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Keeping tabs on your handicap for 2001
The standard scratch score and handicapping scheme, introduced in 1983, has been revised this year. Bill Mitchell answers some of the most commonly expressed questions

1. What changes are going to affect the handicap golfer most?
The most significant change relates to the lapsing of handicaps. A national golf union, in this instance the SGU, may now direct that the handicap of any player not returning a stipulated minimum number of qualifying scores in the period between annual reviews shall lapse.

2. Does the SGU intend to take this action?
Yes. The SGU has informed member clubs that at the annual review following the close of the 2001 playing season, players who have not returned three qualifying scores since the previous review shall have their handicap 'starred' (see question 5 for an explanation).

3. Why is this apparently drastic action necessary?
In 1997 the SGU sent a questionnaire to its member golf clubs seeking their views on a range of aspects relating to the handicapping scheme. Virtually all responded. One question asked if the clubs were in favour of a minimum number of medal cards being returned in a playing season in order to retain a handicap.
Just over 80% said 'yes'. In view of this strong lobby, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) has granted a home union the right to 'direct that the handicap of any player, in whatever category, who fails to return a stipulated minimum number of qualifying scores in a period between annual reviews, shall lapse'.

4. Why is the SGU insisting on this change for all member clubs and associated competitions where a CONGU handicap is required?
One of the roles of the SGU in handicapping is to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, the system is fair consistent and equitable for all players. It would not be seen to be fair, for example, to deny players at one club a full handicap (for failing to return the stipulated number of qualifying scores) if other players with a similar scoring record at another club were allowed to retain a full handicap.

5. If, as a result of this change, my handicap is 'starred' at the end of the playing season, how will it affect me?
When a player fails to return three cards within the defined period and his handicap is starred by his home club he will be unable to enter competitions in which a CONGU handicap is required. This includes official club stroke play and matchplay competitions and authorised competitions at other golf clubs. A 'starred' handicap, however, may be used for social golf and the like and it will still be valid where a handicap certificate is a condition required to play at another course.

6. If a club golfer enters a qualifying competition and records a 'No Return', does this count as one of the three scores required to retain a handicap?
No. If a player in a qualifying competition fails to return his card, that will not count as one of the three scores required. If the card is returned, however, with one or more holes incomplete and it is adjusted under clause 19.8 to produce a net differential, the score is acceptable.

7. If my handicap is starred what do I have to do to remove the star?
To regain a CONGU compliant handicap it is necessary to return a minimum of three cards in accordance with clause 15.3 of the scheme.

8. If I return two scores in qualifying competitions between annual reviews and my handicap is subsequently 'starred' would I still need to submit three scores to get my CONGU compliant handicap back?
That depends on your club. Member clubs have been granted the discretion to 'carry over' scores from the previous season. In the circumstance you cited, if your club exercised this discretion, only one additional card would be required to allow your club to allot you a CONGU compliant handicap. Otherwise a minimum of three cards will need to be returned.

9. Following submission to my club of the required number of cards to regain my handicap, would it be restored at the previous level?
Not necessarily. The handicap allocated should be based on the cards returned, the 'live' cards carried forward together with all available information regarding the player's ability.

10. Will my club have any other discretionary powers in the lapsing of handicaps?
Yes, clubs have been granted limited discretionary powers in the overall application of the scheme. In exceptional cases where ill health or injury has precluded a player returning the specified number of cards, a club may allow a full handicap to be retained. This discretion, however, should only be invoked in exceptional circumstances.

11. What other changes have been introduced that could affect my handicap?
Clause 19.8 has been extended to include category 1 players as well as those from Categories 2, 3 and 4.

12. Remind me of the purpose of Clause 19.8
It was introduced to lessen the impact of the occasional 'bad' score on a player's medal return and to reduce the incidence of 'no returns' which some clubs reported as being as high as 30% of the entry. This clause allows, for example, a competitor who has lost a ball and does not complete the hole to continue the rest of the round for handicap purposes. In effect the 'bad' hole is recorded for handicap purposes as a 'net double bogey'.

13. Is there anything else I must do to fulfil my obligations to the scheme?
As in the past, if you are a member of more than one club you must nominate one to be your 'home' club. The nominated club will be responsible for administering your handicap. It is also your responsibility, as a player, to report all scores recorded in away qualifying competitions to your home club together with the CSS.

Bill Mitchell is convenor of golf committee with the Scottish Golf Union

©    28 - SEPTEMBER 2001

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