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New handicap system kicks in

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GOLF

A Gisborne golfer’s mission to return to single-figure handicap status has been accomplished without swinging a club in anger on the course.

The player turned up to his home Poverty Bay fairways on Sunday for his first 18-hole round in more than seven weeks to discover he was on a 9-handicap off the white tees under the new World Handicap System.

Handicap reductions were the socially distanced talk among the players, with some having dropped as many as three shots.

Unfortunately, the freshly promoted single-figure player didn’t live up to his status, adding his name to the lengthy list of players whose rusty swings succumbed to time away from the fairways.

The reason for a general drop in handicap is the new World Handicap System, which has been activated fully in New Zealand.

The WHS is a unified handicap system developed by The R&A and USGA in co-ordination with several handicapping authorities spread over the world.

The aim was to create a unified, fairer and more inclusive system on a global scale.

The main change is that players are now handicapped on the top eight scores from their last 20 rounds. It was previously the top 10 from 20 rounds.

Players also now have what is called a “low index” — the lowest index they have been on in the past 12 months. If a player moves three strokes past this index, a cap will slow down their handicap movement to a maximum of five strokes.

There is also an “exceptional scores” automatic reduction. If you return “an exceptional score” in your last 20 rounds then you are subject to a reduction — one stroke if you have a round 7 to 9.9 better than your handicap index relative to conditions, course and slope rating; two strokes if the score is 10 better.

Other features of the WHS include being freshly handicapped after every round rather then every two weeks as it was under the old system; a maximum score of net double bogey on a hole (for handicapping purposes only); and a maximum handicap limit of 54.0 for men and women.

As the WHS progresses, it is envisaged that a golfer who plays to his/her handicap will have played well — 36 stableford points or a net par score will be a strong performance.

Time will tell. And winter, when courses are at their most difficult, is probably a good time for the WHS to be implemented in New Zealand.

The test will be in summer when, under the previous system, 36 points often did not get a look-in at competitions, particularly at the shorter country courses where the course rating — which is a major part of the handicapping formula — can be a lot lower.

And while the system is designed to be fairer for all, there will always be the players who use unethical or even illegal tactics when it comes to influencing their handicap.

No system is fool-proof against that.