England Golf appears to shelve nomadic handicap idea

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 24, 2020 06:39

A proposal to create handicaps for golfers in England who are not members of golf clubs appears to have been dropped.

Last autumn England Golf was reportedly considering introducing a scheme similar to ‘Flexiclub’, which operates in New Zealand, in which pay-and-play, or nomadic, golfers join a virtual golf club for a fee, and in return receive an official handicap and other benefits.

However, the controversial idea, which was said to have been proposed by England Golf’s then CEO Nick Pink, who no longer works for England Golf, appears to have been shelved.

In a digital Q&A on the forthcoming World Handicap System with nearly 200 golf club managers, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager, Gemma Hunter, suggested that the plan had been dropped this year.

“Eighteen months ago there was a lot of discussion around this,” she told them, “in probably the last seven or eight months that’s been canned. We’ve taken it off the table. We’re not actively working on anything regarding the ‘Independent Golfer’ [the name the project was given]. Maybe we’ll come back to it in the future but at the moment it’s not something we’re looking at.”

Any news of the abandonment of the idea will please some county unions and golf club managers who opposed the proposal; with one county secretary arguing last year that it could “very quickly lead to an erosion of the trust in official handicapping”.

Some club managers had expressed concern that their members would quit their clubs to join the scheme, although the proposal stated that golfers could not join if they had been a member of a club within the previous 12 months.

Last summer Philip Harvey, county secretary for The Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, wrote to England Golf chairman Nic Coward to say there was widespread opposition to the proposal within the industry.

“Access to a recognised handicap which can be used to play competitively, measure performance and compete against others remains a key reason for golfers to join clubs and retain their memberships,” he wrote.

“Of course there are other benefits to their membership, but we believe there would be strong resistance to allowing non-members access to competitions and creating a virtual membership option, whilst leaving the club member as the main source of the funds which are essential to maintaining the courses and other facilities which the sport needs to operate.

“The outcome is almost universally against the concept from clubs at every level of the game.”

The plan, which was debated at an autumn meeting at Woodhall Spa, would have also seen England Golf run the scheme centrally, with independent golfers registering through the England Golf website. It was proposed that the scheme would be introduced in 2021.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 24, 2020 06:39
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  1. Ken August 6, 08:19

    This sort of scheme has been the problem with declining numbers. I’ve played golf on holiday with nomads and they are scoring in high thirties in stable ford comps and I’m thinking I need some shots back!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tom B July 26, 12:58

    I get the feeling that this could well be another example of governing bodies putting up a barrier for a product the market is calling for, and then watching as a private company steps in.

    What is to stop a company putting together their own handicap system, especially using the World Handicap method which is far easier to calculate.

    Unfortunately, too often golf acts in fear of the new, rather than embracing it.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Chuggers July 25, 08:39

    I’m a nomadic golfer as I prefer to play different courses, I have an official handicap that can be verified and checked plus I get a handicap card which states what my handicap is.
    I also have the benefit of playing in comps if I wish or I can send cards in and keep my handicap up to date as well

    Reply to this comment
  4. Jeremy S July 24, 10:28

    Well let’s hope the UK Golf Federation steps up and offers this handicapping system for the Nomadic golfer. The new WHS is a shambles of the highest order and it’s high time that governance of the game of golf was removed from the old farts at the R&A and England Golf who have done absolutely nothing to promote the game and are simply hanging on to the past.

    Reply to this comment
    • Wheels July 25, 16:38

      How could this system be policed ?
      Anyone could falsify scores to gain a higher handicap and then win open competitions .Bad idea .Nomad golfers should join golf clubs and get genuine handicaps.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Glenn July 24, 10:07

    I think this would have been the final nail in the coffin for many golf clubs.

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