Finding a fairer way to drive out handicap cheats

The return of #TheFairWay campaign reminds us all that handicap cheats are not welcomed in the game, writes Kevin Markham.

Finding a fairer way to drive out handicap cheats

You might remember that last year the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) designated the month of March as Handicap Awareness Month.

The #TheFairWay campaign was designed to educate players and clubs in the formation and correct use of the handicap system in order to weed out handicap cheats.

The campaign shifted the focus of responsibility from the GUI and the golf clubs to the members who play alongside these individuals.

As the GUI kicks off a similar campaign for 2018, one of the key questions is: did the 2017 campaign deliver?

“We received positive feedback from clubs generally last year. It was the strongest response relating to handicap cheating,” says GUI communications manager Alan Kelly.

“It was a watershed moment in some ways, the first time that it was called for what it is. In terms of reach, the campaign reached 60% of the golfing public with 98% confirming that they thought the GUI did the right thing in bringing the issue of cheating to the fore. This year is a shorter more focused campaign over two weeks in which we reiterate the need for players to take responsibility for the correct return of scores, but also to reassure club handicap committees that the union is there to provide advice and support on all handicap matters.”

Handicapping remains one of the hottest topics in golf, especially with the recent announcement of future changes — the World Handicap System which sees maximum handicaps extended to 54 and social rounds counting towards handicaps.

All the same, the issue of handicap cheats has not gone away and this is the subject of a renewed awareness campaign from the GUI and the Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU).

These governing bodies for golf in Ireland have joined forces in an effort to tackle cheating and safeguard integrity in the handicapping system. Last year was their first attempt and it received a lot of positive coverage but this was never going to be over after the first skirmish.

“There is still a culture of tolerating handicap cheating in golf,” says Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI. “Just because others are cheating the system does not make it okay.”

Sinead Heraty, CEO of the ILGU, agrees. “For club golfers, the integrity of the game depends on each individual observing the spirit and intent of the handicapping system.”

The awareness campaign runs over two weeks from March 21 to April 4, so expect to hear some chatter about it during your weekly round or in the clubhouse. Golf clubs and their members will have access to key information and resources on handicapping through the GUI and ILGU website,, while handicap secretaries will find a how-to guide and players can access an index of key definitions, as well as an extensive list of frequently asked questions.

Your Golf Handicap, a pocket-sized handicap booklet produced by the GUI and ILGU, is being published and issued to all clubs as part of the campaign.

This is important work and here’s why: at some stage in the future you’re going to go out on the course and shoot the lights out. You’ll have 44 points because you put in the effort to get better, addressed your weaknesses and practised, practised and practised some more.

And just when you think you’ve won you’ll discover that somebody had 45 points and that somebody has a reputation. So, do you want to be the golfer who does everything right only to be beaten by the person who does it all wrong?

Handicapping is a fundamental aspect of our game and the main focus of this two-week handicap awareness campaign is player responsibilities.

“Consistent handicapping demands the return of all scores from players with a Council of National Golfing Unions (CONGU) handicap. It is the obligation of the player to ensure all scores, home and away, are returned to ensure fairness for all within the game,” says Sinead Heraty.

“Handicapping committees in the union work extremely hard to ensure that clubs are compliant with the system. Compliance reviews are conducted by officials on a regular basis to ensure that the handicap system is being applied consistently by clubs. Despite this significant workload, the onus still rests with players to try their best every time they play,” adds Pat Finn.

One of the beauties of golf’s unique handicapping system is that it provides a means for every player to compete on an equal footing, making the game as inclusive as possible. It is because of the handicapping system that parents get to compete side-by-side with their children and grandparents get to tee it up alongside a grandchild.

#TheFairWay is the right way. It’s as simple as that.

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