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Should You Complain About The Latest WHS Changes?

By Robert Hardie December 29, 2023

Do Golfers Moan Too Much?

Do Golfers Moan Too Much?

With the World Handicap System about to have another major update, our resident expert, Robert Hardie, ponders if us golfers have reason to moan, or whether as a collective we just love to complain about something.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What is it about golfers and moaning? Drop in on any random fourball and by the turn you’ll have had the whole lot: greenkeepers are lazy and/or idiots; the drinks are too expensive; the kitchen’s not open long enough; the Pro’s prices are too high; and no-one (other than them, obviously!) rakes bunkers or repairs any pitchmarks EVER!

All of that’s only minor though: start them on handicaps and they’re off down their most favourite rabbit hole of how everyone’s handicaps (again, other than their own obviously!) are completely wrong and the whole handicap system is a shambles.

The R&A and USGA recently announced their next tranche of tweaks to the World Handicap System, which launched four years ago: every golf forum you can think of lit up like it was Diwali.

As with Rules, the R&A and USGA make changes in four year cycles: collecting data and making improvements based on the evidence of tens of millions of rounds played and submitted all over the world. Not so the keyboard warriors and course moaners: evidence isn’t for them, they prefer to stick with myths.

Take your pick from these most common ones:

My handicap’s too low: I can’t play to it.

Yes you can, mainly because you self-evidently already have. Your handicap is an average of the best eight rounds from your last 20 – and the way averages work mean that you will definitely have played better than it!

My tip: If you genuinely think it’s too low, possibly because your counting scores were played a long time ago, then just put more cards in: your handicap will reflect how your currently playing.

My handicap’s too high: I’m a better player than that.

No you’re not, even though you might like to think you are. If you were playing better than your handicap and putting cards in then all these rounds where you’re playing better than your handicap would all be counting in your best eight and your handicap would be lower.

Either (a) you’re playing better than your handicap and not putting cards in or (b) you’re putting cards in and you’re not playing better than your handicap: so you need to either put more cards in or play better, and either way that’s down to you not the system.

My tip: Don’t expect to play to your handicap every time you play: not even Pros manage that and they’re way better than the rest of us. If you’re serious about lowering your handicap then here’s a suggestion:

• Find yourself a teaching Pro who you trust and will commit to, then for every £ or $ you spend on equipment spend the same amount on lessons

• Listen to what he or she tells you do, then do it

• Trust the process and practice it and practice, even when you’re in that stage where it isn’t working for you yet

• Take it out on the course and don’t revert back just because your first round isn’t a miracle one

• Know your yardages, and that’s not what you want to THINK your yardages are it’s what they ACTUALLY are

High handicappers win all the competitions

No they don’t. Every piece of research that’s ever been done on any sample size larger than “the comp I lost in last week” has shown that it’s not the case. Better players (with lower handicaps) win more competitions because they’re better players.

We’ve just looked at all the competition results from my club and we got exactly that answer.

We divided up all the players who had played in all competitions (349 gents and 79 ladies) and split them into three chunks based on the average number of shots they received (lowest 1/3, middle 1/3, and highest 1/3) then looked at the winners off the single-division competitions that were played (19 for the gents and 28 for the ladies).

For gents it was fairly even: five winners were from the 1/3 with the lowest handicaps, eight were from the middle 1/3, and only five out of 19 winners came from this mythical group of “high handicappers who win all the competitions”.

For the ladies the results were even more pronounced: 14 out of 28 winners were players with the lowest 1/3 of handicaps; 12 were from the middle 1/3; and these “high handicappers who win all the competitions” only managed to produce two winners out of 30 competitions!

428 players playing in 47 competitions over a whole year is a decent sample size and there’s nothing unusual about my Club, other than that the ladies play a very high percentage of their competitions as single-division ones.

My tip: if your club plays a lot of one-division comps then get them to play more muti-division ones. It’s a much bigger ask to expect a five handicapper to come in with 40 points than it is for a 35-handicapper, but that’s not an argument AGANST the World Handicap System it’s an argument FOR more divisions. More divisions means that players are competing against other players whose handicaps are as close to their own as practicality allows. All competition software packages have a function for multiple divisions based on shots received: get your club to start using it.

People cheat by only putting in high scores to get a high handicap and then win all the comps

Some people try to cheat by kicking their ball away from under a tree and hoping the people they’re playing with don’t notice, but that doesn’t mean the Rules of Golf are wrong – it’s the cheating that’s the problem, not the system.

My tip: If people are genuinely cheating then report them and trust the Handicap Committee to deal with them, but just because someone does have a good round doesn’t mean they cheated: just like you, they play well sometimes and other times they don’t.

People play easy courses to get a low handicap

If they do then they’re idiots: if they play in a comp at that “easy” course they’ll be playing against other players whose handicaps were earned there, so they’re not better off, and then when they play at a “harder” course they’ll have no chance of playing to it.

But the big myth here is the notion of “easy”. Course ratings take care of that, unless of course you think that never having played this other mystery “easy” course you know better than the course raters, who used the exact same criteria as when they were rating your course.

My wife and I are lucky enough to play a lot of golf, including on a couple of “away” courses that are rated more difficult than our “home club”. Scoring well on these more difficult “away” courses gives us confidence when we come back to play at “home” and we have scored equally well there, sometimes better!

My tip: The reality is that people who play different courses end up better players. If you only ever play one course you end up not having to think: you already know what club you’re hitting off every tee and into every green. Play different courses and you have to think, plan, and execute: and that will make you a better player.

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