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:
“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.
“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?