A brave new world

The World Handicap System, and the way golf has embraced mobile apps for handicapping and scoring has been a big change. While the change has some drawbacks, here’s why I think it’s good for golf…

If there has been one talking point at golf clubs since late-March, it’s the World Handicap System. For club golfers, it has been a massive change – certainly the biggest I’ve experienced in 15 years of playing. While some choose to focus on the negatives of the change, I’ve tended towards learning about and embracing WHS. Here, I’m dedicating myself to extolling its virtues, safe in the knowledge it’s very much here to stay and that at least half of the people reading this will disagree with me.

The biggest change for me is the much wider acceptance of casual scores. I had no experience of this before WHS, having been fortunate to play a lot of club competitions. Having submitted 20 scores in eight weeks, I can safely say I’m a big fan of how casual rounds are encouraged and facilitated. The England Golf and HowDidIDo apps have been the most important part of this and in my experience they work really well [though some have reported specific problems with some functionality]. Being able to keep tabs on friends from other clubs on the England Golf App has also made for some entertaining WhatsApp conversations.

Having more access to playing for my handicap has been great. My midweek rounds count for a lot more and I’ve been taking them more seriously. I don’t submit every score – it’s good to relax a little bit and play a match or a skins game – but having the option to submit a score, and it being a simple process, is a big positive.

The way the handicap calculation has changed has also been a positive change – if a confusing one. Being a little boom or bust when it comes to scoring, knowing I’m no longer guaranteed a .1 lift for a poor score gives me a lot more to play for when things aren’t going perfectly to plan. While there are occasions when the system bites back – dropping a very good score from your last 20 rounds can be a big shock the first time it happens – knowing my handicap is a reflection of eight good rounds from every 20 rather than my entire golfing career also gets a big tick for me.

It’s also been interesting to see how removing the exact score I need to shoot has changed my mindset. In the past, I knew exactly what I needed to shoot to get a specific handicap change. If I was playing the 16th and knew I was destined for a .1 lift, it was easy to give up and double bogey the last three holes. Now, I’m sticking it out to the end.

I do understand there are drawbacks to the system and there are a lot of things to get your head around. There are issues about access for those without smartphones or email; and the changes have placed a lot of pressure on clubs as golfers get used to a completely different way of calculating playing ability. Golfers also need time to learn to understand the new volatility of handicaps – particularly when going up more than .1 at a time; the power of dropping a great score out of your last 20; and the way handicaps are allocated to players with fewer than 20 scores. These issues will be overcome as we all get used to the system and it is fine-tuned. I’m already on board, and more will be soon.