Should Pay-And-Play Golfers Be Allowed Official Handicaps?

It was recently confirmed that England Golf had dropped its plans for pay-and-play golfers to gain official handicaps

It was recently confirmed that England Golf had dropped its plans for pay-and-play golfers to gain official handicaps

Should Pay-And-Play Golfers Be Allowed Official Handicaps?

We recently reported the news that England Golf had scrapped its plans for the Independent Golfer scheme where non-members could get official handicaps.

It means that the only way to gain an official golf handicap in England is still to join a golf club.

GM's Tom Clarke and Elliott Heath discussed this subject on the latest Golf Monthly Clubhouse Podcast.

Chat begins at 46 minutes:

Here's what Tom and Elliott said:

Tom -

"I think it's a very backwards step if I'm honest and I think there's enough hurdles and obstacles in the way for people to get into the game of golf, whether it's the cost of clubs, golf balls, attire.

"I don't know why the clubs have quite so much power around handicaps and I think this scheme would have been really good and I think actually it could have been very, very popular with a lot of nomad golfers.

"I'm a bit disappointed in it to be honest with you because I think it would have actually been a very positive step forward, but instead it's now stuck behind another pay wall as it were and you know, golf club memberships aren't for everyone.

"Of course we want the golf clubs to do well and there are a lot of great golf clubs out there but I don't see why people should have to be a member of a golf club to get a handicap.

"I think it's a bit of a traditional and old fashioned stance in my opinion

"The whole point about a golf handicap is about the fairness of a game, it's about having a good competition and having a level playing field for everyone who takes part.

Elliott -

"If this goes ahead, the amount of people that are members of clubs and perhaps don't play as much would just immediately cancel their membership so it's probably in the long run a good thing for the longevity or clubs.

"People join clubs to play the competitions, to get the handicap, to get the whole package, and if you can get a handicap elsewhere then perhaps if you're not 100% committed to your club you may stop paying it £100 a month or whatever you currently do, which could be quite costly for the club."

Tom -

"It's a fair point. I'm not sure that people just join golf clubs for handicaps and that's why I think it's a shame that this scheme is actually being stopped. As you say it's there for the whole package, maybe the social side, it's there to play the course, it's there to also get your handicap and play in the competitions.

"So there's at least four things there that we've thought about.

"This scheme, it could have been a very simple one to get your golf handicap. It doesn't give you any right to go and play anywhere you've still got to pay your money to play on any golf course and if you want to play in an Open you're gonna have to pay your money for that as well.

"It's interesting that we have slightly different views and also because you're a golf club member and I'm not.

"I'm hoping that this conversation won't go away and they keep looking at it because I do think that it's such a traditional barrier and I just think golf should be moving forward and I think this would have been a way of moving forward."

What is your opinion on official golf handicaps - should they be reserved for golf club members only or the pay-and-player too?

Let us know your view on social media

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Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x