World Handicap System UK: Will My Handicap Go Up?

World Handicap System UK
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

World Handicap System UK: It’s being launched in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on 2nd November. How will it affect you?

World Handicap System UK: Will My Handicap Go Up?

Will your handicap go up on 2nd November when the World Handicap System UK is implemented? The answer to that question is not straightforward – It depends on a few key factors.

Here below we summarise what those key factors are.

If you have a current CONGU handicap, you won’t need to do anything to obtain a new World Handicap System (WHS) handicap on 2nd November.

WHS software will provide your new “Handicap Index” by calculating the average of the best eight scores from your last 20 counting rounds.

When a new counting 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.

Maximum Handicap Index is 54 and a player must be a member of a club to obtain one.

If you are new to golf or don’t have a handicap at this stage, you 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.

How have you been playing?

If you have a CONGU handicap currently, the key thing that will determine your new WHS handicap is how well you have played recently – in your last 20 rounds.

If you’ve been playing poorly over your last 20 counting rounds, then you may find your initial Handicap Index is higher than your current CONGU handicap.

If you’ve failed to play to your handicap in your last 20 outings, then it will likely go up to reflect that.

If you’ve had a particularly good season and your handicap has been coming down, it’s possible that your handicap may come down further when the average of your best eight returned scores is calculated to give a Handicap Index.

But that's not all...

Other factors could determine whether your handicap moves.

Under the new system two calculations are made in terms of rating the difficulty of a golf course – 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.

At a course where all players compete from their Handicap Index, Slope Rating is 113.

It’s possible that your course may be rated slightly differently under the new system and that could affect your Handicap Index.

If your last 20 counting rounds have been played on a number of different courses, the ratings of those courses will play a part in determining your Handicap Index.

It depends where you play

When you travel to another course with either a relatively high or low Slope Rating, your Course Handicap will go up or down accordingly.

Every club should have clear signage displaying Course and Slope Rating for every set of tees.

A player will then cross reference their Handicap Index with the table to find what their Course Handicap will be.

You then go out and play to that number.

To calculate your Course Handicap yourself, find the Slope Rating of the course and divide by 113, then multiply that by your Handicap Index.

Your Course Handicap will go up if you travel to play at a particularly difficult course and come down if you go to play at a particularly easy one.

Soft and Hard Caps

There will be caps in place – soft and hard based on a player’s lowest Handicap Index in a one-year period to make sure your handicap does not go up massively if you’re playing a lot of (poor) golf.

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.)

In summary

Will, then, your handicap go up when the World Handicap System kicks in?

It will depend on your recent play, the difficulty of the courses you have played recently and the difficulty of courses you play in the future.

You can find further details at the England Golf website.

The websites of Scottish Golf and Wales Golf also contain useful information and guidance.

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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?