The World Handicap System  

Welcome to the World Handicapping System Information Page.

The World Handicap System launched on the 2nd  November 2020. It is designed to welcome more players, to make golf easier to understand and to give all golfers a handicap which is portable all around the world.

Overview of the new WHS

The WHS has been developed by The R&A and USGA in coordination with existing Handicap authorities, and is designed to:

  • Attract more players to the game
  • Make handicapping easier to understand
  • Allow golfers to use their Handicap Index on any course around the world

The WHS has also been created with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly, creating a more inclusive and equitable system for golfers worldwide.

How the WHS works. 

Firstly, the most important factor of the new system is Handicap Index, as the WHS is centred around calculating a player’s Handicap Index, which provides golfers with an accurate measurement of their golfing ability. 

The WHS has been created with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly, creating a more inclusive and equitable system for golfers worldwide. 

For golfers that play regularly, their Handicap Index will be generated by calculating an average of their best eight scores from their previous 20 rounds. For new, and more sporadic golfers, their Handicap Index will be calculated once scorecards of 54 holes (3x 18 holes, 6x 9 holes or any combination of 9 and 18 holes) have been submitted to their golf club’s Handicap Committee. After a player has achieved 20 scores, a ‘fully developed’ Handicap Index can be calculated to provide the most accurate representation of their ability. 

To ensure a player has only one Handicap Index, the golfer will nominate a home club. The home club is determined by the player, but for practicality it is recommended this is where the player typically submits the most of their scores. 

Course Rating

Golf Course Rating will be used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course. It measures how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on all rated golf courses) should take on any given course.

The rating does this by assessing two main types of challenges which, when combined, result in a common base from which to compare players’ abilities:

  • The playing length of the course
  • The obstacles that a player will encounter (e.g. size of green and hazards)

A Bogey Rating is the measure of playing difficulty from a set of tees when played by a Bogey Golfer (a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female).

Knowing the Course Rating and Bogey Rating allows the WHS to assess and rationalise the relationship between the two. From this, the difficulty of the course for all other levels of ability can be deduced. 

Click here for a link to an video about Course Rating and Slope Rating

Slope Rating.

Slope Rating is the number which indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers, compared to Scratch Golfers, and is the difficulty comparison between these golfers from the same set of tees. In simple terms, it is the combination of the Course Rating and the Bogey Rating, which allows us to calculate the Slope Rating of a set of tees. Please do refer back to last week’s newsletter for a reminder about Scratch & Bogey Golfers.

Bogey Rating - Course Rating x Factor = Slope Rating 

(in simple terms it is the combination of the Course Rating and the Bogey Rating, which allows England Golf to calculate the Slope Rating of a set of tees).

The use of Slope allows a player’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and country to country. It also enables acceptable scores from any rated golf course in the world to be submitted for a player’s handicap purposes.

Each set of tees will have a Slope Rating value between 55 and 155. Essentially, the higher the Slope Rating, the more additional strokes a Bogey Golfer will need to be able to play it. The lower the Slope Rating, the less strokes a Bogey Golfer will require.

The new WHS Handicap Index.

A player's Handicap Index will: 

  • Measure the ability of a player 
  • Be portable from course to course 
  • Allow players to complete fairly, therefore promote inclusivity within the game 

A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from a players last 20 rounds. As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to the most recent 20 scores. A player’s Handicap Index will update promptly overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and be ready before the next time they play.  

How to obtain a Handicap Index? 

Golfers with an existing handicap  as at November 2020 will have a Handicap Index generated based on their existing records. However, 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 their three rounds minus two strokes, and this will continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved. The maximum Handicap Index for any player is 54, and in order for players to obtain a recognised Handicap Index a player must be an affiliated member of a golf club. 

Click here for video from England Golf on Handicap Index

How to safeguard a Handicap Index?

With Handicap Index being calculated by working out an average of the best eight rounds from a player’s last 20, golfers might be apprehensive that the change in their Handicap Index may be volatile. However, through the implementation of a Soft Cap and Hard Cap, the WHS will limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period, therefore, protecting against handicap manipulation.

The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a three-stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index. For clarity in this instance, a Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index a player has had during the previous 12-month period.

The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement of five-strokes over the Low Handicap Index. Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index 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. It is important to note that caps will only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their record.

Click here to see a video about the Soft and Hard Cap 

What is a Playing Handicap?

Playing Handicap is a stroke allowance that a player will receive when playing in a competition with or against othr players.  It is important as it allows for a level playing field that will promote both enjoyment and inclusivity

It is the actual number of strokes you receive or give during a round and is the number used for the purposes of the game or competition.

How is a Playing Handicap calculated?

Your Playing Handicap is calculated by mutiplyng your Course Handicap by your Handicap Allowance = Playing Handicap

For example:  In an individual stableford you will get 95% of your Course Handicap as your Playing Handicap

In a 4BBB Stableford competition you will get 85% of your Course Handicap as your Playing Handicap

A list of allowances for each type of competition will be shown on the players notice boards in the changing rooms

Definitions of key terms for WHS 

Click here for link to the England Golf Golfer's Toolkit - November 2020

Other useful links and information

Click here for England Golf Golfer Education Hub 

Click here to view the Marlborough Golf Club  Slope Card

Click here for a link  to frequently asked questions with answers about WHS

For links to further information and videos please see the following:-

Click here for other videos from England Golf which give more information on WHS

For other information from England Golf click here

For link to the WHS website click here

For link to the R&A website click here