Ins & Outs: World Handicap System

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Ins & Outs: World Handicap System

The game of golf has a single set of rules and equipment regulations that all players are to abide by. Yet as we stand today, there are 6 different handicap systems used around the world. Each system is somewhat successful and does the job for the most part, but if you used each system to calculate your own handicap, you would get 6 different results. So much for the one thing we all strive to achieve within our own game……consistency. The all new World Handicap System is designed to iron out all inconsistencies, and take into consideration not only where you play, but how often you play. 

If you’re a golfer, chances are the following scenario has happened to you, no matter what side of it you were on. You’re a good player carrying a scratch handicap, a zero, big fat goose-egg. Yes you have some talent, but you worked your butt off to achieve that zero. Lessons, videos, range buckets in the rain, etc. For whatever reason, whether it’s your weekly league or a match-play bracket at the club, you have had to play against someone with a 10 handicap. A 10 is a pretty decent player, and a dangerous one. If they played more they could probably be in the single-digits in no time. You’ve seen them shoot 74 and you’ve seen them shoot 86. But maybe they don’t want to be a 6 or 7 handicap. They like that 10. There’s no pressure with that 10. It bumps them into the 2nd flight at club championship. And if they play well and throw up a 76 at you, you need to shoot 66 just to tie them or your cash leaves your wallet and jumps into there’s.

Now as a scratch player you have shot 66 before, sure. But not often. You can probably count the times on one hand. That’s 6 under par if the par is 72. But your average score is 74, and that happens to be the USGA course rating at your home course. So voila’, that’s where your zero comes from. The USGA handicap system was developed as a way to even the playing field, but it has been flawed for years. The rules set in place are often overlooked, and if they were policed, is still not a perfect method. In 2020, the WHS (World Handicap System) will be unveiled and be the game’s first unified global handicapping system, and it plans to be more inclusive. The new system was developed in partnership with the USGA and Europe’s golf governing body, the R & A. It will launch in most countries in January, but the system will go live in some other parts of the world throughout the year based on their golf season calendars, and to give time to implement any changes. I’m here to break it down for you and give you the 411 on the plans and changes. 

  • Players will have an established handicap index after as little as 3 scores posted.
  • A player’s index will be calculated by taking the 8 best scores out of their 20 most recent scores.
  • The maximum score per hole for handicap purposes will be net double bogey.
  • A player’s index will update a day after a score is posted. This means no more revision schedule and real time, live, updated indexes. 
  • There will now be a calculation taking playing conditions into consideration, which will identify inclement weather or course conditions.
  • Safeguards will be put into place to limit the extreme increase of an index and reduce it when a low score is posted. 

If you already have an established USGA handicap from 2019, this will be taken into consideration when calculating your new index when the WHS goes live. If you have a lot of scores posted, you may not see much of a change to your number during the transition. 

A survey outlining the new system was sent to golf course administrators and professionals all over the world, and the positive response was overwhelming. Of the 56,000 people within the industry that were polled, 76% were positive, 22% undecided, and only 2% opposed the new system. Focus groups were held in the U.S, Europe, and South America. There have been education seminars being held all year among the different PGA Sections and National Golf Associations to ensure that employees and pros are taking back the correct information to their clubs and tournament committees. 

For additional info, you can check out or the website of your local National Golf Association. 

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Written by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Designed and Published by Craig Walton

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