How sHould non-member Handicaps be viewed?
Golfers who aren’t members of unionaffiliated clubs can only get an unofficial handicap, but what value do they offer the holder?
n official CONGU handicap can only be allotted to an individual who is a member of a golf club affiliated to one of the National Unions of Scotland, Ireland, England or Wales. There are organisations that will calculate an unofficial handicap for use in social golf, but these handicaps won’t be accepted in opens and some clubs require visitors to present an official CONGU handicap before playing. Is this right? Should non-club members be discriminated against in this way?
At a time when the cost of private membership is prohibitively high for some, particularly younger people, and when golf is struggling to attract and retain participants, could there be more flexibility?
Various organisations will calculate a handicap if an individual sends them three cards (and an administrative fee) by post or electronically. They will then adjust this ‘unofficial’ handicap with any card sent into them. It should be stressed the onus is very much on the individual to do this.
For social or society golfers, these unofficial handicaps are great. They allow an individual to participate in fun events with friends, confident the amount of strokes they are taking is fair. They also allow someone who plays fairly irregularly to monitor the level at which they are playing. Striving to improve a handicap is one of the most satisfying pursuits in golf and the chance for a non-club member to enjoy this element of the game should be viewed positively.
AFor the purposes of proving your competency in order to play as a visitor at a club, a non-member handicap should suffice. A number of clubs and facilities seeking handicap certificates before play have already recognised and accepted the validity of non-member handicaps from the more established providers. And let’s face it, we all know golfers in possession of a valid CONGU handicap who are more than a couple of degrees removed from competency!
To simply facilitate playing non-competitively, a non-member handicap should be viewed as a good thing. It allows more people to enjoy more aspects of the sport, be it experiencing different courses or the challenge of trying to improve their score. It’s when things get competitive, though, that issues arise.
The problem with an unofficial handicap is in its title. Although there are providers able to calculate a handicap reflective of playing ability