I wrote this article back in March but it seems there have been a few mentions of this recently so I thought I would re-post, hope ye enjoy the read…..
All golfers have that one friend, or maybe more, that always seems to only play in Team Events and comes away with the big screen television, a fourball for one of the best courses in the country etc… Ye all know what I am talking about, THE BANDIT! These people have been playing golf for years and somehow manage to maintain a handicap much higher than the level at which they play at. It is tantamount to cheating but there is nothing being done about this at the top levels of the game in Ireland. You may see similar instances in other countries but I’m not so sure as our handicap system seems to allow for “bandits” to flourish. While it is allowed to happen and bandits continue to prosper by winning prizes all year long then they won’t mind at least while other honest golfers endeavour to play off the lowest handicap possible.
I personally know of plenty players who never seem to have a good score in singles competitions but always appear in the results section for Golf Classics, Fourball events and, in recent times, during the JP McManus Pro-Am Qualifiers. These golfers are well know in golfing circles and there is no surprise when their names crop up as the winners on a regular basis. Only once did I see the GUI do anything about this situation, cutting the handicap of 3 regular offenders after they won a few team tournaments in successive weeks. There was, of course, uproar about this due to the fact that there was not a particular precedence set for adjusting players handicaps based on scores in a team event. I know general play can be looked at to cut somebody’s handicap but it is near impossible to say whether golfers have played consistently well enough in a format where their full score does not always count towards the overall team score. In some recent team events such as the JP Pro-Am in 2010, however, it seemed the amateurs did all the scoring over 2 days for the team with their respective professional not contributing much – 33-under par won the event two years ago and that is a staggering score over the Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort layout.
There has been a growing habit among golfers in Ireland to avail of cheap membership deals with the distinct objective of holding an official handicap, only to never return a card at their new home club but play in numerous Open Singles to maintain their handicap and also, of course, prosper playing in Team Events with other like-minded individuals. You think this sort of behaviour in the game of golf, where honesty and the ideals of the game are always looked to be upheld, would come back to haunt them but not so much to this date.
So, what are the solutions available to the Golfing Union of Ireland? The easy answer would be to change the handicap system as most of these “bandits” are playing to a level that their current handicap does not account for – they are, in a manner of words, cheating! The American system takes into account each and every game of golf you play which is where the GUI system definitely lets itself down. You could play 365 days a year in Ireland but if only 5 or 6 of these are competitive rounds then your handicap would only be affected by the competitive rounds instead of the other 360, this is just not right! Leaving handicap decisions exclusively in the hands of the golf club Handicap Secretary is not the way to go about resolving this situation either as, for one, it is in the majority of cases a voluntary position and, secondly, they do not generally have the expertise to correctly deal with the nuances of handicap adjustments. A past guideline from the GUI as well was that scores submitted in golf society outings would have to be considered by the respective golf club handicap committee is also a complete cop-out as some of these committees only sat at the end of the calendar year and some of these outings could have taken place at the start of the year – if a player has bettered the standard scratch on the day of any round of golf then they should have their handicap adjusted accordingly.
Golf is not the Wild West or Bandit Country but the current way the game of golf is governed in Ireland allows for this culture to thrive. It is not a new phenomenon, it has been going on for years, but it is time for the Golfing Union of Ireland to take a long hard look at how a minority of golfers are ruining the good reputation of the game in this country and taking complete advantage of the handicap system.