Before the introduction of the CONGU handicapping system, it was not uncommon for the golf captain to take one look at a golfer’s swing and decide that his or her handicap should be lower.
There were many tales of golfers whose handicaps were chopped as soon as they beat the captain of the day in a match and especially if they happened to have made some money from them. To those captains, this was a sign that a golfer was an asymptomatic handicap sandbagger.
Many clubs in those days had handicap managers, some of whom ran a manual system or one that was on a spreadsheet. The process of determining the golfers' playing ability was very often subjective and the golf captain was known to have the last word.
With the CONGU system, it is often not possible for the captain to arbitrarily reduce or increase a golfer’s handicap.
In fact, the captain technically has no role in running the handicapping affairs. The CONGU manual lists the role that should be played by the Union, which in the case of Kenya, is the Kenya Golf Union.
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It also stipulates the roles of an Area Authority (which we don’t have in Kenya), Affiliated Club, the Handicap Committee and the Player. Nowhere in the CONGU manual is there mention of golf captains.
It is, however, common in most of the clubs for the captain to appoint the handicap committee. Unfortunately, for some captains, with all the duties that they have to ensure that the golf section runs properly, the appointment of the handicap committee is put in the back-burner and some clubs have gone without one.
This is usually so obvious at the end of the year when the handicap committees are required to carry out the annual handicap review and submit their results to the Kenya Golf Union; there are clubs that have not submitted these for years.
A few weeks ago, I received a call from a distressed member of a handicap committee in one of the Nairobi clubs, who had been asked by the captain to capture the scores of a player who had had an exceptional round of golf while playing a friendly round.
The golfer, who had not indicated his intention for the round to count for handicapping prior to the round as is the requirement, was going to have his handicap reduced by three shots had the captain had his way.
Fortunately, the experienced member of the handicap committee stood his ground and insisted that it was not procedural for the handicap to be adjusted based on a friendly round.
I would have dismissed that incidence as an isolated case until I received a call this week from another member of a handicap committee from a different club with a similar case.
A club official reckoned that a player was supposed to have his handicap adjusted on account of a casual round of golf in which the player had had exceptionally good scores.
In both cases, the experience of the handicap committee members prevailed over the overzealous officials.
For a friendly or a casual round to count for handicapping, or what is known in the CONGU manual as a supplementary score, one of the conditions is that the golfer must declare their intention before the round.
If the intention for the score to count as a supplementary score was not declared by the player before their round, then the results should not count for handicapping.
It is probably time that all clubs took the responsibility of appointing handicap committees from the captain and installed one that has a longer tenure. This is even more important in the next few years as we embark on the World Handicap System.
It will be too cumbersome for captains to focus on their duties as well as matters of handicapping.
Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited