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Handicap committees must ensure golfers compete fairly

Last updated 1 month ago | By Vincent Wang'ombe

Jane Kanyi follows her shot at Muthaiga Golf Club. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

In the book ‘The Game of Golf in East Africa’, R. W. Hooper traces the development of golf since its inception in Kenya.

At no point in the book that chronicles golfing activities in Kenya does it mention the suspension of golfing handicaps even during the most turbulent times in the history of the country.

During the first World War, Muthaiga Golf Club, which is the first club in Kenya to have grass greens, had all their irrigation pipes commandeered by the army and had to revert to sand browns.

At Nairobi Golf Club (now Royal Nairobi Golf Club), part of their land was hived off by the Kings African Rifles who were based at Langata. This did not stop the golfers from enjoy their game.

They just remodelled their course and changed some of the holes to replace the ones they had lost. Golf competitions took place during the Second World War as well as the Mau Mau uprising.

The COVID-19 pandemic is very likely the first time in the history of the game in Kenya that the Kenya Golf Union has asked clubs not hold competitions and suspended golf handicaps.

This was, however, not a ban on social or what is commonly known as friendly rounds.

As a result, there are a number of golfers who have been playing several rounds of golf every week. These rounds of golf have sharpened the skills of some of the golfers while some bemoan the fact that theirs have deteriorated.

At the end of last week, chairman of the Kenya Golf Union announced the lifting of the suspension of golf handicaps and gave direction on how to proceed with competitive golf under these COVID-19 times.

The announcement was well taken by golfers who had been eager to return to competitive golf. Then the big question that followed was how to deal with the golfers who have improved their golfing skills during the time when handicaps had been suspended.

Under the CONGU Handicapping System that's used in Kenya, the cards of any round played during the period when handicaps in the country were suspended, do not count as qualifying scores.

As such, these must not be entered into the system in order to alter the handicaps of members. All golfers are supposed to resume playing competitions at the handicap that they held before the suspension that was announced by the Kenya Golf Union.

The Golf Captain, under the CONGU Handicapping System, also has no power to alter any handicaps willy-nilly, no matter how much evidence he has on the player’s abilities.

The only way one can make alterations to handicaps is when the Handicap Committee of the club meets and carries out a review before making necessary changes.

Following the resumption of handicaps, these committees are supposed to meet, analyse the evidence then make any alterations they deem fit.

The committee is also required to inform all golfers who have been affected by the review as soon as it's practicably possible.

It is important that all golf clubs do the right thing in as far as adjusting of handicaps is concerned.

Otherwise, we shall be entering a period in the history of golfing competitions in Kenya where handicaps will not be regarded as a true reflection of golfer’s abilities.

Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited

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