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Simon Byford’s golf column: ‘One huge change I feel golfers will appreciate’ in handicap update

With only one month to go until the latest round of World Handicap System (WHS) updates, let’s have a look at what we can expect to have as an impact for us golfers.

The handicap system is the most precious thing in our sport, because when applied correctly, it will mean that any number of people can compete fairly against one another, no matter what their individual skill level.

The WHS is, in theory, an excellent system. Rather than the previous model where you had one handicap that gave you the same number of shots wherever you played, the World Handicap System allows you to receive more (or less) strokes, depending on the severity of the golf course.

There is one month to go until the latest round of World Handicap System updates Picture: Simon Byford
There is one month to go until the latest round of World Handicap System updates Picture: Simon Byford

The way your handicap is worked out is also pretty simple, you take the average of your best eight scores from your last 20 rounds.

This ensures that your handicap is accurate to your recent play, and as long as you regularly submit scores, you may even garnish an extra shot in winter conditions, while holding a lower handicap in the summer when conditions are more favourable.

These elements are staying in place in the new update, but there is one huge change that I feel golfers will appreciate.

The most pertinent to the normal golfer is that ‘par’ is used in the playing handicap calculation for the first time.

To explain, par is the expected score for a scratch golfer on any hole, which is then added together along with the other nine/18 holes on the course to give a total par for the course.

This is different to ‘course rating’, which is an overall measure of the severity of the course, based on many factors and implemented by a regional team who come and assess the course.

Previously, your handicap calculation was based solely on the course rating of the course, meaning it was difficult to always work out what a ‘good score’ was. With the new update, you will know that 36 points is level to handicap, and anything better than that will help in reducing your handicap.

Another benefit to using par, is that players will be able to more freely compete against each other, on different sets of tee boxes and across genders.

The governing bodies are very keen for people to play more easily across teeing positions that may suit their game, or to offer a different challenge, and that the handicap allocation is worked out fairly. Without going into too many specifics, I personally feel it could be revolutionary if implemented in the correct manner at club level.

Another change is that 4BBB scores may now count towards your handicap. Again with a very specific set of criteria, just be aware that if your pair scores 42 points or more, and you were on the card at least nine times, then you may see that card appear on your handicap record as a counting card amongst your 20.

This change in the system (called expected scoring) will also help attain more accurate scoring if you are called off the course mid-round, or if a hole is closed for maintenance. For further information, contact your local club or visit the England Golf website.

As we said previously, the handicap system in golf is sacred to our sport, it really is one of our best assets. This update helps move the UK more in line with the rest of the world, meaning those that travel to play golf will have a handicap that travels better with them.

Bury St Edmunds GC

It was a washout on the competitive front across most of the area, but Bury St Edmunds Golf Club did manage to complete a few events.

The Juniors held a Stableford and it was a day for personal bests. Lucas Bond had his best competitive round, a gross 80, to win (with a little help from The Count) on 41 points.

Lucas, who is part of the Suffolk Under-14s squad, has worked extremely hard at his game this winter and it is fantastic to see his endeavours paying off in the early season.

Another junior who has been working hard through the winter is Alex Sumpter. At just 10-years-old, he has broken the 100 barrier (97 on Sunday) for the first time to earn him 41 points as well. Rounding out the top thee was 11-year-old Edward Cobbald, who scored 38 points.

Congratulations to all that played and we look forward to seeing those handicaps tumble this year.

The Ladies’ section also managed a Stableford competition on the one dry day last week. Hannah Clark brushed aside the field to win on 33 points. Keeping up the Sumpter family tradition (where are you dad?) was Caroline Sumpter, who scored 31 points to finish second. Mariette Robbertse finished third on 30 points.

The Men played a Stableford too on Sunday last. Spread across three Divisions, it was Matt Simpson who scored 40 points to win Division One.

Richard Conway was second with 39 points and Richard Franks third on 37. In Division Two, Paul Smith topped the leaderboard, scoring 39 points.

Jake Milliner was second on 38, by virtue of The Count, with Sean Studd also scoring 38 but finishing third. In Division Three, Richard Gay took the win with the round of the day, scoring 44 points. Christian Barnes was second on 33 and Aubrey Nice third on 32.

The Seniors Mixed 4BBB Knockout also came to a close this past week, the final being contested by Carol Nicholson and Sean Studd vs Louise Andrews and Barry Tyler.

Played as a Stableford format with a 90 per cent allocation, it was a bit of a test event. The players responded well and seemed to enjoy this different way of playing matchplay. In the final it was Carol Nicholson and Sean Studd who managed to emerge victorious.

Have a great golfing week.