A new handicapping rule has been introduced for members of English golf clubs to stop rogue players manipulating the system to their advantage.
Over recent years there have been a number of cases of players who protect inflated handicaps, only to repeatedly collect high-value rewards when playing in competitions away from home.
Now, everyone playing in non-qualifying competitions away from home must return their scores to their home club. Players who ignore this responsibility could, as a last resort, have their handicap suspended.
“It’s essential to do this to protect the integrity of the system,” said Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager. “We can’t sit back and let people manipulate the system, but without evidence clubs can’t take any action.”
England Golf has introduced this clause of the CONGU handicapping system to provide clubs with evidence to support handicap reviews.
The new system will highlight players who, for example, take part in as many competitions as possible at home, and whose handicaps creep up 0.1 on every occasion – but who repeatedly win prizes away from home. Similarly, it will show up the players who play the bare minimum of competitions at home, but who are known for their away successes.
Hunter added: “We’re not talking about a sleeve of balls. These are big prizes, including luxury trips overseas, sets of clubs, and electric trolleys.”
The new rules applies to all stroke play scores returned under competition conditions, including team events. “It’s not about recording every score in a fourball betterball, but returning the team score,” added Hunter. “If the same individuals or teams keeping winning, or coming near the top of leaderboards at events away from home, that should at least indicate to their club handicapping officials that further investigations are required – and the only way to achieve that is by asking for all the scores to be reported.”
Social golf is not affected, but clubs are advised to be aware of performances in swindles, which the handicap committee could take into account at the annual review. England Golf also recommends that clubs that run non-qualifying open competitions should inform the prizewinners’ home clubs of their scores.