Currently there are six different handicap systems used by over 15 million golfers in more than 80 countries. The NEW World Handicap System starts being used in England on 2nd Nov and will replace all the others. The main aim is to make the handicap system more inclusive & accessible to all golfers. It will incorporate the existing handicapping rules and the course rating system.

Below we have some Q & A’s re the new system, but it will include:

  • Minimum number of scores to obtain a handicap
  • Course rating and slope rating
  • Maximum handicap of 54
  • Handicaps will be calculated from an average of recent scores
  • Competitive and recreational scores will count for handicap
  • Abnormal course and weather condition adjustments

The new system was created to:

  • Allow golfers to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index
  • Allow golfers to use their Handicap Index from course to course
  • Allow golfers to compete or play recreationally
  • Unify the previous six different handicapping systems

How does the New World Handicap System work?
Golfers will need to maintain a Handicap Index. Any golfer with a current CONGU handicap will be given a World Handicap System Index on 2 Nov 2020. For new golfers they will have to submit scorecards of 54 holes (3x 18 holes) to their Golf Club’s handicap committee.

What are the course and slope ratings?

Course rating-The course rating measures the difficulty of playing the course. It measures how many strokes a scratch golfer (handicap 0) should take on a given course by assessing the following challenges:

  • Playing length of the course, measured hole by hole which due to features such as dog legs, ponds etc is different from the measured length of a hole
  • Obstacles that a player will encounter-trees, slopes, rough

Then it will measure how many strokes a player with a handicap of 18-24 will take to play the course. They won’t hit the ball as far as a scratch golfer so will encounter different obstacles resulting in a different number of strokes being taken.

Having the knowledge of how many strokes it will take both a scratch and bogey golfer to play the course gives two reference points and enables the slope to be determined.

Slope rating-This is key when calculating the number of strokes each player receives to play a particular course. It allows:

  • A player’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and country to country.
  • Acceptable scores from any rated golf course in the world to be submitted on a consistent basis for handicap purposes.
  • The slope index has an average value of 113, determined when first calculated in the US this has become the accepted average slope value for the WHS system.
  • This means 113 is the slope value at which players play from their handicap index with no slope rating adjustment required. Slope rating values can vary from a low of 55 to a high of 155.
  • A higher slope rating than 113 means more additional strokes will be needed to play a course. A lower slope rating means fewer strokes will be required.
  • So, the course handicap for a player is determined by the course rating adjusted by the slope rating for their handicap index.

What is a Handicap Index?

  • Measures the ability of a player
  • Is portable from course to course
  • Enables players to compete fairly and therefore promotes inclusivity within the game
  • It is calculated from the best 8 scores from the last 20 rounds.

As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to use the 20 most recent scores. It will update overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and should be ready before you next play.

How to obtain a Handicap Index?

When the new system comes into play in England most golfers will have a Handicap Index automatically generated based on their existing records.
If fewer than 20 scores are available to calculate a Handicap Index, a sliding scale is used.
For new golfers to gain their Handicap Index, they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes).

Initially, their Handicap Index will be the lowest of the three rounds minus two strokes, this will continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved.

Handicap Index safeguards

To stabilise or safeguard your Handicap Index some controls have been built-in:

  • A Soft Cap and Hard Cap limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period.
  • Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index to no more than 5 shots above the low point will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability.
  • Caps only start to take effect once a player has 20 acceptable scores in their record.

For multi-round golf events such as a club championship, will I use my initial handicap index for each round?

The World Handicap System recommends that the handicap index at the start of the competition is used for each round of the event. However, this must be stated in the terms of competition, and your committee will have the final say.