Golf News for Monday, October 14, 2013 | Growth Of The Game

Indian Golf Union announces launching National Handicapping Service

NEW DELHI -- The Indian Golf Union announced that they will launch the landmark National Handicapping Service (NHS) on November 3rd 2013 which will bring Indian golfers on par with their counterparts in other major golfing nations by issuing all golfers in India with a globally recognised NHS handicap card. The Handicap card will be based on the United States Golf Association's GHIN (Golf Handicap and Information Network) software, which is used in over 60 countries around the world.

The IGU explained that golf handicap ratings are a unique and universally accepted feature of the game of golf, which allow golfers of varying abilities and playing at various clubs around the world to compete on an equitable basis, on any golf course and in any competition format. Such handicap ratings are maintained by the national governing body of the sport in all other countries including neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia etc besides the more developed nations such as USA, UK, Australia, South Africa and others. Handicap ratings of individual golfers are maintained all over the world by the national governing body of the sport in that country based on a uniform software and rules while in India, individual clubs have been using inconsistent and arbitrary rules so far.

Also, till now only players who were able to gain membership of golf clubs were able to obtain a handicap. Raian Irani, Vice President, IGU sent his statement saying "In addition to providing a fair and consistent handicap to players, the IGU's NHS is set to change the growth scenario of golf in India as golfers of any age and ability will be able to register to get a handicap rating from the IGU without being a member of any golf club. Allowing more and more of the public to learn, enjoy and compete at the grassroots level which will lead to the number of golfers increasing manifold over the next few years." He also added that much has gone into implementing this IGU initiative. As a first step, the USGA was roped in to train a team of golf course raters who then went about slope rating courses across the country. The benefits of a USGA handicap system are accrued only when courses are rated and having now done so we are in a position to roll out the NHS. The service, using the latest technology, will reflect a player's true handicap irrespective of where they play and will be a boon for those who compete in tournaments in India and abroad or are avid golf tourists.

Florida-based Arjun Atwal, former Asian Tour No. 1 and with 9 international titles to his credit including the only USPGA Tour title won by an Indian professional till date, attended the conference & said, "This is great news for golf fans in this country. It is a wonderful development in the history of Indian golf and a great initiative by the Indian Golf Union. NHS will open the doors of golf for people who always imagine themselves walking the greens without worrying about the difficulty of obtaining a membership of any golf course. There is no secret that in countries, who are turning out top class young players, they have a large base of players to find talent within - I hope that the NHS will enable more talent to emerge in the future."

Maj Gen Abhi Parmar, Director General, IGU, said "With golf becoming an Olympic Sport from 2016 onwards, countries around the world are stepping up initiatives to grow the game in their countries and discover new talent. In India also, to keep up with increasing levels of competition, we also have to expand the pool of dedicated youngsters from which Olympians of the future will emerge. The NHS will allow kids who aren't members of any club to obtain and maintain a recognised handicap issued by the Indian Golf Union, enter local junior tournaments, the IGU's regional sub junior and national junior boys and girls circuits. We are confident that the number of talented youngsters is set to explode in this country."

Non-members of golf clubs as well as Members will have to pay annual subscription fee to IGU to avail the handicapping services. The service of computing handicaps is provided by the United States Golf Association's (USGA) GHIN software which is used in over 60 countries today. A golfer will have to submit a minimum of five scores to establish a handicap index thereafter the handicap index will be updated every 15 days automatically based on scores submitted.

There are an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 golfers in India who will be eligible for the IGU's NHS and growth is estimated to be at 15 to 20% per annum.

Some of the key features of NHS which will improve on current services are that golfers can submit their scores online and check their scoring record on handheld devices, anywhere in the world. A player's IGU issued handicap can be verified instantly online by tournament organisers anywhere in the world putting Indian golfers on par with their counterparts in other countries.

Rishi Narain, former National Men's Champion and Asian Games Gold Medallist, who runs RN Golf Management, the country's leading golf marketing and management agency and the IGU's partner to launch and manage the NHS across India said, "This is a great privilege and responsibility for us. With the NHS, we look forward to making a really meaningful contribution to the development of the game in this country. Growth at the grassroots level of sport is really the key to any game and we hope that the growing pool of players who would like to play golf regularly will also spur usage of existing golf courses and encourage development of more public courses and driving ranges."

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TIlak Malaviya
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