This week, Charlotte asks: Is the World Handicap System driving low handicap women away from golf and what does it mean for the game?

I’ve always been competitive. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to “win” at whatever I was doing (whether there’s actually anything to be won not mattering in the slightest).

There have been two instances recently when I’ve started to think my competitiveness could be an issue. The first: A baby’s bean bag race at a local family fun day where I full on sprinted as my then nine-old month baby clung to me for dear life. And the second when I almost fell off the treadmill racing the woman next to me in a HIIT class at the gym. (The woman, by the way, had no idea we were “racing”).  

But following my recent article asking whether it’s time we stopped focusing (so much) on participation and really started thinking about low handicap women in the game, I’ve been thinking about competitiveness and its role in golf.

Of course, golf can be played and loved by anyone, at any level. That’s one of the things that makes the game so great. But competitiveness is a critical element of any sport, and golf is no different.

Though as an industry, I worry we seem to have forgotten about that a bit, especially when it comes to women golfers.

A focus on participation

There’s far more focus on getting new women and girls into golf than there is on helping them improve and reaching their goals for their sport. And there’s even less support for low handicap women already in the game.

Like how few scratch competitions there are for amateur women (No, one a year at the club championship is not enough).

Now I understand that some of that is driven by demand – there are far fewer low handicap women at clubs than there are men. But it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation: If we don’t invest in helping women to get to that point in their games, they’ll never get there. And then if there’s nothing to play in, what’s the point?

Is the World Handicap System making it all worse?

And things only seem to have got worse since the World Handicap System was introduced in the UK. I’m a PGA Professional Golfer so I don’t have a handicap. But as a member of a golf club and of course in my role with Women & Golf, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like: “It’s impossible to win competitions as a single-figure golf” and “competitions are being won with 40+ plus points – I know I can’t compete and so I don’t even bother now.”

I’m not saying the handicap system doesn’t work, but there are obviously some flaws that are just not being addresses. Whatever is causing it, not giving low handicap golfers a fair and equal opportunity to play and compete will drive them away from the golf. And that can only be really detrimental for them game.

I mean, what other sport doesn’t recognise its best players?

Liked this article? You'll love this one: Time to stop promoting participation and inclusivity?