WHS: Is My New Handicap Right For Me?

Is it a fair reflection and will it help or hinder in competition?

Is my new handicap right?
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Fergus Bisset considers his recent play and new projected WHS handicap and asks, is it a fair reflection and will it help or hinder his competitive chances?

WHS: Is My New Handicap Right For Me?

I’ve been thinking and writing about the implementation of the World Handicap System (WHS) for quite some time and, as a pretty avid and frequent golfer, I’ve been interested to see what will happen to my handicap and to my competitive playing experiences.

I play off two under the current system and have had a decent year in 2020.

Recent play

I’ve come down from three (2.7) to two and have spent this season between 1.8 and 2.4 (where I am now.)

I’ve played 33 counting rounds this year, with an average score of 71.1 – that’s 2.1 over-par at my home course Banchory.

I’ve played to or beaten my handicap in 24 of the 33 rounds I’ve completed which I think displays a pretty decent level of consistency and I’ve won a few weekly comps along the way.

I actually think that ending the year only 0.3 lower than where I started isn’t really a fair reflection of how I’ve performed.

For getting your handicap down, the old system definitely rewarded occasional wonder scores above consistency.

You could play 10 rounds in a row with eight to handicap, one a shot below and one a shot above and remain static.

But, if you had two rounds of six-under and eight total blow outs, you would knock off 0.4.

As someone keen to see my handicap as low as it can be, I never thought that to be very fair.

Going forward

Those who score consistently will, generally, see their handicaps come down with the WHS.

My projected WHS Handicap Index is 0.7.

The Slope Rating at Banchory is 126 so that means my Course Handicap would be 0.8, rounded to one.

That might not seem a huge difference but it’s actually cutting my current handicap in half.

Is that right for me?

The Course Rating at Banchory is 68.3 so, playing off one, I should be scoring 69... I’ve managed that eight times this year (out of the 33 counting rounds).

But I’ve only had seven rounds of worse than 72 so I think that, yes, a one handicap is pretty much a fair reflection of my golf at the moment so I think it is about right for me.

Question one of "is my new handicap right for me?" answered - I think I can just about play to my new WHS handicap.

Competitive chances

In terms of helping or hindering my competitive chances, I have to say, I don’t think I’ll be winning too much at my club from now on.

Not only will I have higher nett scores, (by a shot) but I also think the less consistent golfers will be in a far stronger position to scoop the handicap trophies.

Under the WHS, erratic golfers may well find their handicap going up.

Those who have the occasional belting round, surrounded by a load of old dross will not be cut dramatically as per the old system described above.

Say a player’s best eight scores from the last 20 was one score differential of -3 and seven averaged out to +7, their handicap index would be 5.75, playing to six.

But they’re capable of a gross score nine better than that. Take off the six, that would be nine-under nett - OK, an exceptional score reduction could then be triggered, but the comp would already be won!

To me, those are the type of players who will be winning most club events from now on.

The consistent golfers won’t have a hope – their Playing Handicap in competitions is going to be too low to take on those capable of occasional good scoring.

Each week, there will be at least one erratic golfer who has that, once in every 20, blinder.

Add in the fact that the maximum handicap is now 54 and there could be improving golfers throwing in eye wateringly low nett totals and I think we could be seeing a changing of the guard at the annual prize-giving at clubs up and down the country.

Perhaps clubs will have to look towards more competitions that reward consistency - best 10 rounds of the year, or such like.

In summary

Overall, I’m pleased that I’m likely to be able to say that I play off a one handicap, and I think, with a good stretch, I’ll probably get to scratch - OK, not the same as old scratch, but still. I think though, given recent consistency my new handicap is right for me.

But I don't think it will benefit me in handicap competitions – I can't see myself having much of a chance in the club Medal and I probably won’t get too far in handicap knockout events either.

I might be proven wrong and I’ll provide updates when club comps restart next season.

For now, I’ll bask in the somewhat hazy glory of having the lowest handicap of my golfing career before the reality bites that, although I can just about play to it, my days of picking up club silverware may be numbered.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?