New system, same old problems

It’s time to root out the bandits, sandbaggers and handicap manipulators

It’s a sad fact of being a club golfer, but we all know a bandit, a sandbagger or a handicap manipulator.

Some are very hard to spot – nipping in the odd doubles win or top prize at a big golf day – while others are some of the most talked about people in a golf club (some are even among the most talked about golfers in the region!).

“He used to play off seven,” comes the cry as another winner with 47 points leaves the room. Sadly, after the fact there’s very little we can do about it. The race is run, as they say.

Any handicap system, WHS or otherwise, will always be open to manipulation. Holding an active handicap used to require playing in competitions, but today it only requires a login and someone willing to verify a scorecard. If an attester is of an equally unscrupulous disposition as those looking to game the system, we’re in the Wild West out here – horses, masks and all. 

So, what can we do to improve things? 

Handicap committees have access to tools to challenge players and apply penalty scores to those found to be manipulating the system. Meanwhile, the worst offenders can be banned from using it all together. In practice, this requires a great deal of evidence and a strong committee.

It’s also incumbent on all of us to root out and challenge these cheats whenever we find one, upholding the rules and standards we all play by to ensure golf remains competitive and fair for everyone.

It’s no longer good enough to allow a small number of individuals who have no honour or respect for the traditions of the game to play it from such an unfair starting position. I for one have always endeavoured to play off the lowest handicap possible and I think the vast majority of golfers out there play the game in the same spirit. When the handicap system can be manipulated so easily by so few, we the players must be the ones who ensure every field, in every event, plays from as fair and even a starting point as possible. We cannot simply complain about it after the fact anymore or wait for an uncompromisable handicap system to magically appear. Much like calling out someone who kicks their ball into a better lie, it’s time to stand up and take it upon ourselves to protect the integrity of the game.