Golf, A Social Bridge

Liam Timms

There are always two levels in every sport, the professional and the club/amateur level players. For any sportsperson, competing on a level playing field with other players of the same skill level is itself a challenge; it is next to impossible to compete with professionals from the same sport discipline. However this is where golf is very different from other sports.

All golfers around the world are held to a single standard in the form a Golf Handicap. A handicap is a numerical algorithmic number that indicates playing ability of the individual and is accepted throughout the world of golf. It is an assessment irrespective of age, gender and geography.

The handicap is issued by the host golf course and is valid at any golf course around the world, provided it follows the prescribed system accepted by the sport’s governing bodies, the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA). The software most commonly used by clubs is Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN).

Once a golfer has a handicap, depending on the range (a low handicap 0-10 is considered good and high handicap 15-25 usually needs improvement) it is possible for these golfers to participate in tournaments at the club level. In club tournaments their handicap is computed along with their score to arrive at their ranking for that tournament. Should golfers choose to pursue a career at the professional or amateur level, the minimum criterion is a low handicap of a prescribed level usually in single digits.

Interestingly, it is possible for a club golfer to play in a professional tournament as a ‘back marker’ nominated by the host golf club when there are an ‘odd’ number of players who make the cut to play in the final two days of a tournament. Of course, by not being a professional, one is not in contention for the prize. Jeff Knox is one case in question and the tournament is nothing less than golf’s major tournament, the Masters.

This is what sets golf apart from other sports. It is possible to remove artificial hierarchies that exist as all levels players can compete with each other based on their handicap.

Some could argue that this advantage is not apparent in the developing world where fewer people have access to golfing facilities. While this may be true and golf has a long way to go in these countries, another levelling factor is the emergence of professional players from the caddy group and club workers. Some of India’s most successful golf professionals like Chikkarangappa from Bengaluru started out as caddies on a golf course.

So even in countries where the sport is underdeveloped the ‘Spirit of the Game’ lives on. Once you pick up the sport and adhere to its rules and etiquette, written and unwritten, all other barriers fall away. Your pedigree, economic or social status, caste, or religion are of little or no significance. All that matters is the quality of the golf swing and where the ball lands.

This how golf builds bridges and is a great leveller at any age and any playing ability.


   IRIS Knowledge Foundation,
      T-131, Tower 1, 3rd Floor, International Infotech Park,
      Vashi, Navi Mumbai - 400 703, India.
   Tel: +91 22 67231000