England Golf ‘disappointed’ that ISVs have passed handicap cost on to clubs

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 11, 2021 06:31

England Golf has released a statement saying that it is disappointed to learn that independent software vendors (ISVs) have passed on a World Handicap System (WHS) cost they have been charged by it to golf clubs.

Under the new WHS, England Golf took over the calculation of a golfer’s handicap from ISVs. As part of the deal, ISVs signed a WHS licence last year to gain access to the new WHS platform, which came with a charge of £74.50 plus VAT every six months for each golf club to which they provide handicapping software, made payable to England Golf.

‘The ISV service charge covers the full cost of all maintenance and ongoing enhancement of the WHS platform and My England Golf app to effectively support golfers and golf clubs,’ reads the statement. ‘It is not an individual charge to golf clubs from England Golf.

‘We have not instructed ISVs to pass on and collect this fee from clubs on our behalf.

‘However, we are aware that some ISVs have now made the business decision to include this service charge in their invoices to golf clubs and we are disappointed that a licence holder would choose to pass the full burden of their responsibility for payment to golf clubs.

‘Should any golf club that has been presented with this scenario and has had a genuine financial challenge in meeting the payment for 2020 (£74.50 during an unprecedented pandemic year), then we would ask you to contact us at whs.support@englandgolf.org to discuss the matter further.’

However, one ISV has said they made it clear from the offset that the cost would be passed on to clubs, and a golf club manager has said he believes the revenue is being used to fund the new independent golfer handicap scheme.

Richard Peabody, managing director of an ISV, Club Systems International (CSI), responded to England Golf’s statement by saying: “CSI made all GB&I governing bodies aware at the outset that any fees levied would have to be passed on in this way.

“CSI have an established business model, which has for many years dealt with the gradual increase in our overheads and other costs. It is an inevitable consequence, in any business, that an increase in unavoidable charges, taxes or fees will be passed on directly to the customer.

“At a time when all golf businesses are struggling and are facing extraordinary challenges ahead, we feel that all stakeholders should be coming together for the good of the game we love.”

In Wales, which has 141 clubs, the charge is £100 per year (equating to £14,100 of income for the national union), and in Ireland, where there are 418 affiliated golf clubs, the cost is 50 euros (£43), bringing in a total of just under £18,000 for the year.

England has approximately 1,800 golf clubs, meaning the annual charge of £149 each brings in £268,200 of income.

A spokesman for another ISV, who did not wish to be named, said: “Between England, Wales and Ireland, that’s £300,000 per year to run the WHS system. If the money is only being used to fund the system, then presumably all of that is being paid to Dot Golf, which is wholly owned by an overseas governing body, Golf New Zealand.”

One golf club manager added: “This is a poll tax, plain and simple. When the government imposed that, no one blamed the local councils who sent out the bills. There is no doubt in my mind that England Golf are charging this levy to the clubs, via the ISVs, to fund the nomad golfer scheme. Why else would the system cost £270,000 in England and only £17,000 in Ireland?”

Meanwhile, the CEO of England Golf has stated that ‘checks and balances will be factored in’ to its new handicap initiative for golfers who aren’t members of clubs to help allay fears that club members might join the scheme.

Last month Jeremy Tomlinson said that, for the first time ever, this year golfers who are not members of golf clubs will be offered a handicap.

This has generated a mixed response – some in the industry have welcomed it, believing this will generate more funds for the industry, but others have stated that it might devalue club memberships.

To address those concerns, Tomlinson has written to golf clubs to state: ‘Please rest assured that checks and balances will be factored in to allay the concerns of those clubs who feel that members may choose to leave to take advantage of a new proposal.

‘A further counterbalance will be to ensure those signing up for the scheme do not have immediate access to county and national events, although there would be scope in the future to stage competitions purely for independent golfers.’

The email also detailed that Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, has said that a core strategy of The R&A in 2021 will be to promote greater enjoyment for all that play the sport by enabling as many golfers as possible to establish and maintain a handicap.

‘National associations are being offered the chance to take a lead. However, if they relinquish this opportunity, The R&A will either provide their own WHS [World Handicap System] index scheme directly, or partner with a commercial enterprise to offer such a platform.

‘In order to retain our position as the single authority on handicapping in this country, our county stakeholders overwhelmingly agreed that England Golf should develop this platform.

‘Acting for and on behalf of members, clubs and counties, they felt that England Golf is not only best placed to administer a new platform, but also as a not-for-profit organisation best placed to ensure all / any surplus monies would be reinvested for the benefit of affiliated clubs and counties.’

Tomlinson added that the scheme’s aim is ‘to create a national platform for independent golfers thus creating a connectivity pathway to golf clubs and membership. A simple goal… to signpost a clear route to golf club membership.

‘For those independent golfers who wish to remain non-members, we will still educate and inspire them about the value proposition being offered by local clubs where they may develop their love of the game and choose to spend their money on green fees, merchandise and food and beverage.

‘England Golf’s role will be to encourage, guide and support clubs in how they choose to interact with independent golfers and to what extent. The idea is to provide opportunities for clubs so that they may select the best options that suit their own set of circumstances.

‘Another huge consideration for the platform is that it won’t lay a burden of administration or costs on clubs. Our team at England Golf will carry responsibility for the scheme roll out, administration, operational cost and its ongoing development.

‘There will also be consideration given to the timing of a start date for the platform bearing in mind the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the immediate challenges faced by golf clubs issuing subscription renewals.

‘I firmly believe, by working together, we will develop a successful platform of which we will not only be proud, but truly come to regard as a great and positive step in the quest to make golf in this country more inclusive.’


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 11, 2021 06:31
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  1. Gazza November 24, 23:06

    Why are golf clubs and ultimately their members subsidising golf handicaps, apart from there is no control over the entering of scores and if they eventually join a club it is left to a handicap committee to deal with the bogus handicaps they have been given, just one more thing wrong with WHS and there is enough wrong with it already

    Reply to this comment
  2. Beryl April 8, 19:53

    What does the ISV licence cost?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Stuart H February 20, 13:49

    England Golf is a unique organisation that is funded by every golf club member yet those members have little say how it is run. An absolute fortune has been spent on the new World Handicap system, which the majority of golf club members just do not understand and in my view offers little benefit over the previous system. The golf handicap system, both old and new, enables all golfers to compete against each other and it comes down to how well you manage your handicap allowance during a game. Under both the old and new systems the big flaw is your handicap can be exactly what you want it to be and relies on honesty of the golfers. It’s time for England Golf to be dragged into the 21st Century and be managed in a more professional manner rather than by a dedicated band of amateur golfers who are proud of their England status.

    Reply to this comment
  4. JR February 13, 09:34

    The checks and balances are not good enough in the App to prevent anyone posting a score. Geo location is easily faked. A Virtual Handicap Committee cannot be a substitute for that at a Club who can review scores easily with a member.

    Reply to this comment
  5. djm February 12, 12:46

    The not fit for purpose quango England Golf says its it is disappointed to learn that independent software vendors have passed on a World Handicap System cost they have been charged by it to golf clubs.


    Any commercial organisation in the private sector would have seen this coming a mile off……. but not the smashing new blazered brigade in England Golf….

    Reply to this comment
  6. David February 12, 09:31

    How anybody can not see that this change in handicaps was not needed .giving handicaps to. none club members will be a proplem in .the long run. We could be better off just having a handicap play where you like just in the summer paying green fees.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Leopard February 12, 09:31

    Didnt mention how much it will cost in Scotland, any ideas why?

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jim February 11, 21:25

    Why has my handicap changed I only play Saturday handicap of 13 I don’t enter competitions but my handicap has changed to 11.9 I am 63 years of age I know it’s only one shot I just don’t know How they come to this conclusion Thanks Jimmy

    Reply to this comment
    • Golfer May 17, 07:31

      It would be very simple and more cost effective for ISV to do the handicap themselves- governing bodies are after control, power and easy money. It’s the same in an Australia.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Mick February 11, 20:37

    I seriously hope that those non club members being permitted to hold and have an official handicap managed will be charged an annual fee to England Golf otherwise it makes a total farse in my opinion of the proposal as club members have to pay

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