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*Members of the Spanish Point Pierce Purcell team. Photograph: Golffile. 

Spanish Point Golf Club have defended the handicap system in place for its members.

In the middle of June, Spanish Point Golf Club claimed their third Pierce Purcell Shield since 2013. The format for the competition is five teams of foursomes playing of a combined handicap of 27 and the minimum handicap being 12. The competition is named after a man regarded as one of the great golfing administrators in the country from 1920 to 1950.

When it came to their 2021 final, Spanish Point were clear cut 4-1 winners over Dunmurry on the links terrain of Donegal Golf Club on the Murvagh Peninsula.

Criticism was aimed in the direction of the Clare club in the aftermath of their success. The Irish Golfer Podcast labelled the scores achieved by Spanish Point as “wild”, “the handicaps are all over the shop”. Of the three titles in recent years, the presenters stated, “all things being right that should not happen” and continued, “(there is) something absolutely dodge about handicaps, it is not right”. As the discussion progressed, it was affirmed that Spanish Point were strong enough to play in higher competitions, “It is a good win for them but it is tarnished for them when they get scores like that.

Further views online from golfers across the country heard views that half of Spanish Point’s team were capable of playing off single figures while one individual remarked, “this club is an embarrassment to the game of golf”.

Team member, Seamus McMahon said the comments were “disappointing”. He told The Clare Echo, “The win was a phenomenal success for Spanish Point Golf Club, it was a hugely positive experience for the club. The commentary has been in relation to the final which was the biggest win of the year, throughout the year there has been some titanic battles all year not least the Munster Final which was so close that the final match went to six extra holes and had to be played over two days, there was very little between some of the teams, a bounce of the ball here or there decided some of the matches. If you looked at the final and the results of the final on paper, it wasn’t a true reflection of how close it was throughout the year and also in the final you had a links team playing links golf on a links course in windy conditions against a team that were from a parkland course which was a big advantage”.

Club secretary Noel Connellan when it was put to him by The Clare Echo that winning three Pierce Purcell titles in seven years was unheard of, responded, “You could say it is unheard of but Spanish Point have proved it can be done and they have done it, the first time they won it was a fantastic achievement, they tried for many years to do it and failed, the second year they knew what to do and did it, it wasn’t going to a course and playing a practice round, the lads went to the course and played it five or six times so they would know every part of the course which gave them a great edge going forward. If you put in the effort, you will get the result and Spanish Point put in the effort”.

He added, “To win an All-Ireland is the greatest accolade you can hang in the club, an All-Ireland is unreal, Munster titles are great but to be in an All-Ireland is a huge achievement but to win it three times is unreal”.

PRO and committee member of Spanish Point Golf Club, Mervin Hehir was unsure how many members of the team kept the same handicap in recent years. “I don’t know how many members of the team have kept the same handicap, the team from 2014 there was only three starters from that team on the 2020 team. There was a whole new panel there, there was an awful lot of young lads part of the 2020 team playing Pierce Purcell for the first time”.

McMahon added, “It is not the same ten people that have played, some lads handicaps will vary throughout competitions and there will be adjustments made based on success, either individual success or team success, handicaps will be adjusted based on that, those adjustments will all be made in conjunction with the Munster Golf and match handicap authorities, they will be reviewed and come under scrutiny with the authority for handicaping, those reviews are ongoing the whole time and will be constantly audited the whole time in relation to the handicaps”.

Secretary Connellan admitted that handicaps of members did increase when they joined the club but it was flagged that this was not used for any qualifying system last year. “That only happened because the World Handicap System came into place in January. The person is a member that came from Dromoland, he was 12.4 and his handicap went to 13.6, because he submitted about 30 cards in Dromoland when he joined Spanish Point his handicap was adjusted accordingly, that has happened to everyone else all over the country. There was no adjustment made but the World Handicap System changed it slightly”.

Presently there are 650 members in the club, Hehir said they were ambitious enough to try progress past the Pierce Purcell. “The next category up from Pierce Purcell is Jimmy Bruen, of course we have aspirations to go up higher, when we won the All-Irelands in 2013 and 2014, we did have a Jimmy Bruen time and were in a Munster semi-final for it in 2014 and the final for 2015 but we never got over the line in that competition because the standard was just too good and we’ve always tried to enter a Jimmy Bruen team and win it but it has never happened, we will continue to try and win a Jimmy Bruen”.

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