New handicap rule aims to stop bandits

Golf Score Card with Glove and Green Pencil

• England Golf introduce new handicapping rule to stop bandits
• Follows lots of cases of players who protect inflated handicaps
• Scores at away clubs must now be returned to their home club


A new handicapping rule has been introduced for members of English golf clubs to stop rogue players manipulating the system to their advantage.

Over recent years there have been a number of cases of players who protect inflated handicaps, only to repeatedly collect high-value rewards when playing in competitions away from home.

“We’re not talking about a sleeve of balls,” said Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager. “These are big prizes including luxury trips overseas, sets of clubs and electric trolleys.”

“It’s essential to do this to protect the integrity of the system” – Gemma Hunter

Now, everyone playing in non-qualifying competitions away from home must return their scores to their home club with players who ignore this responsibility facing the possibility of having their handicap suspended.

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England Golf has introduced this clause of the CONGU handicapping system to provide clubs with evidence to support handicap reviews.

“It’s essential to do this to protect the integrity of the system,” added Gemma. “We can’t sit back and let people manipulate the system, but without evidence clubs can’t take any action.”

The new system will highlight players who, for example, take part in as many competitions as possible at home and whose handicaps creep up 0.1 on every occasion – but who repeatedly win prizes away from home.

Similarly, it will show up the players who play the bare minimum of competitions at home, but who are known for their away successes.

It applies to all strokeplay scores returned under competition conditions, including team events. “It’s not about recording every score in a fourball betterball, but returning the team score,” said Gemma.

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England Golf

“If the same individuals or teams keeping winning or coming near the top of leaderboards at events away from home, that should at least indicate to their club handicapping officials that further investigations are required – and the only way to achieve that is by asking for all the scores to be reported.”

Social golf is not affected, but clubs are advised to be aware of performances in swindles which the handicap committee could take into account at the annual review.

England Golf also recommends that clubs which run non-qualifying open competitions should inform the prize winners’ home clubs of their scores.

How to stop bandits

Have you had any experience of rogue golfers at your club? Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

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  1. Ian Muir

    March 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Make all competitions into ‘qualifying’ ones and stop the fiddling immediately. Clubs should not be running non-qualifying competitions; close this loophole too.

  2. Paul Miller

    March 6, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Not everyone returns away scorecards so the home club don’t know who is playing in away competitions.
    Unless the away club contacts the prize winners’ club .

  3. Paul Miller

    March 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    * don’t know who is playing in away competitions

  4. Dave Barnes

    March 6, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    A simple way of stopping handicap cheats (aka bandits) is to have an individual current playing card that registers every round that person plays hime or away by having to enter it onto the system. If they “forget” or simply dont record their score thenan assumption of a score of level par should be recorded. In addition ALL clubs members should have a minimum of 10 competition rounds recorded without excuse. These measures will stop cheating (“bandits”).

  5. Sam

    March 6, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    As a single handicapper it has ruined my enjoyment of club competitions. The main reason is virtually every comp I enter at my club requires 43+ points to even have a sniff which requires me to shot under par to even come close! I now only play the minimum comps required as it’s a waste of time to enter weekly comps.

  6. Chris Meek

    March 7, 2017 at 6:38 am

    I see every year there is an influx of new members. During the first few months many prizes are won by them. Obviously then there handicap goes up but not that much. The club is so anxious to sign New members they ignore this trend. This repeats every year with new members. People are asked to hand in 3 cards from any match but this system is being mistreated. People hand in high scores purposely to get a starting high handicap. This needs to stop. I would make new members use there old handicap or exempt from prizes in the first few months.

  7. Ken Macleod

    March 7, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Surely the host club of these competitions should be duty bound to report all scores back to a players home club.
    This would solve the problem.

  8. Brian Barker

    March 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

    My first home club was a very long course. Not being able to carry the ball very far I was given a 28 HC. As soon as I played a comp on a short course I became ‘The Bandit’. Now I play a shorter course & my HC has come down to 18. The away system doesn’t always work but I agree all cards should be entered onto the system.

  9. Derek Marsh

    March 7, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Better late than never

  10. Alan Thistlethwaite

    March 7, 2017 at 10:10 am

    We have a player who used to play off a handicap of 2 in the 70s now he is in his 70s in age he keeps his handicap to 16 and always wins team events in our area all the clubs around no him but cannot stop him. At the end of the day its cheating.

  11. Alan Newman

    March 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Ian, Make it the responsibility of the golf club hosting the open to make it a qualifying competition, bandits would be punished.

  12. Maria Burton

    March 7, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    My home club is in the U.K. But I also am a member and play in my Spanish club, where we have a slope system. I thought this was to be introduced in the UK. This system levels out different courses.

    • Avatar of Daveboy67


      March 12, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      I won an open in Mallorca a few years ago, and by right, I should have been cut 2 shots. However, my home club handicap committee would not accept the result. Despite me having all the print-outs from that competition so in theory and in practice, a CSS could have been calculated.
      Sorry, even with a slope system, if you shoot +5 playing off 10 on a European Tour course, then your handicap should be reduced.
      I was amazed and gutted that the score was not taken into account for even “general play” purposes. :(

  13. george moon

    March 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    i used to play a lot away only scores i put into my own club was if iwas playing under par till i was told must put all in went from 12 h/cap to 14 hcap was playing most days for a couple off
    £ felt i was cheating when my h/cap went up

  14. Andy Ratcliffe

    March 7, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    My club does this for that exact reason

  15. Phil the Fader

    March 8, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Golf England are just trying to put right the horrendous mess they have created by mindless meddling with a system that wasn’t broke in the first place, as they are with other elements of the game. At my Lancashire Club 46 points is not uncommon in a singles Stablefortd due to recent meddling and lowering of SSS by the County Asessor. Sort it out!

  16. chris tucker

    March 8, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    this will do nothing to deter bandits we need to adopt the USA system every round of golf played at home course whether a friendly game with a mate ,a swindle or competition a card must be submitted and any competion away from home.the only argunent against this is it will slow the game down but with the new rules coming in january 2018 this argument is not valid

  17. John

    March 8, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Am I the only person who finds our governing bodies remarks ironic, the rules around cutting anyone are strict, the fact that over the last few years you have “rewarded ” higher handicaps in match play with full handicap allowance is a joke, your handicap is based on stroke play, now we see more and more bandits we throw our arms up and wonder why??

  18. Avatar of Daveboy67


    March 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Handicapping system has been ruined over the years. Back in Ireland, we took any away score (including non-counting) into account, especially in team events! The way it is now, I even see when reporting results from non-counting events, you can see the thinly veiled attack on those named in the winner’s results.
    Stop giving it the romantic aspect of calling banditry – It is CHEATING! plain and simple.
    With regards new members, I had a proposal years ago for my home club, that any new member had to play their 3 marked cards with at least one member of a welcome committee to ensure that they made an effort, learned etiquette and at least some basic steps in avoiding slow play – Being ready to play, bag left in correct place near greens, etc.
    Finally, and I’ve told this story before, a new member at my home club got a h’cap of 26 from me. On his first medal round, he lost a ball at the first and despite my advising him, did not go back and hit a 2nd ball, so he blanked the first. Then proceeded to shoot nett 28 on back 9 and won a prize. I cut him 8 shots for this. Told him he had proven that he did not need a 26 h’cap.
    In the past you were given a handicap of 18 starting out unless someone knew you were a better golfer. If you played well and made the effort your reward was a lower handicap. That is the prize – being as good as you can be.

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