Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Gallery - John Freter (pres­i­dent) & Bob Rees, Dur­banville GC, Cape Town

WE write as con­cerned mem­bers of Dur­banville GC re­gard­ing the lat­est edict from HNA on the sub­ject of hand­i­cap as­sess­ment. Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of ‘overnight’ hand­i­cap ad­just­ments, and the rein­tro­duc­tion of a so-called ‘bu er zone,’ one of us played well on a Satur­day and his hand­i­cap was cut by one.The next day he played a so­cial round and ex­plained to his friends that he would not be try­ing hard as he wanted to see if he could get the stroke back overnight. Call it, if you like, a de­lib­er­ate ma­nip­u­la­tion, but within the rules of the game here. He awoke the next morn­ing with his orig­i­nal hand­i­cap re­stored. A yo-yoing that would not have oc­curred pre­vi­ously.

The rst score was ar­rived at in a com­pe­ti­tion, the sec­ond in a so­cial round, and here is the fun­da­men­tal aw in our hand­i­cap sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly when we re­view the R&A hand­i­cap rider: Through­out the world, a golf hand­i­cap is recog­nised as rep­re­sent­ing the num­ber of strokes that need to be de­ducted from the player’s ac­tual (gross) score so that, when he plays to his av­er­age abil­ity, his nett score equals a “Stan­dard Score. ”The amount de­ducted (i.e. the player’s “hand­i­cap”) is cal­cu­lated so as to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the player’s cur­rent abil­ity and po­ten­tial at the point in time that they play in a com­pe­ti­tion.

How­ever, our hand­i­cap sys­tem re­lies al­most en­tirely on ‘form,’ not ‘abil­ity and po­ten­tial,’ to ar­rive at a player’s hand­i­cap; ‘form’ based on the spu­ri­ous need to en­ter ev­ery score – com­pet­i­tive, so­cial or just plain rigged. Nowhere is the word ‘form’ used in the R&A rule, where a hand­i­cap is sup­posed to rep­re­sent ‘abil­ity and po­ten­tial. ’With this in mind the SA handicapping phi­los­o­phy and there­fore the ba­sis for its handicapping sys­tem seems awed from the out­set. Only scores achieved in ‘open’ com­pe­ti­tion should be used to as­sess any change in hand­i­cap. One could go fur­ther and limit scores for handicapping pur­poses to in­di­vid­ual com­pe­ti­tion rounds only, as hap­pens in the UK.

HNA talk of the in­tended adop­tion of a world­wide handicapping sys­tem by 2018. With our so­cial golf and bet­ter ball and al­liance com­pe­ti­tions an anath­ema when it comes to handicapping, how will this be achieved when the UK and SA sys­tems cur­rently run not on par­al­lel lines, but on di­ver­gent ones. Our sec­ond point re­lates to the plan to rein­tro­duce a Daily Course Rat­ing. HNA talk of a bu er zone, but nei­ther de ne nor ex­plain what that will mean.We don’t think the av­er­age golfer knows what a bu er zone is (the range of two strokes above the Daily Course Rat­ing whereby your hand­i­cap re­mains una ected). Un­der a sys­tem where all scores count, no score can be un­af­fected so we are strug­gling to see where and how a bu er zone can be ac­com­mo­dated.

The prob­lem we see here is that HNA is try­ing to adapt to a sys­tem which works in the UK and else­where only in in­di­vid­ual com­pe­ti­tions.

The main ques­tion raised by this lat­est HNA ini­tia­tive is surely whether this cal­cu­la­tion – or some­thing close to it – can be gen­uinely es­tab­lished by as­sess­ing ev­ery score, from ev­ery player, ev­ery day of the week, play­ing from di er­ent tees and play­ing a di er­ent for­mat (al­liance, bet­ter­ball, friendly etc). And when you then add the po­ten­tial for sev­eral scores miss­ing from the cal­cu­la­tion be­cause play­ers are al­lowed 72 hours grace, the al­ready rocky edi ce will surely crum­ble even more.

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