You are in Handicapping
The CONGU® Unified Handicapping System - Section 3
Table of Contents
Section 1 - Introduction
Section 2 - Competitions
Section 3 - General Play
Section 4 - Memberships
Section 5 - Handicap Suspension
Section 3 - Handicap changes under clause 23 (General Play)
What is a ‘General Play’ adjustment?
A General Play change is a manual adjustment of a player’s handicap usually made by the Handicap Committee of a Club. These manual adjustments are required to be made when the player’s "Home Club considers that a player’s Exact Handicap is too high and does not reflect his current playing ability".
Normally, these adjustments are done once a year at Annual Review (a review of players' handicaps undertaken by the handicap committee during the winter months). However, in exceptional circumstances, General Play changes may be made during the season.
Are there limits on adjustments made under ‘General Play’ (or Annual Review)?
There is no maximum amount a Handicap Committee may cut a player’s handicap under General Play. However, a minimum of 1 whole stroke applies in England, Scotland and Wales.
Handicap Committees may not reduce the handicap of a category 1 player nor may a category 2 handicap be cut into a category 1 without agreement from their ‘Area Authority’ (typically their County Union). They will need to enter a password into any software they are running to complete the adjustment. The password should be obtained from the club's Area Authority.
Handicap Committees can also increase handicaps under General Play. This is not very common and under some circumstances is subject to prior agreement from the ‘Area Authority’.
How does the Committee decide what adjustments to make under General Play (or Annual Review)?
When making a General Play change, the Handicap Committee is required to set the Handicap to a value that matches the player’s "current playing ability". How the committee determines an appropriate value is the subject of much debate!
The following guidelines are laid down in the Handicapping Scheme:
The committee shall consider all available information. In particular
- How frequently the player has returned scores in competitions to or near to their handicap,
- How the player has performed in non-qualifying competitions, such as match-play knockouts, Fourball Better Ball competitions, etc.,
- If any stroke play competition scores have been unduly affected by one or more particularly bad holes.
The Handicap Committee are advised to deal more severely to Handicaps for those players which it knows their standard of play is improving rather than those who have returned some low scores but whose general playing ability is not improving.
The Handicap Committee may NOT apply any formula to the calculations made under General Play.
Part Five (Decisions), Decision 15 of the regulations identifies that a single low score is not sufficient evidence alone to justify a General Play reduction.
Peter H. Wilson (an English Golf Union representative to CONGU) provided further insight for clubs when he penned an article in "English Golf", the English Golf Union’s journal in May 1998. Although these related to the previous CONGU Handicapping scheme, they remain relevant for the Unified Handicapping System. Included in his article were the following points:
Handicap adjustments under Clause 23 ("General Play") should be made in the following circumstances:
- Exceptionally, where a player is trying to achieve a handicap higher than his ability justifies,
- Where a player returns poor scores in Handicap Qualifying Competitions, but has been successful in Match play and Best-ball events,
- A player whose standard is clearly improving and who has returned two or more scores well below his handicap in a short period of time,
- A player who, because of health or advancing age, is quite unable to play to his current handicap and does not compete in enough competitions for his handicap to be adjusted accordingly.
An example of (3) was given whereby a category 3 or 4 player who returns two nett differentials of –5, say, in quick succession should have an aggregate reduction of 5 strokes taken from their handicap.
Examples of players who might be expected to achieve this are young players, those taking early retirement or those made redundant or unemployed.
Where the golf club is managing their players' handicaps using computer software, they will also have access to a computer report that makes recommendations for handicap adjustments. This report, specified by CONGU, analyses the players' scores over the season and compares the scoring pattern to that expected for a player of equivalent handicap. Where there is a significant variation, the report recommends an adjustment to the handicap. The report, however, is limited to analysing players' scores in stroke-play competitions only; it does not cover scoring in Match-play competitions, etc