The Hacker: Secret feeling of fairness comes from robbing the poor box

By Peter Corrigan
Sunday 08 February 2009 01:00

Thanks to the weather, we haven't been able to get on the course much since Christmas, but that hasn't stopped the rumblings of a minor rebellion about our contentious old friend the handicap allowance.

Last year there were anguished protests from the better players when the governing body Congu decreed that those with higher handicaps should be given the full difference between the two handicaps in competitions instead of the previous three-quarters.

The better players thought such generosity was uncalled for and some refused to take part in knockout tournaments because their chances of winning had been drastically reduced. Congu promptly produced irrefutable statistical evidence that this was nonsense. Most clubs around the country duly, if reluctantly, accepted the change.

But hackers at my club reckon there's still a bit to do in this quest for fairness. During mid-winter we play Saturday fun competitions such as Texas Scrambles, and we had a four-ball team Stableford event recently, with the best three scores on each hole to count.

Our team were surprised to find that there was a three-quarters handicap limit. As a 26-handicapper it meant that I lost six shots, and between us the team had lost 20. The odd thing about a three-quarters limit is that if you play off three or less, you don't lose any shots. So a hot team would be untroubled by the limit.

It was the same when we had a fourball better-ball medal. My partner and I lost 11 shots between us. As it happened, we didn't do badly – and my blank-mind approach showed promise. One of the pair we played with was a 24-handicapper who played like God, but that's another story.

Our match captain has answered complaints about the three-quarters rule by stating, quite rightly, that these are the Congu regulations. But obviously the fourball strokeplay rule needs re-examining, and the subject is still a matter of argument countrywide.

I don't know which club Derek Pearce belongs to, but he attended their presentation dinner and felt moved to email me: "One member had just received a very nice trophy (I reluctantly joined in the applause as I came second) and on rejoining his table one of his friends was overheard saying, 'The new rule that we have to play off full handicaps is stupid – it gives the low- handicappers no chance'."

What really made Derek grimace was that no one on that table of six had a handicap of over eight and they had five trophies between them. "The trophy which was nearly mine was for the Stableford Cup, which was played off full handicap and was won by one of the club's best golfers, who plays off three."

Derek added: "Congu have certainly got it right and, as their statistics prove, the low- handicappers still win the majority of trophies.

"I worked hard all season and brought my handicap down by three to 15 and I was still made to feel by some of the big hitters as if I was robbing the church poor box when I accepted a pro-shop voucher for my second place.

"Long live hackers everywhere," he ends.

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