The Golfing Union of Ireland are spearheading the campaign for fair and consistent handicapping by tackling the cheats in an innovative Handicap Awareness Month.
Throughout the month of March, the GUI will be running #TheFairWay campaign, which will educate players and clubs alike. Handicapping is a fundamental aspect of the game and as the governing body for men's golf in Ireland, the GUI are raising awareness in response to public concerns about handicap cheating.
Unlike most sports, golf is largely played in the absence of a referee. The game, and the handicapping system, rely on the integrity of the individual. It is up to every single player to observe the spirit and intent of the handicapping system.
Throughout the month-long campaign, the GUI will provide all the information necessary to be handicap aware in 2017. Your first port of call is a dedicated website:
There, clubs can access essential information, including a how-to guide for administering and maintaining handicaps.
Players will find all the information they need on key topics such as: How to obtain a handicap; How handicaps change; and Player Responsibilities. As well as an index of key definitions, you will also find a list of frequently asked questions.
Clubs across all four provinces -- Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster -- will display specially commissioned posters and flyers as part of the campaign. Raising awareness is just one aspect of the campaign -- the GUI are also determined to clamp down on cheating.
"There is a culture of tolerating handicap cheating which isn't the case for other forms of cheating within golf," says Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI. "The finger seems to be pointed at the GUI or the branches of the GUI or indeed to club committees to deal with this problem. I don't think it can be. It is endemic and the only real way of tackling it is at member-to-member level where everybody takes a proactive approach in dealing with the issue and calling out fellow members on their behaviour and saying it is not going to be tolerated anymore."
To hammer home the message, the GUI have defined handicap cheating and it is prominently displayed on the Union's website: "Playing in a qualifying competition and setting out with the aim of 'getting 0.1 back' or not trying your best at any point in the round with the aim of manipulating your handicap is CHEATING."
The GUI advises and guides Handicap Committees about the application and implementation of the handicapping system. One of most important things for clubs to remember is that Handicap Secretaries should not act on their own, and it is vital that decisions are made as a committee in accordance with the rules.
As with the Rules of Golf, the handicapping system relies on the integrity of every golfer playing the game. For club golfers, it is essential that each individual observes the spirit and intent of the handicapping system in order to make the game as fair and equitable as possible.
Golf's unique handicapping system provides a means for every player to compete on an equal footing, making the game as inclusive as possible. Not only does it level the playing field, the handicap system makes allowance for beginners, children and adults alike, players of declining ability and golfers with disabilities. It is because of the handicapping system that parents get to compete side-by-side with their children or grandparents get the chance to tee it up alongside a grandchild.
The Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU), of which the GUI is a member, developed the rules and regulations of the unified handicapping system (UHS), which is administered in Ireland by the GUI and the Irish Ladies Golf Union.
You access a copy of the UHS Manual for free online at Golfnet.ie. Keep up to date with everything that's happening throughout Handicapping Awareness Month on the GUI website and through the GUI's social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.