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What does a golf handicap say about YOU?

Why should we judge a golfer and his or her opinions by the numbers after their name?

Bob Warters's picture
Thu, 2 Nov 2006

What does a golf handicap say about YOU?

’What

So what's in a handicap? And what, in cold type, does it say about you or your opinion as a golfer?

Because you may have a 28 handicap - the maximum recognised officially for men at a golf club (or 36 for women) - does it mean your observations carry less weight than a single figure golfer in either category?

There has been an interesting return to a Golfmagic forum thread this week which originated quite a while ago, where one inference appears that high numbers after your name or nickname might condemn you as someone inappropriate to respond to an opinion or remark from someone with a lower or, perhaps, superior handicap.

I could feel the hairs bristling on the back of my neck as I interpreted the unspoken space between its lines and its dark undertones.

Is this saying: 'with a handicap that high, what do you know?' or 'without a handicap after your name, you obviously have something to hide so how can you possibly be taken seriously?'

Surely this isn't the case.

For example I know many of my contemporaries who achieved low (even scratch)handicaps but age, disability or merely accessibility to golf - the grandchildren took over as their No.1 interest - has prevented them from hanging on either to their original powers or their golf status.

Does that make Fred Nerk (25.4 handicap) any less able to use his experience and knowledge to respond clearly and sensibly to a forum posting requesting (nay, demanding) the secret of anti-slice? Or the best way to tackle a downhill lie in a bunker?

Handicap card
Typical handicap card

Equally there are youngsters - strong, athletic and naturally gifted - who spend their school holidays practising and playing 36 holes a day but with a handicap that hardly reflects their experience in life, in people management or etiquette skills.

Should we, therefore, accept the instant opinion of Neville Dick (3.7) on the type of shaft flex a retired butcher might require when taking up the game or how to approach a fellow golfer he might suspect of cheating?

I don't mind admitting that as a 50-something golfer with 35 years experience playing the game (handicap 10.7 - the last time I checked), I've never quite reached my potential. And my handicap has risen as the joints have got more brittle and the co-ordination less consistent.

But I've ghost-written instruction articles with clarity for monosyllabic professional golfers who find great difficulty explaining how they hit the ball so far or play certain shots so exquisitely.

Handicap status is good for getting into events with a restricted field and earns bragging rights at some courses I prefer not to play but what exactly does it say about you as a person or a communicator?

We have to have them because they're a measure of golf achievement and some courses demand a certain standard of play before allowing you on to its hallow'd turf. But don't read too much into them.

As for the Golfmagic forum, if you wish to include your handicap, feel free to do so but don't feel at all self-conscious, intimidated or shameful if you don't. Whatever your handicap (even without one), your opinion is still greatly valued.