What is wrong with the Irish golfing mentality?

Ivan Morris

John Craven wrote a very good article in the latest edition of Irish Golfer Magazine in which he concluded there is nothing wrong with WHS in a worldwide context; it is the people who are bad.

What is wrong with the Irish golfing mentality that so many are abusing the WHS handicap system to a disgusting degree? It has become so bad that I play most of my golf alone these days and have even considered resigning my memberships and putting the clubs away forever. Fortunately, I got sense and have settled for putting my handicap ‘away’ instead.

I’d be a lost soul without my golf. My ‘golf wants’ are simple. I just love to watch the ball flying at the target. That is enough for me. I’m an outlier who couldn’t care less if he ever won prize. Whereas, the majority of people who have taken up the game in the last decade or so appear to be ‘prize mad’. As a result, there are far too many competitions played in Irish Golf Clubs.


I played my happiest golf as a beginner when my handicap seemed to be cut every couple of weeks. Back then, a big hitting, 2-handicap mentor, the late and much-missed by me, Fr. Gerry Enright PP took me under his wing.

He never gave me strokes. We played our games off scratch with holes up conceded instead. It taught me to play a much better player ‘shot for shot’. As I improved, he kept raising the bar. It took me 18-months before I managed to beat him and it was level pegging after that until I became better than him and then it was he who received the holes up advantage.

We also played against ‘the invisible man’ – a nominated gross score. We were rewarded or penalised for being above or below target. We each had a small tin box of tees in our golf bags (hickies, we called them) and they were used as legal tender for GIRs, up and downs, sandies, etc.

We graduated to “Recall” – a fantastic training exercise. We granted each other ‘licences’ to recall a bad shot, or, more devastatingly, requesting ‘the other’ to replay an especially good one. Now, that IS hard! My mentor’s regime brought me a long way because all of his ‘lessons’ took place on the course under the pressure of competition.

Scores of 48 points+ (that’s twelve under par) are not uncommon. I remember if you returned a score of 45-points in a fourball, better-ball competition you and your partner would be the talk of the clubhouse. Competitive golf among genuine, honest golfers is being eroded. I’m sad to see golf as I knew it being emasculated. The people entrusted to protect and develop the game are the main culprits. A handicap of 54 beggars belief. How’s this for a scenario: Club Matchplay: a 4-handicapper is drawn to play a 54-handicapper must concede 50 shots! I draw the line on giving anybody one shot per hole. I have heard of better scores than 48-points. Stableford is overused, especially in ‘major’ club competitions. The only thing left for low handicaps is the Gross Prize and, maybe, the 2s sweep to give you a target and make your round interesting.

I know a very good player in his youth who did not play golf for 15 years. When he went back playing, he was given a handicap of 18. He was insulted and far too good for it and came down quickly, but he never came near winning a club competition. 40-points doesn’t cut any mustard these days. He was disgusted that some of his new associates said he should have looked for a few shots to make a killing. I have had the same thing said to me. My reply is unprintable, but the message didn’t seem to hit home.

If players are so bad that they need a 54-handicap, they should not be playing in competitions and holding up the course. Let them take lessons and practice before obtaining a ‘proper’ handicap before entering competitions. Only this week I learned of a former scratch man (in his forties) boasting that he was now off 19 and waiting for something ‘worth winning’ to come along. Getting from scratch to 19 must have cost him a lot of entry fees. Oh, wait! He may have done it by returning his casual scores.

Under WHS it is possible to get 10-shots back in one year, say, five from August to October and then another five from April to June. Honest golfers have no chance and only a select few of them are capable of winning gross prizes. Some handicaps would allow their owner to kick the ball around and still bring in a winning score. You pay your membership, you pay to enter a competition, you pay to enter the 2’s AND then Joe Blogs comes in with 49-points plus!! Scoring a four under par, 40 points, gets you nowhere.

The best solution to give everyone a fair crack at winning is to play all club competitions for modest prizes in Flights with promotion and relegation. You win you get promoted. You go a year without ‘figuring’ – you get relagated.

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13 responses to “What is wrong with the Irish golfing mentality?”

  1. Keating Kay avatar
    Keating Kay

    Ivan Morris Totally agree with you Won’t start giving off as I won’t be able to stop…

  2. Seamus Keating avatar
    Seamus Keating

    Great article, if lads couldn’t compete or get cut on the old system then they should take lessons or try bowling!

  3. John Brophy avatar
    John Brophy

    The best article I’ve read since the introduction of the WHS – well said Ivan.

  4. Conor Agnew avatar
    Conor Agnew

    Fine article as usual Ivan. Time for Competition Committees and Handicap Secretaries to get their act together and address this .
    Don’t get me going on guys who feature in virtually every 4 ball / 4 some or team event ………and make sure they never register a singles score !

    1. Ivan Genockey avatar
      Ivan Genockey

      oh they do have plenty of single cards registered they are just bad scores.

    2. Patrick avatar

      can i ask a question.. what should or can the handicap committee do? bearing in mind they are limited by the rules set in place by whs.

      1. Tommy Fitz avatar
        Tommy Fitz

        Patrick, nothing can really be done by committee. and it’s not a solution as each committee would have different views on who and how and why to cut. it must be part of the system so we have consistency. first step imo is abolish casual golf for handicap purposes

  5. Ivan Genockey avatar
    Ivan Genockey

    They think winning a poxy bit of glass or winning a jimmy bruen match is better than getting as low as you can in handicap.

  6. Tom Kennedy avatar
    Tom Kennedy

    It’s the clubs that are ultimately suffering the loss of competition fees as many genuine handicap players are booking times but playing golf with their friends for a coffee or a small wager…. it time for the handicap committees to cop on..!!!

    1. Patrick avatar

      can i ask a question.. what should or can the handicap committee do? bearing in mind they are limited by the rules set in place by whs.

  7. Liz Bennett avatar
    Liz Bennett

    Never read a truer word.
    Great article Ivan.
    It should be read at GI AGM for immediate action by ‘All Club Handicap Committees!!!

    1. Patrick avatar

      can i ask a question.. what should or can the handicap committee do? bearing in mind they are limited by the rules set in place by whs.

  8. Sean Flanagan avatar
    Sean Flanagan

    Great article, hit the nail on the head.
    Great number of golfers feel powerless to do anything about it.
    Every club i visited to play this last year had same issue. Genuine golfers sick of it.

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