Ivan Morris Column - Golfers must play with integrity

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Ivan Morris writes about one of his favourite topics - that of golfers abusing their handicaps.

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Ivan Morris writes about one of his favourite topics - that of golfers abusing their handicaps.

It’s always a nice surprise to receive a letter from a reader. Provoked, no doubt, by my recent raising of the vexing issue of rampant handicap abuse, Denis O’Donovan from Effin has taken the trouble to write in with his own interesting and equally valuable viewpoint.

Dear Ivan, “What you say about ‘elasticated’ handicaps is accurate.

Golf is a game of honour. That’s what separates it from many other sports.

The GUI should be much more proactive in protecting the true spirit and ethos of the game.

Morally, every golfer has an obligation to play the game to the best of his ability and in a manner that protects its integrity.

“I have two suggestions that might help - they certainly won’t make matters worse – all singles competitions should be played in groups of not more than 3, which would prevent golfers from playing for a .1 while at the same time having the pleasure of playing in their own fourballs with colleagues.

Golfers would be faced with the prospect of playing in the competition on its own merits as a single, or not playing at all.

The argument against is that it is possible for more golfers to play during the course of a day in fours than in threes but that’s incorrect, if you get ‘3’s’ out in 7-minute intervals as opposed to ‘4’s’ in 9-minute slots.

Allowing singles competitions to be played in groups of four facilitates the bandits.

“Nearly all club competitions are tailored towards high handicappers. The higher your handicap the better chance you have of winning.

Why not change the thinking to rewarding the best golfer via the best score on the day while at the same time facilitating everyone?

In regular club competitions why not have all scores recorded in gross figures but arrange the prize distribution as follows:

1st – best gross – open to all categories, 1,2,3,4)

2nd – best gross – open only to categories 2,3 and 4)

3rd – best gross – open only to categories 3 and 4)

4th – best gross – open to category 4 only.

“In this way all golfers can compete in divisions and have a fair chance but the best golf played on the day in each handicap category will be rewarded.

Handicaps would not come into it except for designating the category each golfer falls into. In theory, Category 4 players have four chances but Category 1s have only one chance.

“An alternative might be –

1st Prize – best gross available to all categories.

2nd Prize: best gross score from Categories 2, 3 and 4.

3rd Prize: best gross score from Categories 3 and 4.

1st Nett: available to all categories

2nd Nett: available to all categories

“The second suggestion may seem radical but we are now at a stage where ‘game changing’ has to take place in order to save the honour of the game.”

Yours sincerely,

-Denis O’Donovan

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. O’Donovan’s sentiments, particularly his point about four players playing together in singles competitions but there is little chance of the high handicap majority agreeing to his suggestion for a fairer prize distribution.

One reason is sheer begrudgery and another is my vehemently argued point that low handicappers manipulate their handicaps downwards as maliciously and as frequently as high handicappers want theirs to rise!

I would like to turn the clock back to what was in operation before the Unified Handicap System was foisted upon us in 1982 i.e. in all singles match play, V. Par, stableford and best/better ball competitions a three-quarters handicap allowance be used.

After all, the high handicapper is already receiving a sufficient ‘advantage’ by not having to count all of his strokes.

In various discussions with GUI Officials, I have been made aware that they are conscious of the points that Denis O’Donovan is making. But, the GUI moves slowly and tends to blame club officials for not administering the system as intended.

That every golfer would endeavor to make the best score he can at every hole in every competition, every time and will report his scores for handicapping purposes is expecting rather too much of some golfer’s human nature.

Boil it all down and you find that handicapping committees, routinely overlook the important, precise wording in the handicap rulebook which states: “when one returns a score outside the Buffer Zone one is entitled to CONSIDERATION of receiving a .1”