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Tough call to implement new handicap system

GOLF By Vincent Wang'ombe | June 4th 2021
Handicap 3, Michael Ngene in action during the 11th Mountain Classic golf tournament at Kiambu Golf Club, July 7, 2019. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

From the earliest days of golf, as our forebears got into an insidious competition between nature, the golf courses and fellow men, they started looking for a way of measuring the skill level.

Even though the golfers may have had golf swings, equipment and golf balls that would make the modern-day professional cringe, they went about their rounds of golf merrily.

There was the need to separate the professionals from the amateurs. Unlike other sports, the skill level was not the main criteria in determining who was a professional and who was an amateur.

Professionals were generally the golfers who played the game for money and amateurs played for the challenge that the game presented. Indeed, until 100 years ago, it was not uncommon to have an amateur winning The Open or other major golf competitions.

Then came the golf handicap: there was the need to have a system to assess the skill levels and have an equitable and transferable measure. Unfortunately, these became so numerous but with one underlying similarity; it was measured against a scratch score. This is the score of a top amateur on a given course.

The World Handicap System was an amalgamation of the six top systems; Argentinian, Australian, British (CONGU), European, South African and American (USGA).

It is going to take some time to bed the Frankenstein system properly. There are numerous challenges even for other countries that used an averaging system like the USGA or the South African systems. For those of us who were using the CONGU system, which used an incremental system, it is very different.

The idea of having three different handicaps is so alien that even some of the golfers that have taken the time to read through the manuals are yet to grasp the concept. The first concept of the Handicap Index is probably the easiest to understand: take the last 20 scores, choose the best eight and work it out.

If after a round of golf, one of the best eight is replaced by another round, the Handicap Index will change overnight.

The change can be significant depending on whether the round was good or bad.

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


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