Golf Canada Reverses Handicap Decision on Solo Rounds

Following the USGA decision on November 23, 2015, that member scores played as a single will no longer count toward their handicap index there was a firestorm on Twitter. The feedback was consistent in its criticism of the USGA. In a blog post I had written the following day, I wrote “the USGA does not trust its public players and it does not care to engage them”. Trust and integrity seemed to be the central themes to peoples’ criticism, only exacerbated by the fact that golf is all about honour and respect.

In Canada, Golf Canada followed up on November 24 with that it would not follow the USGA decision, maintaining its pre-existing policy to allow its players to record scores played as a single. I will admit I felt a strong sense of pride in my association’s decision to take a leadership position to that supports the honesty and integrity of its membership.

Fast forward almost two months to the date and Golf Canada sent a brief three sentence communication stating it has chosen to align its policies to the USGA on this issue. Following this decision, and the disdain from players and media alike, CEO of Golf Canada, Scott Simmons (@golfcanadaguy) sent three tweets out; outlining Golf Canada’s alignment to one system, also stating that ‘recreational’ players will soon have new means to track their performance, and lastly, this decision was made my Golf Canada alone aligning within a world handicap system. With that news, here are some reflections from the perspective of one public player:

1. This was extremely poorly communicated. Canadian golfers should expect more from their national association.

2. Global alignment is well and good but only around a system that respects the integrity of its players. This is a leadership moment lost. I rather see Golf Canada act alone and advocate for a system that respects the integrity of their association members.

3. It is possible Golf Canada buried the lede here? A World Handicap System is a great opportunity to align golfers around the world. But I would argue it’s better to do it right than do it quickly (or at all).

4. Are there no other pressing issues in the game of golf here in Canada, and globally? Environmental stewardship, continuing efforts to grow the game and dialing back the golf ball are three that quickly come to mind. I struggle to understand the root issue driving this decision. Is handicap fixing that large a concern or is the need to align to global handicap policy that important?

5. Engage and advocate for change. I plan to learn why this reversal in decision was made. I want to explore the pros and cons of this, but I struggle to see how I could be convinced that a policy that is not aligned to the values of the game – integrity, honesty and respect – can be embraced as something good for golf.

I look forward to an opportunity to speak with leadership at Golf Canada about this and will share any information I can with you. I am sad that over 30% of my rounds played in 2015 where because of circumstance or a conscious decision to play as single would not count toward my handicap index. The value of my Golf Canada membership seems diminished today.


6 thoughts on “Golf Canada Reverses Handicap Decision on Solo Rounds

  1. Mike,

    Well said. It was disappointing news. I particularly agree with your point regarding working towards a global system the right way, as opposed to the quick way. This was a great opportunity for Golf Canada to show leadership and positive influence in the game by sticking up for their members right to enjoy the game of golf alone while maintaining a handicap, but instead they just followed the pack with their tail between their legs.

    The bad apples will still be bad apples under this system. All a sandbagger needs is a sandbagging friend who will vouch for each others scores and then they’ll clean up all the prizes in the two man scrambles and member-guests! And any sort of reverse sandbagging that could occur from players playing alone only hurts that individual player.

    Another issue I have is that honest players who play a significant amount of rounds solo, won’t actually have as accurate of a handicap now. A handicap is supposed to represent current potential, and that potential is updated with each and every round played. So playing honest rounds by yourself updates your current potential, but not your current handicap. I can’t wrap my head around how that is better.


  2. Pingback: Golf Canada Handicap Changes for 2016-2017 | The Grateful Golfer

  3. Mike,

    Good post. As a public player too, my dilemma is not necessarily playing as a single but playing with strangers I pair up whom I don’t know. I am not going to get their full name, just to attest a score. I may as well be playing single. I keep my score, they keep theirs, I don’t care if they cheat, and i have no desire to be that attestor-cop to make sure they follow the rules. It’s their business.

    To be honest this won’t stop me from posting scores as I am honest and play and keep score the same whether by myself or not.

    • Thanks, Jen
      Never thought about simply disregarding the rule. Like you, I play within the rules. The operational details are likely complex. Easy for private clubs where membership means everyone is a Golf Canada / GAO member. Do we need our partners that verify scores to be GAO members? I simply don’t understand how this addresses a problem…a problem I don’t experience.

      I appreciate the RT. Take care,

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