Eight months since the World Handicap System, WHS, went live, golfers in Kenya are still using CONGU system to manage handicaps. Introduced in January this year by The R&A and USGA, WHS has amalgamated six handicapping systems under one standardized system. According to WHS, the motivation behind the standardized approach is to make handicapping easier to understand and transferable to any course anywhere in the world. It is estimated that there are 15 million golfers spanning across 80 countries worldwide, prompting the need for a “fairer and more equitable system of accurately calculating a golfer’s current playing ability”.
To achieve the envisaged uniformity, members under The R&A, USGA and other existing handicapping authorities were mandated to rate afresh all courses under their jurisdiction. The Course Rating exercise is to assess the length, obstacles and challenges around the course.
Kenya embarked on the road to adopting WHS in 2019, when Kenya Golf Union, KGU, rolled out a plan to rate all courses in the country. The was a delay in the commencement of the Course Rating exercise as KGU mulled over two options; to engage experts from South Africa or to up-skill a team of local volunteers to do the job. Citing logistical and cost implications, KGU opted for a local solution.
The local team led by KGU Chief Executive Officer Vincent Wang’ombe has so far rated 13 courses out of the targeted 35. The team is confident that the remaining job will be concluded by end of this year. “We have to appreciate that this is a very technical job. Although would have concluded the exercise faster if we had used the experts from South Africa, their cost was way too steep for us. Furthermore, we did not find their proposal to rate all golf courses in Kenya within one week feasible,” said Wang’ombe.
By opting for a local solution, Wang’ombe says, the exercise will cost only Kshs 2 million which is a fraction of what the South African experts were asking for. Rushing against time, the KGU team made up of 30 Volunteers, has the tough task of traversing across the country over the next four months to rate the remaining 22 courses. Though Kenya has more than 45 golf courses, not all of them will qualify for rating as some are in non-playable condition while others do not meet the prescribed qualification criteria.
And so what does the delay mean for Kenya? The roll out of the WHS was envisaged to run gradually over a period of 12 months. According to The R&A and USGA, more than 60 countries have already implemented WHS. In Africa, countries within the southern region notably South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are already playing under the standardized system. The quick rollout of the system in southern Africa has been attributed to a large pool of experts in South Africa who extended their services to neighbouring countries.
Though still optimistic of meeting the December 2020 deadline, KGU cites the comparatively high number of courses in Kenya as a challenge that has caused the Course Rating team sleepless nights. “It takes three to four hours and four to six hours to cover a nine and 18-hole course respectively. We are determined to meet the December cut-off date since failure to achieve this critical requirement will mean that handicaps for golfers in Kenya will not be portable come 2021! We don’t want to be caught up in such an awkward situation,” Wang’ombe assured.