Martin Dempster: Winners and losers in new World Handicap System

The start of a new era in golf with the introduction of the World Handicap System was the perfect day for three tradesmen to begin a job in the Dempster household.

Golf's new World Handicap System, which has been devised by the R&A and USGA, came into operation today. Picture: Julie Howden
Golf's new World Handicap System, which has been devised by the R&A and USGA, came into operation today. Picture: Julie Howden

The trio are golf nuts and changes to their handicaps was the main topic on the daily agenda in breaks between lots of hammering and clattering.

With mobile phones in hand as they checked the Scottish Golf App for the final handicap index calculation from the governing body, it was fascinating to see their reaction to something that is actually quite important in their life, strange as though that might sound to non-golfers.

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"I've gone down to 11.3 from 12.3," reported one of the joiners. "I'm actually surprised about that, to be honest, because, in nine of my last 11 competitive rounds under the old system, I had actually gone up 0.1."

The plumber discovered he'd been handed a similar cut from 11.9 to 10.8. "I've been playing reasonably good the last 18 months, so I was expecting my handicap to go down under this new system, though not by as much," he said.

The other joiner in this team of tradesmen was the odd one out. "I've gone up from 12.5 to 13.1," he revealed. "I'm surprised about that as I feel I have been playing quite good, with my scores having included a net 63."

The handicap index under the new system, which has been devised by the R&A and USGA in conjunction with the existing handicapping authorities, is calculated by taking the best eight out of a player's last 20 scores.

Given the fact I rarely play competitions, I really had no idea what to expect when I finally took the plunge by downloading that Scottish Golf App, digging out my CDH number and waiting for the magical figure to appear.

In all honesty, I didn't think I'd be coming down from 12.0, having played some pretty poor stuff since I managed to get into single figures for the only time I can recall around a decade ago, so I was taken aback a bit with a new handicap index of 10.4.

Part of me is excited to be tantalising close to single figures again, but, equally, it feels a tad disappointing to think that has happened without any sense of achievement because there is nothing that beats getting your handicap cut on the back of a productive day on the golf course with a card and pencil in hand.

That handicap index, of course, is only part of the equation under the new WHS. A "course handicap" is worked out depending on the tees and a course and slope rating, the aim being to deliver a handicap based on the ability of a golfer on a particular course.

From what I understand, my course handicap from the whites at my home club would be 11, which is nothing to really grumble about, though I am going to miss the shot that's been coming in handy at a par 3 in my weekly bounce game.

Due to it all appearing quite complicated, my initial reaction to the new system is that it could turn people off from wanting to play golf competitively, but let's give it time to bed in before coming to any concrete conclusions.

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