Ivan Morris Column - A Game Called Handicap

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
THERE is now a ‘game’ called handicap! Just heard an anecdotal story about a heated (falling out) altercation between two friends that describes present day golf to a tee. One believes it is okay to garner .1s and manipulate his handicap up or down as he pleases. The other takes the contrary view that the player should have no control or input into his handicap status whatsoever.

THERE is now a ‘game’ called handicap! Just heard an anecdotal story about a heated (falling out) altercation between two friends that describes present day golf to a tee. One believes it is okay to garner .1s and manipulate his handicap up or down as he pleases. The other takes the contrary view that the player should have no control or input into his handicap status whatsoever.

On being asked if fixing the score in a football match would be considered okay? The answer that “it wasn’t the same thing!” hardly stands up? On being asked would he deliberately put a wrong score on his card because he seemed to have no problem putting a wrong handicap on it? The answer, once again was that it isn’t the same thing!” It is, you know! What do you do? Is golf worth playing anymore when one has to compete against people like that? Sad to say, their numbers are growing steadily because it is the only way to remain competitive.

Should there be classifications or brackets of senior, junior, intermediate or novice instead of handicaps? Unfortunately, in the atmosphere that prevails it wouldn’t work either because some would manipulate getting into the wrong bracket - including the egomaniacs always wanting to be in the championship bracket.

People will blame the system but no matter what system is in place - some will manipulate it - conveniently forgetting the premise in the rules that states: “the player will endeavour to make the best score he can in every round he plays.” Too many golfers have the wrong attitude.

I heard another story recently about a Smart Alec who scored 42-points in a competition but did not return his card because he managed to gain access to the scores returned in the computer and found out that there was a better score in - the whole club was talking about it, the committee knew about it - and yet nothing was done. Extraordinary - if it is completely true?

Some clubs have attempted to address the situation but were let down or knocked back by their provincial branches. Two simple moves would help - limiting 0.1’s to strictly 20 per season and cards must have at least 15 holes completed, signed and returned to qualify. Anyone who ‘enjoys’ two cuts in one season has to endure a ‘cooling off’ period’ of say, 12-months before they are eligible to receive any .1s back. It would make one want to give up golf, or at least give up one’s handicap. There’s no point in playing in club competitions anymore.

A rule where any person who fails to return a signed card (complete or otherwise) would be suspended for a month from all competitions, home or away, would help. If anyone is seen to be a serial non-returner, longer suspensions should apply.

Cheating is becoming ingrained in our society - beginning at the top. As one of the Clery’s workers said: “Ireland is a great little country to get done in.” Of course, it’s only because they can get away with it and they ARE getting away with it wholesale in golf. Cheating is the biggest elephant in the locker room, it’s worse than the slow play disease. The legislators need to wake up and take steps to stop it or it will destroy the ethos of the game. This culture of cheating in golf can be traced back to the artificial aids allowed wholesale nowadays. Everything is geared to make things easy when golf is at its best when it is hard!

One reader has suggested a solution, put an A1 sized poster in the locker room that says: ANYONE WHO DELIBERATELY PLAYS FOR A .1 IS NOT WELCOME HERE - IT IS CHEATING. YOU ARE GAINING AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE OVER YOUR FELLOW COMPETITORS IN FUTURE COMPETITIONS. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE INTEGRITY IN WHICH THE GAME OF GOLF IS TO BE PLAYED.

I like the poker analogy. If you pay €50 to buy your 100-chips to enter a poker competition and then find out that someone else has, say, 2000-chips, you wouldn’t think it fair, would you? If someone were caught cheating in a card game, would he be ostracized? He’d definitely be banned from future games - might even be lucky to escape without a broken limb. Why isn’t it the same in golf? Anyone who knowingly signs a dodgy scorecard is just as guilty as the perpetrator.

‬‬‬Golfers who go out of their way to build or artificially reduce their handicaps are to be pitied. They are idiots fooling themselves. They are missing out on the opportunity to play to the best of their ability - in order to cheat their friends. How they don’t see or fear the reputational damage is beyond me? Such carry on is not so prevalent in women’s golf. Is it because women are more honest and respect the rules more?

Words of the Wise: The game of golf as envisioned by land and housing developers, equipment manufacturers and profit-makers is in trouble. But the game itself, the simple act of teeing off and enjoying a round, is NOT in any trouble. As long as there are too many courses and not enough golfers it never will be.