11/30/2015 The golfing public raised a collective eyebrow last week when it was announced, changes to the USGA handicap system. One of the main changes? No longer would rounds that golfers play by themselves be counted towards their handicaps.

The backlash began immediately.

First, not everyone likes to play in groups. Some players prefer solidarity to the chatter that can engulf, or distract, a foursome. Second, not everyone can play in groups. Some tee off early in the morning before work or catch a twilight round when others have settled in at the local watering hole.

That’s the pragmatic criticism—the changes ignore the habits of established golfers or those looking to gain a foothold in the game.

There’s something else at play here too. Not only does the USGA handicap system announcement challenge a “grow the game” mentality, it also seems to be anti-golf in nature.

No sport, as we’ve endured over the years, holds itself to a high standard quite like golf. Players are expected to exude class on the course and in the clubhouse. They police themselves. They call over rules officials when something is even remotely in question. They converse with playing partners to assure that everything is on the up-and-up. At no point is there a replay system or official gazing in on every shot, especially in a round at a local muny. It’s both impractical and against the honor code the sport established centuries ago.

So why then, did the USGA assume cheating in making this latest ruling?

At the surface, the change is meant to dissuade players from intentionally inflating their handicaps so that they can play against lesser competition come tournament time. While some “sandbagging” surely goes on, more often than not competitive nature takes over. No one aims to break 80 just so they can enter 85’s.

Moreover, other players won’t allow it. There’s no insult more damning than being accused of cheating on the golf course. Think about it. Once golfers earn that reputation, they struggle to lose it, because it’s a direct affront to their character.

Players police themselves, but they’re also keen on maintaining a level environment. And besides, if a certain player keeps winning the second or third flight of a local tournament, people will notice. Not everyone’s honest. But enough people are.

It’s just a bizarre move from the USGA and one that suggests the association doesn’t have a feel for the common golfer. Golf Canada has already come out against the rule change.

In a tweet, our Northern Neighbors announced they would not to adopt the handicap amendment.

The USGA took notice and issued a FAQ that clarified that golfers could complete 7 of 9 holes (in a 9-hole round) or 13 of 18 (full round) with a playing partner, marker, friend, etc. and have that round count for a handicap. So you can still sort of play alone without actually playing alone and vice versa.

In the long run, perhaps this will all be for naught. It’s unlikely that every club pro will man the computer station just to make sure all scores are entered in good faith. Still, that the USGA went through with this change is an insult in itself and deserves our ridicule.

I mean, this kid played alone. Isn’t this a gorgeous scene?

*The USGA handicap system*