Hello Mr Tom ‘Foghorn’ Irwin ! @GolfPeach has something to say about your call to do away with the handicap system:

I like a roll-up. It’s a recipe for meeting new people with fresh takes on the shared passion of golf. There is a ‘dating game’ risk involved with committing four hours of your life to the company of a total stranger and very occasionally you know that a long-term relationship is out of the question even before you reach the 1st green. It was a bit like that with this Tom Irwin article (see link at the end of this blog) attacking the whole idea of handicaps. I made my mind up about Mr Irwin after the first paragraph.

Tom, if the biggest cause of stress in your life is a 0.1 handicap hike, you really need to get out more. Anyone that sees something ‘dystopian’ in the handicap system is maybe looking a little too hard. If golf without handicaps is your utopia, it is freely available in Club Champs and other scratch comps. There’s even a thing called the Open you can enter if you can get your handicap down to ‘plus’ numbers. Golf at elite level is purely about how many swings you take.

Golf at my level is about the four years of wonderful sporting pleasure, challenge and camaraderie I’ve enjoyed since I first took up the game… four years in which my handicap has come down from 36 to 18. During that time, I’ve played with and against men, women, juniors, seniors and even a few pros. Most might have given me shots, a few may have muttered about me beneath their breath but none have ever been less than gracious and supportive in victory or defeat.

As a beginner, I needed a high handicap for morale and encouragement. Now that I have reached a respectable standard, I not only aspire to lowering my handicap, I actually enjoy the test of teeing it up on a hole where I’m giving my opponent a shot. It focusses the mind. Tom’s mind appears to have been twisted by some bad experiences with ‘bandits’ at his club. He writes about the roll-up as ‘the Saturday swindle’, he describes the first prize on Captain’s Day as ‘a hideous, engraved tankard’. Sounds like you missed out on the tankard by a shot, Tom?

Worst of all, he calls the handicap system ‘elitist’ when it is the very opposite of that. Handicaps break down elites and devise a system that promotes a unique kind of competition within our game. If there are people cheating the system (and there are), they are not only cheating themselves but their reputations soon go before them. No sport is less forgiving of cheats than golf. A game that builds character can stain character if you take liberties with it.

Tom Irwin’s biggest ‘give away’ is his concluding argument that there shouldn’t even be a distinction between professional and amateur players. I dare say that he is a much, much better player than me but he isn’t getting anything like as much out of golf because he is so fixated with the last number he writes on his card. I’m bloody competitive, don’t you worry. I have cried on a golf course!… but I’ve laughed and smiled a lot more. And the handshakes and kisses I’ve exchanged on the final green are always warm and sincere irrespective of the result. If my opponents show a respect for golf, they will get it back from me in spades whatever their handicap.

Read Tom Irwin’s article in National Club Golfer here

Golf More Dangerous than Rugby? Read my blog in Golf Monthly

Golf Is More Dangerous Than Boxing Or Rugby?? Really??

Should each and every round of golf we play count?

Would our handicaps be more reflective of our abilities if we always had to mark a card? Or is social, informal ‘friendly’ golf still too important a part of our enjoyment of the game to let go?
It is a question that has been put into sharper focus by the move towards a World Handicap System. On a golfing vacation in Dubai last year, I was surprised to learn that our resident hosts had to register every score they returned. A similar system operates in the USA. It seems to be heading our way.
My own club has recently increased the number of qualifiers to include all roll-ups but there is still an opt-out choice on the first tee. Some complain that the initiative has slowed play with everyone forced to putt out, others simply prefer the stick-or-twist challenge of the kind of go-for-it golf that is encouraged by a matchplay duel against good mates for a precious fiver.
I know the range is the correct place to practise swing changes but I also like to experiment a little on the course when time and company allow. A good ‘mulligan’ can teach you a lot. I enjoy the nervous buzz of a ‘counting’ round, I find a different mindset and intensity when my card is in someone else’s back pocket.
Handicaps are one of the great wonders of golf. They promote a unique kind of competition between young and old, men and women, good and erratic. No golfer worth their salt doesn’t want to get their handicap down. A cut is both the kindest and unkindest cut of all. I prefer to keep qualifiers as special occasions, ‘our’ tournament rounds.
Any thoughts?

Golf Course Rankings! Top 100? Really??

Read my post on www.golf-

Why Top 100 Golf Course Rankings Will Never Please All…

monthly.co.uk

Cape Town – here I come

Today is the day! We fly to Cape Town for a feast of golf. Before January is out I will have played a dozen sun-kissed golf courses in this most beautiful part of the world. I just can’t wait.

Golf without layers!! Being wrapped up in 6 layers surely can’t do your golf much good. At last it’s time to get the sleeveless tops and skorts out. I am mad enough about golf to have ventured out in horizontal rain and winds strong enough to blow my bag over but sunshine golf is my kind of golf. It’s only 6,000 miles away.

Exactly two years ago, I followed the Garden Route to play 9 of the top 25-ranked courses in all of South Africa. In the coming 2 weeks, I will tick off 3 more of them. It’s a return trip to Cape Town. I enjoyed a fabulous fortnight in the shadow of Table Mountain ‘BG’ (before golf). Six years ago, I took in all the sights from Cape Point to Stellenbosch… strolled on Noordhoek Beach, dined at La Colombe and tasted the vine in Franschhoek. This time it’s golf, golf, golf!

There are 13 rounds in 13 days, all booked and paid for… so don’t go trying to change my mind on any of them! Local knowledge and advice would be very welcome, though. The GolfPeach tour of the Western Cape takes in…
Erinvale
Clovelly
Atlantic Beach
Arabella
Milnerton
Hermanus
Stellenbosch
Royal Cape
De Zalze
Steenberg
Pearl Valley
Paarl Boschenmeer
Pearl Valley again!

If I am honest, I’m not expecting quite the same level of Championship tracks that I took on at Humewood, St Francis Bay, Knysna and Fancourt in 2016, but as long as I can feel the rays on my legs you won’t hear, see or read a word of complaint.

Sunny golf is ‘no excuses’ golf. No thermal layers to restrict the shoulder turn, no brollies to blow away, no numbing fingers to warm. There will be ocean breezes to contend with but even they will be welcome to blow away the hangovers from mellow evenings at Paranga, Roca, the Roundhouse, the Foodbarn and (of course) La Colombe. All table reservations are made… just need some of my very favourite big, bold (and er affordable) reds recommending now. I loved the Vergelegen Cab at Fancourt.

In my four years as a golfer, I have been truly privileged to have been able to tread in the historic footsteps of the great players on some of Britain’s finest tests. Still a relative rookie and yet I’ve already played St Andrews, Birkdale, Sunningdale, Old Head, Porthcawl, Celtic Manor, Sandwich, Hoylake, Swinley, Kingsbarns, St Enodoc, Woodhall and (whisper it) Trump. Lucky girl.

But maybe the biggest highlights of all have been the sheer release and luxury of escaping British winters for a weekend or longer to play in Tenerife, Thailand, Dubai, Mauritius and South Africa. Sunshine golf in January feels positively wicked and I do have that self-indulgent side to me! So, if you don’t want to see this grinning golf girl strutting the sun-soaked fairways with bare legs and arms in full, flaunted view… look away until February!

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