A few weeks ago I wrote an article discussing the potential downsides of raising the handicap limit in golf to 54.
The World Handicap System and all its idiosyncrasies is a subject I have written a lot about. And if you’ve read any of my articles, you’ll know that I’ve always been pretty black and white in my views on raising the handicap limit to 54: I don’t think it’s been positive for women’s golf.
And from the responses I’ve had in response to my articles, many of you agree with me.
But then I received an email from a reader that made me think there are a lot of gray areas I haven’t thought about yet. And I’m not too modest to admit that I’m starting to make up my mind.
The reader’s insights share her perspective as a high handicapper and shed light on the importance of inclusivity and camaraderie in sport.
I am one of the dreaded high handicappers and play from 50. I first took lessons over twenty years ago, have been playing in a club for over ten years and I admit that I am not the best at the sport.
But, and it’s a BIG but, golf offers me (and many other people) friendship and exercise. It’s not always about competing and winning, although I have managed to win a few stablefords within my division.
If I can’t play with a lot of low handicappers, that’s no problem. I have a nice group of ladies that I like to play with and they like to play with me.
Would it matter to me if the handicap were revised back to a maximum of 36? No, I wouldn’t. This would at least put an end to the ongoing shaming and backstabbing aimed at high handicappers – a minority of women have made me feel embarrassed about my disability.
We are constantly reminded in the media of the benefits of sport, both physically and mentally, but sport is not just for those who perform, it is open to everyone.
More than 20% of female golfers have a handicap of 36+
Interestingly, the reader’s email also coincided with statistics from England Golf showing that 21.4% of women club members in England – almost 21,000 people – have a handicap index of 36.0 – 54.0.
When I say I was stunned by that statistic, I’m not exaggerating.
That means that more than a fifth of female golfers would theoretically have no handicap if the index did not rise to 54.
Okay, some of those women will be new to the sport and their disabilities will decrease. But some of them won’t, and they will still have the chance to play fair and enjoy the game.
I think it also shows that golf is a sport that transcends skill level. For many people, play is about fostering connections and sharing experiences, finding a sense of community and belonging. And by raising the disability limit, more people will be able to experience that.
How do we find a middle ground?
Ultimately, no player should feel embarrassed or unwelcome in the game, regardless of gender, skill level, or anything else. And we must all do our best to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.
And on second thought, I think this is my problem with the handicap increase to 54.
Yes, raising the handicap limit clearly meets the objective of promoting participation – but it is aimed at a specific target group of golfers. There is clearly an increase in the number of women moving away from competitive golf; We increasingly hear that golfers with a low handicap who have been active in the sport for years no longer participate in matches and competitions.
And that can’t be good for the game. For any sport to thrive, you need competition and top players.
But there must be a middle ground. A place where everyone can be involved in the game, enjoy it – and feel accepted – at any level.
I know that the handicap limit in France and other European countries has been 54 for a while, and it works well there. So maybe it’s just a matter of time…
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion! E-mail [email protected].