WHS Hustlers - 'Some Golfers Are Trying To Cheat The System'

Has the new World Handicap System taken the equality out of competitive play? Three handicapper Carly Frost believes so

World Handicap System
(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

It’s been nearly two years since golf's new World Handicap System (WHS) came into effect at golf clubs across the country and many of us are still getting used to it. There’s no doubt that for a large majority of women the system has dramatically changed their handicap. I’m playing with club golfers who have seen a handicap increase of 10 shots or more. Although this is a reflection of their average and often inconsistent play, in my opinion it is certainly not indicative of their ability.

I witnessed it first-hand this summer, playing in many opens at clubs around the country, team competitions and matches. Historically, such fun away-days would be won by an impressive score of 40-something Stableford points (brilliant, but not unachievable), or perhaps a super net score in the mid-sixties in a medal, but I witnessed winning scores of 50 points and more. 

One team competition I played in, aptly called the ‘champagne scramble’ because the victorious team gets six bottles of bubbly, was won with an outrageous 56 points. These aren’t isolated cases. I’ve spoken to women at clubs from Scotland to Skegness and they all have stories of events won at their clubs with incredible, some might say unthinkable scores. 

Just last month I played in the medal at my home course Parkstone in Dorset and shot a very respectable two-over-par 72, a couple under my course playing handicap of four. In years gone by I would have been in contention to win with a net 70, or at worst been one or two shots off the pace. The week in question the winner had a net 60. I finished 10th. 

As a low single figure handicapper I simply cannot compete with these scores. I play in two qualifying competitions a week and I'm pretty consistent off my handicap so it hasn’t changed dramatically. I started the year off 3, it crept up a bit after a run of poor scores in bad weather, then came tumbling back down again to my 2022 low of 2.6. Yet I’m playing with women who I know are decent golfers, who spent years playing in the silver division (off a handicap of 20 or below) and are now as high as a 30 handicap. They are embarrassed by their new higher handicap and can’t seem to get it back down. Many clubs are struggling to field a scratch team, others enter with a team at the start of the season, only to lose players throughout as their handicap goes up too high. 

World Handicap System Open To Abuse

(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

There is a lot of confusion over what scores should be submitted. My belief is that you should mark a card every time you play, whether you are in a competition or not. So if you’re taking part in an open or a fun competition those scores should all count. In reality I don’t think this is happening. The lines are blurred. 

For instance, some clubs insist on you informing them before going out that you are marking a card, others are happy to put a card into the system retrospectively. One friend told me she played in an away-day medal in Scotland while on holiday in the summer, the club told her the score would be submitted and three months on it still doesn’t show. 

In my opinion, the only way to get a consistent scoring average and truly accurate handicap is to constantly submit your scorecards. I’ll probably be condemned for speaking my mind, but there are definitely some golfers who are trying to cheat the system - the new WHS hustlers! These golfers manufacture and control their scores submitted in order to maintain a high handicap to give themselves the best chance of winning prestigious tournaments that offer big prizes, maybe even all-expenses-paid overseas trips for the winner. We've all witnessed 'that' golfer who manages to four-putt the last green from nowhere to prevent their score from being too low and their handicap from coming down.


There are also the egotistical golfers who want that elusive low handicap. I've come across many falsely-handicapped juniors this year. They're under pressure from pushy parents who want them to compete in the prestigious national events so mark cards around the easiest courses, shooting ridiculously good scores to get their handicap down. These poor kids turn up to the big events playing off a plus handicap and go out and shoot in the eighties, their parents making all the excuses for why they’ve just had a 'bad day’. The trouble is they are taking the place of genuine scratch golfers who have been balloted out.

There are undoubtedly a lot of confused golfers who don’t understand the new system or why their handicap has gone up. They’re embarrassed and ashamed to have lost their status as a low handicapper, or a category 1 player. I've played with women who don’t get picked for club team matches any more as their handicap is too high.


The point is that the WHS is clearly open to interpretation and abuse because golf is a self-regulating sport. It’s supposed to be honourable. A game that teaches life lessons and demands good morals. I’m certainly trying to educate my eight-year-old son Hogan on the golf course with strong values - integrity, honesty, sportsmanship, determination, focus, etiquette…for that reason I’m in no hurry for him to put scores in and have a handicap because in my opinion, a handicap is limiting. Instead I simply get Hogan to grade his shots A, B or C (A being the best, C being the worst) and focus on how many ‘A’ shots he can hit during a round to give him a positive experience. 


Surely the whole point of handicaps is to allow two golfers of different ability levels to compete as equals? That's the joy of golf. Yet the new WHS seems to have shaken up the handicap system in such a way that it is no longer equal or fair. What's worse is we now have a maximum allowable handicap of 54. 

So here’s an idea, and one that the purist will love, how about we bring back a maximum handicap limit again to 36 for ladies and 28 for men. If you can’t compete to this standard you can still play friendlies and fun competitions but you can’t take the trophies. I believe that this would give everyone a reason to aspire to have a lower handicap (and not a higher one). A reason to put more scorecards in instead of the minimum. It’s controversial, and some might say backward thinking, but if you can’t break 100 should you really get to compete and win?

Carly Frost
Golf Monthly Contributor

Carly Frost is one of the golf industry’s best-known female writers, having worked for golf magazines for over 20 years. As a consistent three-handicapper who plays competitive club golf at Parkstone and the Isle of Purbeck courses in Dorset every week, Carly is well-versed in what lady golfers love. Her passion for golf and skill at writing combine to give her an unbeatable insight into the ladies game.  

Carly’s role at Golf Monthly is to help deliver thorough and accurate ladies equipment reviews, buying advice and comparisons to help you find exactly what you are looking for. So whether it’s the latest driver, set of irons, golf ball, pair of shoes or even an outfit, Carly will help you decide what to buy. Over the years Carly has been fortunate to play some of the greatest courses in the world. Her view ‘from the ladies tee’ is invaluable. She ranks Sea Island, Georgia, USA, where she met her husband, world-renowned golf coach Dan Frost, among her favourite golf resorts. Their aptly-named eight-year-old son Hogan is already hitting the ball as far as Mum and will undoubtedly be a name to watch out for in the future. Carly is a keen competitor and her list of golfing achievements are vast. She is a former winner of the South West of England Ladies Intermediate Championship, a three-time winner of the European Media Masters and she once beat an entire start-sheet of men to the title of Times Corporate World Golf Champion. She has played for both the Dorset and Surrey County Ladies first teams and is known for her excellent track record at matchplay.

Carly holds the ladies course record (68) at her home club Parkstone and her lowest competition round (seven-under-par 65) was carded in the pro-am of the Irish Ladies Open at Killeen Castle, playing alongside Solheim Cup superstar Anna Nordqvist. Although her current handicap index has crept up to 3.7 since Covid she has her sights firmly set on achieving that elusive scratch handicap and hopefully playing for her country when she’s 50.

Carly’s current What's In The Bag? 

Driver: Callaway Epic Max, 10.5° 

Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM2, 15° 

Hybrids: Titleist TS2, 19°, 21°, 24° 

Irons: Mizuno JPX900, 5-PW 

Wedges: Cleveland RTX, 52°, 56° and 58° 

Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X5

Ball: 2021 Callaway Ladies SuperSoft