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Playing golf on your own can be a therapeutic experience. It’s a chance to be alone with your thoughts, to saunter round the course with no pressure. It’s a golfing indulgence in which you can simply enjoy the fresh air and take a chance to smell the flowers as you go – a good walk, not spoiled.
It also offers a great opportunity for you to work on your game without irritating playing partners or embarrassing yourself in front of them. You can try that whacky chipping technique you dreamt of, or experiment with the “claw” putting grip to your heart’s content. And you can play free of scorecard pressure because – you can’t hand a scorecard in if playing on your own to count for your handicap. You must be playing with at least one other person to do that.
Under the World Handicap System (WHS) you can submit General Play scores to count towards your Handicap Index at any time over a measured course. But in order to submit a General Play score, you must:
- Register for your General Play score before you begin your round – This can either be done on the club’s own computer software, via one of the Golfing Union’s apps or simply by telling the Pro or Club Manager of your intention to submit a score.
- Follow The Rules of Golf and hole out every putt
- Ensure the round is in accordance with the Rules of Handicapping.
- Play with at least one other person
The last of these points is the important one here. You must have someone who is able to verify your score for it to count for General Play and handicap. Using most software, they will be required to sign on screen after the round is finished. They may also have to provide a phone number. If marking a card the old fashioned way, they will have to sign as marker.
Nobody is doubting your integrity here but, perhaps not everybody is as honest with themselves as you are. It’s important to have checks and balances in place to ensure that the General Play element of the WHS works efficiently and is not abused to manipulate handicaps, either up or down.
So, can you hand a scorecard in if playing on your own? Technically, the answer is yes – You could hand it in to your club secretary for them to look at and perhaps give you a pat on the back – But they won’t be able to submit it for handicap purposes. You, obviously, can’t play in a competition on your own. And you can’t submit a General Play score for WHS unless you are playing with at least one other person.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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