

    A lot of country use social scores, maybe instead of just saying no outright, they could have at have said, we’ll allow social rounds for 12 months, then re-evaluate afterwards. At least way we might get to see “if” and I believe it will work, rather than just say no.

  • haha Dave maybe they should have a competition and find out who is better

    I just hope there is enough discussion from everyone in the golfing community before they make a decision as it is unlikely GA would reverse it. I also sincerely hope that the club competition culture we have in Australia isn’t threatened, it is truly something we should strive to protect.

  • NZ has a pretty similar club competition culture to Australia, but even so, being unique is not enough to warrant the decision.

    I must admit, it is the very first and only argument that anyone has mentioned worth thinking about. Would it impact our club competition culture?

    I think the decision has been made after pressure from many club professionals worried their income might be thwarted but I think it’s unfounded.

    Many clubs are already bursting at the seams during weekend competitions. The numbers wanting to play may decrease but these people would then be able to play “non-comp” rounds at other times during the week. I’m not even against pro-shops charging extra to play “non-comp” rounds to make up the difference.

    Remember too, ‘social round’ doesn’t mean social golfer. It may be someone, like myself who wants to play mid-week with the result counting towards my handicap.

    Once again, an example of Golf Australia getting the terminology wrong.

    I’ve heard rumours that it seems ‘social rounds’ (which aren’t really social rounds as discussed) will be introduced in some form to the new handicapping system in Australia.
    It will however be managed on club level and so will most likely be left up to Club committee’s on how it will be implemented from course to course.
    A win of sorts.

  • Bandits have been around for as long as there’s been a handicapping but where a very small group of individuals believe it’s okay to play interstate, rack up the bad scores, watch the handicap go out 4 shots in a month, then turn up for the honour board events and blitz it, guess what, other members are thinking about not even entering, and that’s poison…sadly accepting social rounds would be akin to opening the flood barrier to these animals. I believe we need not only an “anchor” limit on how many shots a golfer can go out in a given period, but also a “dampener” which examines the up’s and down’s in handicap. If there is movement greater than some amount of standard deviation over some period of time, then their handicap is based on their 4 best cards instead of 10. Bandits are a blight on our game and the new system has so far given them open slather.

  • You are so right Anonymous (13 June). Some Gold Coast Clubs have been accepting social play cards for handicapping which have been abused. Just check out the major area events It is so easy to check one’s handicap history when it is out in the website.


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