Golf course has no room for handicap cheats

Friday November 10 2017

Kenyan professional player Nicholas Rokoine instructs a group of aspiring golfers during the Barclays Kenya Open Juniors Golf clinic this year. Golf players must show integrity at all times. PHOTO | COURTESY |

Kenyan professional player Nicholas Rokoine instructs a group of aspiring golfers during the Barclays Kenya Open Juniors Golf clinic this year. Golf players must show integrity at all times. PHOTO | COURTESY |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By VINCENT WANG'OMBE
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My friend Charles Kariuki, commonly known as “CK”, has a quirky phonetic alphabet list that changes from day to day.

Whenever he plays a good round of golf, he introduces himself as “CK” where the “C” is for “serious”. When his golf is off, then the “K” stands for “curious”. If his ball is in the bush, then it will be resting with “D” for “nding’oing’o” (dung beetle) in the woods. When he doesn’t want to play due to the rain, he will say that he doesn’t want to catch “N” for “pneumonia”.

CK is a restaurateur and he is known to request for “S” for “estimates” from his chefs and when asking his team to put more effort, he tells them to put “L” for “elbow grease”.

When he is experimenting on different cuisine, CK will have “E” for “Indian cuisine”. With this kind of phonetic alphabet, CK would not last a day in the aviation industry but he is perfectly okay on the golf course or in his restaurants.

I was very disappointed to hear of some “D” for “nding’oing’o” (dung beetle) kind of business about one golfer’s handicap going on at Njoro Club.

The handicap committee supposedly met and increased the golfer’s handicap by one stroke. I don’t know how they arrived at this decision for this particular player or even if they met at all. I would sleep easier if it was a case of hacking of the Njoro Club servers.

It all started earlier this year when a golfer who is handicapped at the club started winning tournaments at various clubs.

The golfer would play off the same handicap for several weeks without adjusting it downwards to reflect his improved playing ability.

He took advantage of the flaw in the current setup of the handicapping system in Kenya that does not automatically relay results back to home clubs of golfers who play away from home.

This must never be used as an excuse by any golfer to not change their handicap. If today I played an impressive round of golf at a competition at Thika Greens, which is not my home club, and tomorrow I play at Sigona Club, I will have to adjust my handicap downwards without waiting for Thika Greens to send my scores to Limuru Country Club.

If my score at Thika Greens is five shots better than my current handicap (a miraculous feat given my current playing form), I will reduce my current playing handicap by two shots when I play tomorrow at Sigona.

The golfer from Njoro Club did not reduce his playing handicap in this way but continued to play off a handicap that was higher than his playing ability.
That enabled him to win a few more times in various clubs.

When his scores were eventually posted at his home club, and his handicap reduced by the system with an extra stroke reduction for exceptional scoring, lo and behold, the handicap committee increased his handicap by one stroke. This was later rectified but that was not until the anomaly was pointed out to the captain of the club.

The despicable action of increasing the handicap of a golfer that probably deserved a further reduction reminded me of the writings in the Holy Bible of when Jesus drove out traders and money changers from the temple of God.

In the same way the temple was meant to be a house of prayer, golf must only be played by people of integrity.

We have however allowed cheats to play among us and do not do much to drive them away.

In my book, a person who will mask their true playing handicap to win tournaments is no better than a thief.

Golf clubs must ensure that people who are appointed to Handicap Committees are people who are beyond reproach.

Apart from the usual changes that are usually effected by the Congu system, any other changes to the playing handicaps of golfers must be done by this committee. It is not the decision of the golf captain to make exceptional changes that are outside the system. He or she can only recommend it to the Handicap Committee.

We are now approaching the time of the year when all Handicap Committees have to carry out the Annual Review of handicaps of all golfers at their clubs. This is not a local requirement; it is done in all countries that run the Congu system.

The saddest thing however is that many clubs in Kenya don’t have a functional Handicap Committee.

A golf club without a Handicap Committee is as dysfunctional as our country without a Chief Justice and the Supreme Court. If you belong to a golf club without a Handicap Committee, it is cause for “M” for “embarrassment”.