With the implementation of the World Handicap System, we answer the question – how is a golf handicap calculated?

How Is A Golf Handicap Calculated?

With the adoption of the World Handicap System, (WHS) all golfers across the globe will be using the same handicapping system.

But under the new WHS, how is a golf handicap calculated?

WHS calculates handicap by taking an average of the best eight of a player’s 20 most recent scores to give a “Handicap Index.”

When a new score is submitted, the Handicap Index is automatically recalculated and updated at the end of the day’s play, ready for use the following day.

Players new to golf or looking to obtain a first handicap will need to submit scorecards amounting to 54 holes.

From those, an initial Handicap Index will be provided.

This will be altered when 20 scores have been submitted to deliver a fully developed Handicap Index.

The Handicap Index, in conjunction with the difficulty of a course, gives a player their Course Handicap.

Related: What is the maximum golf handicap?

Two calculations are made – Course Rating and Bogey Rating.

Course Rating is how many strokes a scratch golfer (someone with a Course Handicap of 0) should take on that course.

Bogey Rating measures playing difficulty for a bogey golfer (someone with a handicap of roughly 20 for a man and 24 for a women).

Knowing these two ratings allows WHS to determine the difficulty of the course and to produce a Slope Rating for each set of tees which allows all golfers to work out how many strokes they will receive on a particular course – Course Handicap.

When submitting new scores, playing conditions are taken into consideration.

The system includes a “Playing Conditions Calculation” that looks at how all players who have entered a score on a course have performed on that day, compared to their expected performance.

At the end of each day’s play a Playing Conditions Calculation will be made by the system.

Related: Golf scorecard rules explained

To prevent wild swings in handicap, the WHS provides caps – soft and hard – based on a player’s lowest Handicap Index in a one-year period.

If a player’s handicap goes three shots above the low index, further rises are reduced by 50%. (Soft cap.)

If a player’s handicap moves 5.0 strokes above the low index in a 12-month period, it cannot rise any further. (Hard cap.)

The system will calculate a player’s exact Handicap Index to one decimal place although actual Course Handicap will be a whole number rounded up or down.

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