Wednesday, November 25, 2009


E-mail from Steven Carmichael
(former Scotland amateur international)

Cameron Barrie is over-simplifying

the argument ...

Hi Colin,
Great debate as always on the site.
Could you perhaps explain to Mr Barrie the CSS system and how that alters handicaps. Someone shooting -3 to par every round would probably not play off +3 as an amateur but more like +5.
When only low handicappers play in tournaments the CSS invariably rises, giving a slightly skewed handicap when viewed to scores under par.
The SGU used to run a score average table over the year (don't know if they still do) and that was always interesting reading. The courses are also, by and large, tougher and longer for professional events and this makes it easy to criticise scores.
I think Mr Barrie over-simplifies the argument. With the economic benefit to the country of golf in having successful golfers, we should encourage and support our talented players as much as we can on the proviso that they give something back when they are successful.
This could be money or time, whatever is deemed appropriate. However, I agree with part of his point. In my eyes there has to be an element of "pain" financially on the side of the player. The rewards are so great that the chasing of such a dream should not be without risk. The age-old risk/reward thing.
I also think some of the guys now get things a bit easy, myself included when I was playing, and the expectation level rises to an unrealistic level. Sorry to use him as an example again as I am sure there are many more out there, but Chris Kelly is a good example.
He is fast becoming a "battle-hardened" player who is clearly better than some of the guys getting financial help but unless I'm mistaken or out of date he gets no help at all other than what he earns playing or can secure from sponsors.
Is it right that a guy like that gets left to fend for himself while younger guys get support when they don't have as much chance of success at this point in time as he does?
I'm all for supporting youth but support them because they are good enough, not simply because they are young.
Also, didn't a guy called Steve Govenlock start something like the Team Scotland idea years ago? I can't quite recall the details but it does ring a bell.
Steven Carmichael
Image above by Cal Carson Golf Agency about five years ago before Steven retired prematurely from tournament golf.

E-mail from Steven Robertson:

It's too easy to state our amateurs are simply not good enough

I would like to reply to the E-mail received from Cameron Barrie as part of the ongoing discussion on Martin Dempster's article, published in "The Scotsman" and reproduced on
My answer to Cameron Barrie's question: Why do amateurs with "plus" handicaps shoot level 4s when they compete in professional tournaments?
Consider that professional courses can be anywhere from 7,100-7,300yds whereas amateur courses (in Scotland at least) tend to be 6,700yds at the most. An extra 400yd, a reasonable par-4 on a tougher lay-out - several shots right away. An average 10-handicapper would shoot in the mid-90s from the Carnoustie or Royal Troon back tees.
It's too easy to state that amateurs are simply not good enough. I am 31, a +1 handicapper and in full time employment, and have been lucky to have played tournament golf with "top class amateurs" past and present, Young, Forsyth, Watson, Kelly, O'Hara, McNicol, Booth, Dear, Jamieson, Macauley, McEwan, McLean, etc and I can tell you from experience that top- class is exactly what these guys are!
Playing to that level requires maximum dedication and supreme talent. Working full time while maintaining that standard is impossible.
Scottish Golf has come under a lot of undue criticism lately. Andy Murray (whilst a pro) benefited from funding by the LTA and he is No 4 tennis player in the world. Chris Hoy is No 1 track cyclist in the world and has benefited from lottery funding over the years.
How many other world-class individual sportsmen does Scotland have?
Football and rugby have youth teams or apprenticeships where players are provided with training facilities and financial backing even if they don't play for the first team. In golf, perform or you don't get paid!
Scottish golfers, with the help of the SGU, have been punching above their weight for years! The only way of producing top-class professionals nowadays is to continue backing elite players with an infrastructure and finance whether they are top amateurs or fledgling pros.
Let's hope we find a system to facilitate this instead of bashing those who are trying their best.

Steven Robertson

E-mail from Brian Young:

If Tiger Woods had a handicap, he would probably be rated at +10!

You clearly are missing something, a basic understanding of the standard scratch system (SSS).
The SSS of a course gives the suggested score that a scratch player should be able to shoot on a reasonable day when the course is set up to a reasonable degree of difficulty. For example the St Andrews Old course has a SSS of 73 off the medal tees but this rises to 76 from the championship tees, which means a +4 player shooting four rounds of 72 would in effect be playing to his handicap.
For his handicap to remain the same over a four-round tournament he could, of course, shoot 69 (cut 0.3), 76, 75, 74 (up 0.3 over the last 3 rounds). So a +4 player could shoot six over par over the four rounds and his handicap does not change.
In professional events, courses are generally set up to a very tough standard with super tight pins, slick greens and deeper rough which would increase the competition scratrch score (CSS) if it was an amateur event.
For example on the last day of the Open the championship committee find some outrageously difficult pin placements and the pros can still make a mockery of them.
If you were to take a tour pro with an average score of level par his handicap would probably come out about +7 to +8 if calculated over a season. Tiger would probably come out with a handicap of +10.
If this sounds bizzare, a very good amateur receiving five strokes off Tiger would probably make for a very interesting game.
As most golfers know, it is possible to play 20 rounds a year and maintain your handicap with three or four good ones, 10 around the buffer and some very bad scores. It is no different for a +4 player.
As a scratch player myself I can see the massive difference between scratch and +3 or +4. The gap from there to tour pro is even bigger.
Brian Young

+++If you feel you have something new to contribute to the debate, you can E-mail your views to

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