England Golf explains new ‘rogue player’ handicapping rule

Emma Williams
By Emma Williams March 6, 2017 12:42

England Golf has released a statement explaining why it has introduced a clause to CONGU’s handicapping system that requires players to return their scores to their home golf club.

The new stipulation requires that everyone playing in non-qualifying competitions away from home must return their scores to their home club. Players who ignore this responsibility could even have their handicap suspended.

According to the body that runs amateur golf in England, this has been introduced for members of English golf clubs to stop what it calls rogue players manipulating the system to their advantage.

This, says, the body has resulted in golfers unfairly winning top prizes.

‘Over recent years there has been a number of cases of players who protect inflated handicaps, only to repeatedly collect high-value rewards when playing in competitions away from home,’ says the statement.

‘England Golf has introduced this clause of the CONGU handicapping system to provide clubs with evidence to support handicap reviews.

‘The new system will highlight players who, for example, take part in as many competitions as possible at home and whose handicaps creep up 0.1 on every occasion – but who repeatedly win prizes away from home. Similarly, it will show up the players who play the bare minimum of competitions at home, but who are known for their away successes.’

The new rule applies to all stroke play scores returned under competition conditions, including team events.

“We’re not talking about a sleeve of balls,” said Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager. “These are big prizes including luxury trips overseas, sets of clubs and electric trolleys.

“It’s essential to do this to protect the integrity of the system.

“We can’t sit back and let people manipulate the system, but without evidence clubs can’t take any action.

“It’s not about recording every score in a fourball betterball, but returning the team score.

“If the same individuals or teams keeping winning or coming near the top of leaderboards at events away from home, that should at least indicate to their club’s handicapping officials that further investigations are required – and the only way to achieve that is by asking for all the scores to be reported.”

‘Social golf is not affected, but clubs are advised to be aware of performances in swindles which the handicap committee could take into account at the annual review,’ added the statement.

‘England Golf also recommends that clubs which run non-qualifying open competitions should inform the prize winners’ home clubs of their scores.’


Emma Williams
By Emma Williams March 6, 2017 12:42
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  1. Billyg August 15, 17:49

    The whole subject of rouge handicaps misses an important point.
    All golf courses are not of the same difficulty and no adjustment is made for this simple injustice.
    I play all of my golf on a course that is at least 5 shots more difficult than the average courses I play.
    Water on 11 holes, island greens, tree lined and 96 bunkers, most in front of the greens.
    This should be accounted for before people are accused of mistreating their handicap.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jonmerc August 23, 20:47

      Handicaps are currently calculated on SS not Par. So if your course is actually 5 shots more difficult that will be reflected in the SS for the day and handicaps adjusted accordingly. Once Slope ratings are introduced the difficulty of your course will be taken into account.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Jonas Crabtree March 10, 10:38

    England Golf state that ‘Over recent years there has been a number of cases of players who protect inflated handicaps, only to repeatedly collect high-value rewards when playing in competitions away from home.’

    If this is an evidence based statement then England Golf must know who the players involved in these cases were.
    This being the case it is a matter for England Golf, the County Union and the player’s club to address.

    Instead England Golf has imposed a burden on players and clubs to collect data which, in the vast majority of cases, will never be used.

    Of course, if England Golf’s statement is not evidence based then there decision is without merit.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dave M March 12, 00:17

      Jonas… in the North West, a number of players have received bans (handicap suspensions) as a consequence of a small band of vigilant individuals reporting on their serial competition wins – information freely available on the internet. If all clubs hosting comps were obliged to return prize-winning scores to home clubs it would be much easier to root out the rogues without the need for me and others to report our meesley 28 point better ball results.
      The EG initiative is to be welcomed…but the process could be made so much more efficient.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Adrian March 9, 18:09

    CONGU still missing the point as always. Beginners come down very quickly and the first year or second year win lots. The 0.4 per shot is not enough. It should be 0.4 per shot for the first 4 strokes under then 0.8 for every stroke thereafter. This should apply to all divisions. It gets people in their right place (handicap) quickly. Equally it should be 0.1 added going back up but if you are more than 4 strokes worse than the buffer zone then you go up by 0.2. This again gets people back in the handicap area they belong. As Jayne pointed out cheats will always be cheats, but the R & A made that more attractive raising what you can win. These Am Ams have big prizes and encourage people to have false handicaps. Almost all those people don’t consider it cheating. Getting active handicaps is the best way, if they are in competitions competing equally then they should not get the same % allowance as an active handicapper. More people then would be off the right handicap. Our knock outs are getting less subscibed because a 5 handicapper wins a few rounds then gets matched up with some bandit how often have you heard “I was level par after 13 and 4 down” The R & A and EGU have some of the most out of touch individuals you will come across.

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  4. Jayne B March 8, 19:09

    Unfortunately, in my experience, cheats will always cheat no matter how hard you hit their handicaps if they really want a prize so badly.

    Even with this system the cheats could decide to target 1 or maybe 2 opens with really good prize tables and then return lower scores for any other opens that they play in. It is still a cheap round of golf and a brilliant day so they won’t be losing out if they don’t win any prizes in the other opens.

    I play in a lot of opens and have witnessed some creative scores returned.

    I have also witnessed some interesting drops from clear out of bounds positions.

    In the ladies game I find that there are a lot of players who play in each others opens. Everyone knows each other. Any teams that return multiple dubious scores cannot hide. Clubs soon become aware of suspect players/teams and usually when they apply for opens in the future they are mysteriously “Full”. We never see the cheats again.

    Reply to this comment
    • PeteDevon March 10, 13:24

      Hi Jayne B when you “witnessed some creative scores returned” what do you mean and what did you do about it?
      It would seem that many people are aware of these rogue handicap players both at their home clubs and the union, but what is required is action by both. In addition clubs should not award handicaps merely to generate a new member. We have had a new member join recently and his previous club allocated him a handicap off one score?

      Reply to this comment
      • JayneB March 10, 18:45

        Hi Pete, We reported the out of bounds drop when we returned to the clubhouse.

        We were asked about the general play of a group behind us as the organisers had heard rumours about them. We knew what the group had scored on the 18th and when the organisers showed us the card that the team returned, we could confirm that the scores were not correct. They returned quite a high score which fortunately was just out of the prizes. We never did see that particular team again.

        Ladies are fairly good at sharing this knowledge. The culprits don’t get away with the unfair play for too long before they are tarnished.

        Their is a core of ladies that regularly play a lot of opens and naturally share any information with each other if they see anything out of the ordinary. Ladies also have a fair idea of what a good score should be on the day, any scores that are way over this amount immediately ring alarm bells, especially if the players are unknown or from another county.

        Reply to this comment
  5. Dave M March 6, 16:37

    This initiative is very much a step in the right direction in tackling an issue that is all too familiar to anyone involved in organising or playing in opens and other non-qualifying events.
    However, I feel that England Golf have missed an opportunity by not making it a requirement that host clubs/event organisers return leading scores to home clubs rather than just making it a “polite request”. The problem is probably even worse in Ireland but the GUI have not ducked the issue and they have placed an obligation on host clubs as they are entitled to do under CONGU/UHS rules. I’m at a loss as to why England Golf have not followed suit.
    There are a number of shortcomings in relying on players self- reporting, not least getting the message across and then relying on those who are “playing the system” to act honestly. Furthermore, the return of a single card in, say a 4BBB, without the context of the overall competition results may be meaningless. Surely the “rogue players” are the serial prizewinners. A score of 40 points taking 20th place in a competition is not very interesting but if the 40 points took first prize then it is relevant, particularly if it is one of several such wins. If players do take their responsibility to return scores seriously then the handicap secretary will be faced with a lot of returns that are of no interest and, if he/she is going to be diligent, may have to root around on the internet or contact host clubs to get the extra information needed if a score does look like it might be “exceptional”.
    Having said this, in the absence of a requirement on home clubs, my own club fully intends to return leading scores in our opens to host clubs and, hopefully, all other clubs will do the same to help tackle this issue. Maybe we should advertise in our open literature and on our websites that we will return leading scores in the hope that it will put off the rogue players from entering!

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