Update on England Golf & the Independent Golfer

This update is to provide Devon golf clubs with information regarding the progress of plans for England Golf to engage with golfers who are not members of affiliated clubs, Independent Golfers (IGs), and include access to a WHS handicap index and liability insurance within a subscription package.

Clubs will be aware that many of the County bodies have historically opposed such an offer on the basis of the potential to negatively impact club membership and to protect the integrity of the handicap system. In doing so we have also recognised that there are potential benefits in engaging with IG’s, such as this being a pathway to club membership or to enhance their participation and frequency of play which thereby increases expenditure on green fees and equipment.

With the launch of the World Handicap System in 2020 by the R&A and USGA, handicapping is now controlled jointly by these global bodies and the ability to administer handicaps in each country is awarded to a local licensee, in our case England Golf. In America a USGA handicap index has always been available to golfers who are not members of a club and as part of the R&A’s move towards making the game more inclusive worldwide. It is now their policy that this should be the case in all countries under their jurisdiction.

If the existing national license holder is not prepared to offer this service then the R&A will issue additional licenses to third parties allowing them to do so. We believe it is far preferable to have just one recognised handicapping authority in the country and for this to be England Golf. This was reflected in the vote with only one county union opposing, resulting in the fact that the remaining votes supported EG remain the single handicapping authority in England and consider what the IG strategy may look like. Through the existing infrastructure golfers, clubs and counties have a voice within England Golf and the ability to make representation and influence decisions.

At the suggestion of the county bodies an Independent Golfer working group has been formed, made up of regional representatives together with England Golf board members and executives. The purpose of this group is to represent the views of clubs, counties and other stakeholders in the planning process.

The aim of this process is for the benefits of engagement with IG’s to be maximised whilst mitigating any negative impact. The South West of England has 2 representatives on the working group, Thomas Tulk of Somerset and Yvonne Alford of Devon, who is also the DevonGolf EG voting representative. Meetings will be taking place over the coming weeks and months, and all clubs will receive updates on the progress of the project and an opportunity to raise questions and provide feedback. The first update will be provided the week commencing 22nd February at which point clubs will be advised of how to submit questions or feedback.

For clarity at this stage there is no time limit or deadline set for the launch of this initiative. We have been told by England Golf as much time as required will be allowed for the planning and development process to complete. Each club’s business model and strategy is different and no club will be obliged to engage with IG’s through this initiative but equally there will be new opportunities for clubs that see this as beneficial.

To date we had sent an initial letter to Jeremy Tomlinson, CEO of England Golf expressing some intial concerns over the communication of this IG decision to clubs and we had received a swift response (shared below). Jeremy Tomlinson and Richard Flint kindly attended and updated Devon affiliated clubs at our first Secretary and Managers meeting this year on 13th January 2021, hosted by DevonGolf. We will look to continue to communicate the want of Devon affiliated clubs on this topic via our representatives on the working group, so please do not hesitate to continue to email Paul Cloke on info@devongolf.org.uk.

May I reiteriate that at this stage the decision reached was to allow England Golf to be the single handicapping authority when looking to engage with this proposed strategy, allowing our clubs and counties to be involved in the shaping of this IG communication platform. No final decisions and agreed detail has been decided.

Letter from DevonGolf to England Golf - 15 Dec 2020

Response from England Golf on IG - 16 Dec 2020

Independent Golfer Update from England Golf - 1 Feb 2021

Independent Golfer Working Group Update from England Golf - 5 Feb 2021

Independent Golfer Update from England Golf - 12 Feb 2021

Independent Golfer Update from England Golf - 19 Feb 2021

Independent Golfer Update from England Golf - 26 Feb 2021

Independent Golfer Update from England Golf - 5 March 2021

Paul Cloke
DevonGolf Operations Manager