The Independent Golfer

This page is designed to provide our affiliated golf clubs with information regarding the progress of plans for our National Governing Body, 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 may 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. TIn our region we have 2 representatives on the working group, Thomas Tulk of Somerset and Yvonne Alford of Devon. Meetings will be taking place over the coming weeks and months, and England Golf have committed to provide all clubs with updates on the progress of the project and an opportunity to raise questions and provide feedback. Updates will appear in the sidebar to this page.

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.