Golf bosses lead fight for fair and consistent handicapping

The leaders of golf’s governing bodies in Ireland are calling on clubs and players to safeguard integrity in the handicapping system.

“Raising awareness around handicapping is a good thing,” says Sinead Heraty, Chief Executive Officer of the ILGU. “The campaign really simplifies the whole handicapping system and what players and clubs need to do. It just refreshes people’s memories about what handicapping is all about.”

A special website,, has been developed with clubs, players and officials in mind. The site contains essential information on handicapping, a how-to guide for secretaries and an extensive list of frequently asked questions.

“Clearly handicap cheating hasn’t gone away,” says Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI. “I think naming it helps and if we can reduce it bit by bit, we’ll see that as a success.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests players continue to manipulate handicaps.

“Where there’s a prize of significant value involved, you hear stories of people holding their handicap or building their handicap to get ready for a prize that has significant value attached to it, or significant prestige. That seems to be a thing on the men’s side,” says Finn.

In response to these concerns, the amateur status prize limit in the euro area in Ireland has been reduced from €750 to €575.

Behind the scenes, both organisations are diligent and vigilant.

“The clubs complete the annual handicap review and then return to the districts. The districts then in return – there may be exceptional issues they return to clubs on, and based on those items they may return to the clubs to ensure they comply,” says Heraty explaining how the handicapping system is policed within the ILGU.

She adds: “Normally what we find is the vast majority of clubs will follow the guidelines on the annual handicap review to the letter of the law. That in turn can lead to perhaps the level of handicapping review being too severe, rather than being too light. There is a good appeals procedure for the clubs.”

The GUI go through a similar process.

“The four provincial branches of the GUI conduct audits, or compliance reviews as we call it. So they visit a significant number of clubs each year, and every couple of years the clubs are visited to try and ensure consistency across clubs in applying the system. So that’s a very significant workload,” Finn explains.

And both organisations have supports in place for clubs.

“We have a very good system of a number of handicap advisors in each district, led with one lead advisor,” says Heraty. “All of the districts and all of the clubs are then divided into zones, so each handicap advisor is then allocated a number of clubs and they will be the point of contact for the handicap secretaries if they have an issue. Each will hold a meeting every year, following review, to see what’s actually gone on and to answer queries for clubs. But the districts are the main point of contact.”

Within the GUI, club support comes through the four area authorities: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster.

“We delegate the responsibility for supporting clubs with regard to the area authority who are available to clubs to provide support and guidance and to provide regular support and workshops for secretaries on an annual basis,” says Finn.

For more information on handicapping, you can log on to and follow the hashtag #thefairway on social media.

The Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union have joined forces for a two-week awareness campaign, running from 21 March to 4 April.

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