New manager criticises ‘inactive handicaps’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 1, 2012 10:29

Another golf club manager has criticised England Golf’s ‘inactive handicap’ system, stating that confusion about it is preventing golfers from spending money at golf clubs.

Under the system, golfers that fail to return three qualifying scores in the same calendar year are given an ‘inactive handicap’ status for the following year, preventing them from entering events that require an active handicap to participate until they submit the three cards in.

In February, David O’Sullivan, manager of China Fleet Country Club in Cornwall, caused a stir when he accused the scheme of being administered by the ‘Woodhall Stasi’ and added that it ‘upsets members, causes more administration and takes up valuable tee times at clubs’.

Several golf club managers agreed with him, with one stating: ‘If members want to pay £1,000 a year to play a handful of times and perhaps enter a knockout and the odd Stableford, then let them! They pay and it is our job to serve. Yet we provide them with a draconian set of rules and obstacles to hurdle.’

However, many club managers also disagreed, for example, Bob Carrick,
of Hunstanton Golf Club, stated: “It does not seem unreasonable to expect players to play in three counting competitions every year before they can play in competitive competitions. To imply that this part of the CONGU system affects membership is not borne out at my club nor have I seen any evidence to support the statement.”

Now Martin Bennet, general manager of Mid-Herts Golf Club, has joined the debate, stating that the system does damage golf clubs’ ability to make money at a time when many are going out of business.

He said that several golfers and golf clubs do not understand the system, meaning that golf club members with inactive handicaps are being excluded from attending golf events that they are allowed to play in. Furthermore, he disagrees that they should not be allowed to participate in opens that provide revenue for golf clubs.

“We receive invitations from local clubs to seniors’ opens saying only those with active handicaps need apply,” he said. “And several clubs in my area have even told our seniors’ section that they will only play their social matches against teams provided they all have active handicaps. This beggars belief!

“What business in their right minds stops customers from spending money with them and makes some members feel like second-class citizens?

“I am sure this was not the intention of the scheme but it shows that what we need are fewer rules, not more. More time needs to be given to the unintended consequences of changes.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 1, 2012 10:29
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  1. Brian Inglis May 10, 19:26

    I find myself scratching my head when I hear the CONGU system described as complicated – anyone of even average uptake could understand and grasp it within about 5 minutes and sooner than that if you have a passing interest or knowledge of golf.

    As far as the active/inactive rule being unpopular…..with whom exactly? Surely if you want to play competitively you will, by extension already have and maintain a handicap and if you don’t you won’t. No point in having a handicap you never use, so it lapses and you have to re-submit some evidence of current playing ability to get it back. Hardly a hardship, and if you’re new to the game (or coming back to the game) you won’t mind going through the process of getting your handicap so you can get cracking and entering competitions/matches at home and around other clubs.

    What’s complicated and difficult to grasp about that concept?

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  2. Dave Allen May 3, 13:05

    Whilst the CONGU handicap system works, those who understand know that it does have its limitations and is quite complicated for the average golfer to fully understand. Over recent years, various changes have been considered, some being made and others not. For example, supplementary scores have been introduced but Slope has not.

    Assessing the difficult of a course is crucial to the handicap system but the move to Slope has been replaced by a review of the Standard Scratch Scores of courses. How near completion this is I don’t know but it has been going on for quite a while. Rather than have an assessor visit each course, it might be better to undertake a statistical analysis of each course based on the Competition Standard Scratch scores form qualifiers over 3 years, say. This would give an indication of the difficulty of the course taking into account all playing conditions and not rely on the conditions prevailing on the day the assessor visits. Any club that felt that the result was unrepresentative could request an assessor visit. This would speed up the process considerably and would be relatively simple to repeat on an annual basis.

    It seems to me that overlaying changes on the basic system, which is already complicated, has not really worked. Perhaps an alternative approach would be to look for another model that is simpler to understand and operate.

    Many years ago, I played in South Africa where club members were required to enter a card for each individual round they played, whether it is in a competition or a social round. Any score above a gross double bogey was reduced by the computer to a double bogey. The resulting gross score was then compared to the equivalent of our SSS to give a playing standard for that round. This card was then used along with the previous 11 cards submitted to adjust the player’s handicap if appropriate. This was all done on a national system and so the resultant handicap was visible to all clubs and required a minimum of administration.

    South Africa’s system seems to have the advantage of maintaining a handicap that reflects a player’s current playing standard rather than the proportionate changes ranging between +0.1 and -0.4 that drive the CONGU system, which doesn’t do this so effectively. This will be less onerous on the administrators as, with the technology we have available today, most of the work will be undertaken by the golfers themselves and the machines.

    Food for thought.

    Dave Allen
    Ex Club Handicap Secretary (5 years)
    Ex Club Secretary (9 years)

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  3. Sean Malherbe May 3, 10:03

    My understanding of CONGU’s introduction of inactive handicaps was that it offered protection from travelling “pot hunters”. The maintenance of an Active handicap provides some sort of legitimacy (theoretically, I’ll admit) to a handicap certificate produced when “playing away”. For this reason I continue to support the principle behind active/inactive handicaps. HOWEVER common sense must always prevail – every Golf Club Manager (together with his/her Committee/Board, etc.) should know their club well enough to establish the correct internal “fit” to ensure that the system does not have a negative effect (perceived or actual) on their membership.

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  4. Neil Sjoberg May 3, 09:21

    There is no doubt CONGU is very unpopular with golfers but good fun for the committee members who like “Playing around and controlling others”.

    I have lost members because they are unhappy with the unfair power handicap secratries hold over them.It has upset them so much they have left not just Epping but club golf.

    They all now play society golf where the system is much simpler.

    Mention that to England golf or CONGU and it thereeatens their jobs so they get shirty.

    I dont know how we get the message across.They just dont want to know. Many Club secretaries know they must not upset their employing committee so they just keep their heads down and dare not speak.

    Meanwhile golf club membership slides slowly down and golf society membership is booming.

    Reply to this comment
  5. (@golfclubadvisor) (@golfclubadvisor) May 2, 00:49

    Golf Management News New manager criticises ‘inactive handicaps’

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