Hackers have been given a big handicap boost — and they must now stand back and withstand a negative reaction from their fellow club members.
CONGU, the organisation that governs handicaps in GB and Ireland, have decreed that we are not getting enough help and that we can at last burst through the 28 ceiling and get a handicap that more fairly represents our capabilities.
The ladies will receive similar treatment and be able to get more than their 36 shot limit. The new ceiling for men and women will be 54, just like the juniors.
I doubt if any of us will reach anywhere near 54 but it will bring relief if we can creep up above the present ceilings. During recent years the re-jigged handicap system has been particularly beneficial to those whose handicaps were in the lower- to mid-teens.
As long as they don’t do anything daft like finishing high in a medal, they’ve crept up towards, and sometimes past, the twenty mark.
I know a few at our club who used to be off single figures and are now in their late teens. To be stuck at 28 and watch these blighters advancing relentlessly towards you hasn’t been pleasant.
But a more immediate result in the new revision will come in four-ball better-ball events. In both match and stroke play competitions the handicap allowance will be nine-tenths the difference instead of three-quarters.
This has been a bitter pill for the high handicappers to swallow. If two 28-handicappers played two scratch players, the higher pair would lose seven shots each and the scratch players none. A player off plus two would actually gain a shot.
It was a nonsense and CONGU have done well to sort out this anomaly. Doubtless, there will be moans from the better players but the assessors study thousands of club results to arrive at a fair deal for all.
There was an outcry a few years ago when CONGU ruled that in match-play the full handicap difference should apply when a player met someone with a lower handicap. For decades the rule was that only three-quarters the difference be granted. No one ever knew where this figure came from. I’ve questioned many of the top authorities but no-one is sure how that figure was arrived at.
When they made a deep examination of club records they came to the conclusion that the fairest allowance would be one-and-a-quarter the difference. They didn’t feel brave enough to make that big a change so they settled for the full difference.
Even then they faced a mutiny from the better club players many of whom threatened never to play in knock-out tournaments again because they would have no chance. The reactions were absurd and although there were a few instances of rare wins by hackers –I had a couple myself, I’m not ashamed to say — the old order was soon re-established and the prizes have been largely claimed by the usual suspects.
How precisely the new system will proceed will be explained to clubs during a sequence of workshops held around the country for match and handicap committees to attend.
The changes are mandatory and will apply only to club-run competitions and cannot be used in opens etc. Although the changes are from January 1, 2016 they will not come into force until March 1.
There are a few other interesting changes which I have not dwelt on here but all will be revealed early next year. Suffice to say that we hackers are considered important enough to have our interests looked at by an official group constantly aiming to assist club members to have handicaps which truly reflect their playing ability.
My playing ability tends to defy description but it is comforting to know that someone is working on it. I thank them very much.