Last week’s introduction of the new World Handicap System in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales has been widely praised across the industry, although there have been reports of teething troubles as clubs and golfers get to grips with the finer details of the new system, which went live on November 2.
With golf accesories in England closing for a month just three days after the new system went live, and clubs in Wales re-opening four days after, there were bound to be issues as hundreds of thousands of golfers received their new handicaps and logged into the system.
According to report by BBC Sport, the centralised administration of the WHS has drawn criticism because of concerns over data distribution, with players required to hand over email addresses, dates of birth and gender details in order to be able to resister with the system. National federations, rather than individual clubs, act as ‘calculation hubs’ with England Golf assuming responsibility for the country’s nearly 1,800 clubs.
According to the BBC report, some clubs have been reluctant to divulge such private information, while others have provided only generic email addresses rather than one specific to members. If no acceptable email address is submitted, players will be denied a handicap. This is a potential problem for older golfers and young juniors who might not use the internet.
It really is a seismic change,” England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson told BBC Sport. “A huge change is that we are moving from 1,800 calculation hubs to one. Quite simply, we asked for unique forms of identity, an email address and a date of birth. We asked for those so that we can identify 640,000 people and make sure we start off with the best possible foundation platform to ensure their golf identity really is theirs.”
Tomlinson said England Golf has already unearthed “tens of thousands of inaccuracies” during the transition period and have complied with all legal requirements regarding data protection.
“Far from it being a data grab, it’s all about identifying golfers to make sure their handicap data truly is theirs so we start the platform with the highest level of integrity,” he said. “There won’t be little idiosyncrasies of golf accesories with their own processes, there will be one way of doing things. One central calculation hub, one central library with one algorithm to calculate people’s handicaps. We believe it will offer a new level of integrity that people can really trust but also a wonderful way in which people can cross countries and across the world and have the ability to apply their handicap to whatever golf course they play.”
Tomlinson added: “There have been problems with purifying databases. There have been issues with regards to connectivity, with regards to software. There are many queries coming through right now, so I’m just going to be real about this. There are going to be teething problems, but I do think we are going to get through it.”