Ivan Morris – The big dilemma facing all category 1 golfers

Ivan Morris – The big dilemma facing all category 1 golfers

Mutt: As a longtime, low handicapper can you explain the rationale behind the handicap rules for a category-1 golfer? If you break the standard scratch score by a shot you lose .1 and if you are one shot above the CSS you gain .1. Meanwhile other categories gain .1 but are accordingly reduced .2, .3 or .4 per shot. I think it is ridiculous. Am I right or wrong?

Jeff: You're not wrong, Mutt. It's a terrible system that has served the game very badly for almost forty years. Apart from letting the golf ball get out of control the current handicap system adopted in 1982, with minor tweaks here and there, was the worst thing that happened to golf in my lifetime.

It's very frustrating to shoot below par and get a .1 back and it happens all of the time. You can play really great and get no reward because your score is measured against a field of higher handicaps and not the golf course, as it should be. Why did you ask?

Mutt: I heard that Jack Hume shot a 64 around Naas and got a .1 back. How could that be? When did you ever hear of such an injustice? You'd think Naas is a chicken run but it is far from it. On the other hand, if somebody in the higher categories shoots that same score, they are not cut enough.

It's not fair to be cut so little for returning a score that much lower than par. Scores over 40-points should be rare events. Anyone who shoots in excess of 40-pts is too loosely handicapped and deserves to be cut more severely so they cannot do it again in a hurry.

Otherwise, genuine golfers become discouraged and decide: "Why bother? I'll keep my entry fee and leave the weekly competition to the cheats."

I chose that word because that is exactly how golfers returning 44-pts and better are perceived by the rest of us - especially if they are known to have done it more than once.

Jeff: There's huge conflict in club golf these days because of the different attitudes of golfers towards their handicaps; some are determined to become as low as possible and then guard it jealously; others want it as high as possible in order to gain a clear edge in competition. With four, five or even six stokes to spare they can win almost anytime they choose.

Mutt: That's not golf! I can remember a time when one's handicap was a badge of honour. Everyone wanted to be as low as they could go and being given a shot back was an insult. There was no resistance to playing in competitions because the only way you could go was down - until the annual review, that is.

A category-1 can shoot under par gross and still get a .1 back if the CSS is 39-pts. If you match or break par surely you should be in the so-called buffer zone at worst? Hume's case is rare but not unique, the senior international from Tramore, John Mitchell (scr), returned 45-pts in his President's Prize this year and received scant 'reward' handicap-wise for a fantastic, once in a lifetime score.

On the other hand, similar scores by Category 3 and 4's are ten a penny. I know of somebody who shot 45-points two years in a row in the same competition off the same handicap - how can that be?

Jeff: One of the problems with golf today is the increasing disparity in abilities. Believe it or not the biggest discrepancy between top and bottom in the handicap categories is in Category-1. The difference between a +6 and a - 5.4 is far greater than that between a -19 and a -28.

The imbalance is exaggerated by the fact that there are so many fewer players in Category-1 compared with the other categories too. It's wrong that a plus golfer's scores, are measured against what a 'loosely-handicapped' 20-something returns when he is off the leash and going 'wild.'

Mutt: Now, you've got it! There should be a new Category to cover 0.0 to + players with their own separate CSS. The spread between top and bottom in category 1 is simply far too wide. Narrowing the criteria for Category-1 and widening Category-2 would improve matters.

Jeff: 99% of plus golfers want to be low, and stay low. What's wrong with that? I suggest Category-1s be cut .2 instead of .1 and the buffer zone be increased to two over CSS. The current ratio of .1 to .1 is too severe.

Mutt: There's a new worldwide handicap system on the way. Based on the USGA and Australian models, we will be handicapped on the average of our best ten (rolling) scores out of our last twenty. One good aspect to it is NRs will be ruled out, as far as I know. If you want a 'raise' you'd better finish your round because if you are a low man and want to stay low - you should not be allowed a plethora of NRs either.

Jeff: When is this new system due?

Mutt: 2018 is the target but knowing the speed at which the R&A, USGA and AGU work it will probably be 2020.

Jeff: I don't think I can wait that long. I'll be retired, finished and disillusioned beyond repair by then.

Mutt: The rules of golf are complicated but as far as handicapping is concerned it's all cut and dried. Surprisingly, it's where most of the cheating takes place.

Golfers who wouldn't dream of improving a lie in the rough will cheat on their handicaps without the slightest pang of conscience. Too many golfers manage their handicaps and don't think it is cheating, which of course it is. It's almost impossible to win a competition without playing 'miles' better than one's handicap.

Jeff: That a golfer can, if he wants to, maliciously control his own handicap is at the core of the problem. Prior to 1982, influencing one's own handicap was impossible. Back then, getting cut was easy. Getting shots back was hard. These days, it's the opposite.