Since the World Handicap System, does CONGU still exist?

Since the World Handicap System, does CONGU still exist?

Just to let you know what the position is with CONGU, now that the World Handicap System is in place.

The answer is yes, CONGU still exists but not in its previous format.

Originally formed on 14th February 1924 and known as The British Golf Unions Joint Advisory Committee, on 21st March 1960 the Committee’s name was changed to the Council of National Golf Unions (“CONGU”) comprising representatives of The English Golf Union, The Golfing Union of Ireland, The Scottish Golf Union, The Welsh Golfing Union and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Since that day CONGU has always maintained the Handicapping System in GB&I

The position with CONGU in 2022 is that following the introduction of the World Handicap System, which passes all maintenance of Handicapping to National Organisations, there is no longer a handicapping system that CONGU needs to support, so, as a handicapping system maintaining body, it no longer exists. 

However, because CONGU has signed the World Handicap System licence, on behalf of the home unions, and then delegates the authority to those home unions, those representing the home unions on the board of CONGU are now simply those employed by the home unions and there are no longer any formal committees (e.g., the Technical Committee which previously maintained the system and Website).

Strictly speaking, therefore, it does still exist, but the CONGU Website is now just a single page showing links to the four home unions and the R&A.

One thing I will point out is that all the resources that were previously on the CONGU Website are no longer available there.  Those documents should now be available on each of the home union Websites (e.g., the Mixed Tee Calculator, which is now certainly on the England Golf Website as I have checked that out).

England Golf have given an assurance that all the other relevant documents will also become available in the very near future (if not already). I can’t make any comment about the other three unions, although I have been assured that Scotland will publish most of those documents where there are variations because of their decision to use the exact Course Handicap in all Handicap calculations.

England, Wales and Ireland opted for the simpler approach, for players at least, to use the rounded Course Handicap (as that is what the player can easily determine by looking at the handicap boards which are displayed at her/his Golf Club).

Enjoy your golf


CONGU – Returning of Acceptable Scores – Update 17 July 2021

As our Governments reduce or repeal COVID restrictions, the advice from the Home Unions is changing in response.

The current advice is to remove situations where the touching of course furniture or score cards is not permitted, along with rule adjustments to accommodate this.

The new advice, as restrictions are lifted, is to once again allow those touchpoints – flagsticks may be touched/removed, bunker rakes are to be allowed and score cards can be exchanged once more. Accordingly, as each Home Union provides this updated advice, all adjustments to the rules (as set out on Page 2 onwards) are rescinded and play will be according to the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping.

The updated advice on returning acceptable scores is shown below:

You can download a copy of the document by clicking on the download button below:

Enjoy your golf


Tee Time Booking Systems – Guidance for clubs following the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

England Golf has issued guidance for clubs on the benefits of tee time booking following the lifting of restrictions as of 19 July 2021.

Within its document, other examples are also provided for clubs who wish to maintain roll-ups. Read more:

If you wish to download a personal copy, please click on the download button below:

A Framework for Playing Golf – Updated for 19 July 2021

Looks like the time you have all been waiting for is about to happen on Monday 19 July 2021.

Following the government’s planned removal of national COVID-19 restrictions, and subject to any further changes, England Golf’s current ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ guidance will be updated from 19 July.

It looks as if we can return to playing golf as we did pre-COVID, even to removing Flagsticks for those who have been frustrated by having no choice but to leave the flagstick in and enjoy the social side, again, at the same time.

Beware, however, that the CONGU rule changes during COVID-19, such as not raking bunkers, modified holes or preferred lies within bunkers, will no longer be in operation post 19 July 2021.

For more information read the document below:

If you wish to download a personal copy of the Framework, please click on the Download button below:

Enjoy getting back to playing golf as we know it, but be vigilant and still Stay Safe and Play Safe.

England Golf – Update on Independent Golfers 3 July 2021

England Golf – Update on Independent Golfers 3 July 2021

Probably more for information than for anything else, but relevant to any of you are not members of any golf, yet.

The move to offer golfers in England, who are not members of Golf Clubs, official World Handicap System Handicap Indexes moves ever closer.

England Golf, in a recent update to Independent Golfers, is inviting players to pre-register for its digital platform offering World Handicap System indexes to non-club members.

This new digital community, which will offer official handicaps to non-club members, has opened for pre-registration.

England Golf is appealing to players to become one of the first subscribers to iGolf, which it calls a “historic progression for the amateur game in England”.

Branded as England Golf’s official digital community, it will give players the chance to receive an official WHS handicap index and personal liability insurance while connecting players who are not members of clubs across the country.

The scheme, which is expected to launch officially later this month, will cost subscribers £40 per year and follows the launch in Scotland of OpenPlay, the first scheme for independent golfers in the UK.

Wales and Ireland are expected to follow with similar initiatives in the coming months.

Independent golfer programmes have attracted much controversy but are a key feature of the R&A and USGA’s plans, following the launch of the World Handicap System, to make golf as inclusive as possible.

England Golf has projected that at least 25,000 golfers could sign up to the scheme within the first 12 months of its launch with 125,000 within five years.

That could bring in as much as £5 million to the organisation, with costs estimated at about £2 million. England Golf has pledged that they will shoulder the running costs and any surplus made would be reinvested back into golf.

Last month, Richard Flint, the England Golf’s chief operating officer, said clubs should back themselves and not worry about the independent golfer scheme as some concerns have persisted about whether it would provide a pathway or entice people to leave club membership.

He said that giving nomadic players an official handicap was “not competing with club membership” and asked whether handing non-club members a World Handicap System index was taking away a reason to be a member – harming both recruitment and retention – Flint said: “Handicap isn’t the biggest driver of why individuals join a golf club”.

To find out more about iGolf, and to pre-register an interest in joining the scheme, visit England Golf’s iGolf website.

England Golf Covid-19 Play Safe, Stay Safe – Update 15 June 2021

In light of the prime minister’s latest update on national COVID-19 restrictions, England Golf has confirmed that the current ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ guidance will remain unchanged.

They will continue to work with golf industry colleagues and liaise with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as they look towards 19 July 2021– the next projected date on the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

England Golf sincerely hope that from 19 July 2021 it will be possible to withdraw all ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ frameworks – including the restrictions on the removal of flagsticks, use of rakes and pre-booking of tee times – as clubs return to their own pre-pandemic protocols.

Update to CONGU Mixed Tee Handicap Calculator – Version 1.10

New Release of CONGU Mixed Tee Handicap Calculator


CONGU have just released an updated version 1.10 of CONGU Mixed Tee Handicap Calculator, which corrects an error noted for 9-hole individual match play.

Please click on the Button below to download a copy:

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball, covers when and how a player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

Many players assume that they must take Free Relief under a Rule that offers it as an option or take Free Relief because it is offered.

However, there are occasions when a player decides against taking Free Relief because a Nearest Point of Complete Relief may place her/his ball in an unfavourable lie, and so s/he opts to play the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to play her/his ball as it lies if they so wish.

There may also be occasions when Free Relief may not be allowed, and these are outlined under Rule 16.1a(3) – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball.

There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The diagram below illustrates a typical instance when Free Relief would not be allowed.

Diagram Showiing Relief Options for Ball Unplayable in General Area with Temporary Water

Diagram illustrating that Free Relief is not a right and may not be an option.
This diagram assumes that you are Right-handed.

You discover that your ball is lying in the middle of a bush.

To play a stroke at the ball you find that you will be standing in Temporary Water and decide to take Free Relief under Rule 16, Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions etc.

Unfortunately, because of the lie of the ball, it is not possible for you to play a normal stroke at the ball, even if the Temporary Water was not there; you must be able to play a normal stroke at your ball.

To claim Free Relief under a Rule of Golf that offers it as an option you must, in the first instance, be able to play a normal stroke at your ball. So, in these circumstances, you are not allowed to take Free Relief from the Temporary Water and your only course of action is to declare that your ball, in the bush, is unplayable. (See Rule 19) You now have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke:

1. You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).

2. You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

3. You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, including the Temporary Water. If you decide to, and can drop your ball in the Temporary Water, you may then get Free Relief from the Temporary Water under Rule 16, remembering to still include your one penalty stroke for the initial Unplayable Ball.

England Golf Independent Golfers – Update 25 May 2021

England Golf Independent Golfers – Update 25 May 2021

The latest update from England Golf states that they have finalised their offer to Independent golfers (non-members of golf clubs) of the opportunity to join a new digital community of golfers aligned to England Golf. This means:

Firstly, the scheme will be open to all golfers, with a home address in England, regardless of age.

Any golfer who has left a golf club within the last six months will not be eligible to join.

However, once outside this six-month period, any lapsed golf club members may be allocated a handicap index based on scores in the system dating back to January 2018.

The provisional launch date and opening for registration is early July.

Secondly, following online registration for an annual subscription of £40, golfers will receive:

  • A World Handicap System handicap index
  • Personal liability insurance
  • Access to the ‘My England Golf’ app to post scores, track progress and engage with friends.

Thirdly, Independent Golfers will not be allowed to compete in County and National events, these remaining open to golf club members only.

If clubs wish to create an independent golfer-only competition or, alternatively, integrate them into some or all the existing club competitions; this would be at their discretion.

Fourthly, England Golf will carry out all administration duties so there will not be any extra work for clubs or counties.

They will ensure that the integrity of the handicap system will be maintained through a robust system of checks and balances. These include:

  • Processes on the app
  • Setting up of a national independent golfer handicap committee
  • Educating on rules of handicapping, rules of golf and etiquette
  • Opportunity for peer review

Fifthly, for any clubs which choose to actively engage with Independent Golfers who have joined the scheme, a process will be put in place for them to notify England Golf of opportunities they wish to promote to these golfers. This may, for example, include the following:

  • Green fee promotions
  • Competition and event entry, or
  • Club membership offers.

England Golf will communicate directly with golfers interested in exploring these offers and provide a platform to share details.

Further guidance will follow around what this could mean for clubs, points to consider and how the programme will work.

Sixthly, England Golf have said that any surplus revenue generated from this scheme will be re-invested back into our game and the areas of investment may include:

  • Special projects funding for golf clubs
  • Women and girls’ participation
  • Junior development
  • Support for disability and minority groups

Lastly, England Golf will publish further updates during June 2021.

You can read a full version of this update by Clicking Here or download a full copy of this update by clicking on the Download Button below:

You can also keep in touch with any new updates by following them on:

England Golf Independent Golfers – Updates

Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief – Not Nicest

Hope you all are enjoying your golf and feeling that there is some return to normality, especially as many Clubs are beginning to run competitions.

With the return to golf, there have been more questions flowing in, a majority, as expected, are concerning the WHS but questions related to the Rules of Golf are also appearing.

A recent query concerned a ball that lay on a Cart Path (An Abnormal Course Condition), the player realised that the only free relief placed his ball in the middle of a bush. He wondered whether free relief was or could he take relief under the Unplayable Ball Rule instead.

This is not an uncommon situation and one that you could find yourself in on several occasions during your rounds of golf.

The straight answer is yes he  could; a player may declare a Ball Unplayable anywhere on the course provided her/his ball is not in a penalty area, for 1 penalty stroke.

Before you take this decision you need to look closely at the situation and your options.

  1. If you take an unplayable immediately, where will your ball lie.
  2. May it be better to take the relief first and then declare your ball unplayable, this may allow you to drop your ball in a better position.
  3. There is always the option to take stroke and distance and play a ball from the place where you played the last shot.

The diagram below gives you an idea of how to assess the Nearest Point of Complete Relief from an Abnormal Course Condition using relief from a Cart Path as an example.

Diagram of Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief
The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1, and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the ACC.

But what if you are physically unable to determine the NPCR because of, for example, the trunk of a tree, a boundary fence, or a boundary wall?

The diagram below illustrates the point where a right-handed player may be unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate the point under Rule 16. Also see the Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed.
B1 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P1 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S1 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P1 – results in player’s stance being out of bounds
B2 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P2 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S2 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P2 – unable to take stance because of Boundary Wall
B3 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P3 = Nearest point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S3 = Notional Stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief At P3 – Unable to take this stance because of tree trunk

Another situation is shown below when your ball lies close to a cart path. There is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green, but you cannot play towards the green from where your ball lies because of intervention by the tree.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. At point A there is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green. However, the player cannot play towards the green from point A because of intervention by the tree. Her/his only reasonable stroke is sideways to the fairway but her/his stance for such a stroke would be on the cart path.
As a result of the tree, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 16 for the sideways stroke since this is not an unnecessarily abnormal direction of play and his NPCR would be Point B. After the ball is dropped within 1 Club-length of point B (within the shaded area) and it comes to rest at point C, the player may then play in any direction s/he wishes.
Enjoy your golf, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like specific content to the My Golf website.

Best wishes