Getting a handicap should be easy and verifiable

Friday October 6 2017

Ishaan Nathani of Eldoret Golf Club putts during the Barclays Bank golf tournament played at the Eldoret Sports Club last weekend. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

Ishaan Nathani of Eldoret Golf Club putts during the Barclays Bank golf tournament played at the Eldoret Sports Club last weekend. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Back when I was in secondary school, we had a French teacher we used to call "Bonjour" because we could not remember his long Rwandan name.

He made us read out loud from a book called ‘Pierre et Seydou’ and memorise it. Our French class was a veritable blab school. Bonjour’s instructions were all in French and this meant that a number of instructions were misunderstood and some words badly distorted. One instruction which we correctly understood to mean “speak up” was distorted so completely that it would not be recognisable to any French speaker. Whenever Bonjour said “un peu plus fort”, his way of telling us “a little louder”, all we heard was “amba prifo”.

One of the ways I am reminded of “amba prifo” on the golfing scene, is when golfers make up things to fill in the gaps. One such area is handicapping. The handicapping system that we use in Kenya is known as Congu. When a handicap list is printed, all valid handicaps have a ‘c’ right next to them.


Many golfers have wrongly thought that the ‘c’ stands for “Captain”. They also wrongly think that the golf Captain, or someone appointed by him, must play with all new golfers for them to get a handicap.

I was really saddened by Larry Ngala’s article in Wednesday’s Daily Nation about a talented junior golfer, Ishaan Nathani from Eldoret Golf Club, who is yet to get a valid handicap despite playing in four competitions.

Assuming that he is a member of the club, then the Captain, the Junior convener and the Handicap Committee of Eldoret Golf Club have really let down the young Ishaan Nathani. Why has it taken them so long to handicap the young player? Do they really know how to allot a handicap for new golfers according to Congu?


From Larry’s article, I got the impression that Ishaan has played very many rounds and has had the opportunity to return several valid cards. This is the reason why he should have had a handicap with a ‘c’ right next to it. The ‘c’ stands for ‘competition’ which would have made Ishaan eligible to a win at the Barclays Golf Festival at Eldoret. This would have been a huge morale boost for not just Ishaan, but for all junior golfers in the region.

To get an initial handicap, all a golfer needs are three valid 18 hole cards. The cards must be marked and signed by someone who is acceptable to the handicap committee. Such a person would ideally be a handicapped golfer. The three cards must be submitted within a period of six months. The Congu manual provides a formula with which to arrive at an initial handicap using the three cards.

The one thing that seems not to have gained traction in Kenya is the fact that the initial handicap can be as high as 54 for both ladies and gentlemen. A handicap that is above 28 for men and 36 for ladies would, however, not have the ‘c’ next to it. This would mean that it is not valid for competitions.

The current process makes it easy for one to get an initial handicap and be able to gauge their progress. It also gives them a target to aim for as the try and gain the ‘c’ tag that allows them to enter competitions. This then brings me to the question of who is eligible to play in a competition and who is allowed to mark a card?

The Rules of Golf and the Congu handicapping system refer to different committee’s responsibilities. The Rules of Golf refers to a ‘Competition Committee’.

Every competition must have a Competition Committee whose members must be made known to those participating in the event of any queries or disputes in the competition.

The members of the competition committee may vary from competition to competition depending on their availability. The Congu handicapping system refers to ‘Handicapping Committee’. This is more permanent in nature and every club must have one.

It is traditional to have one of the players acting as a marker. There have been instances when a player has to go out on their own. Since the player cannot mark his/her own card, the Competition Committee must appoint someone to mark the card.

The eligibility part however is simple; the competition committee must dictate who is eligible to enter a competition. A non-handicapped player or one without a competition handicap may enter if the Competition Committee allow.

Instead of clubs continuing in unverifiable ways, they need to seek clarity from the Kenya Unified Handicapping Committee especially when it comes to allotment of new handicaps.