Controversial World Handicap System Calculation Faces Overhaul

The Playing Conditions Calculation is being reviewed after complaints it’s too rigid

Close-up of a player marking a scorecard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most contentious elements of the World Handicap System could be overhauled. 

The Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC), which has been in effect since November 2020, takes into account the players’ performances on a given day compared to their expected performances. Once the day’s play is complete, the PCC examines whether “playing conditions on the day differed from normal conditions to the extent that an adjustment is needed to compensate.”

While that might sound reasonable in theory, in practice, many players have complained that the calculation is too rigid. Now, England Golf has released a statement saying the calculation is under review, it said: "The Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) is currently under review by the World Handicap Operations Committee following feedback from national governing bodies. Our experience is that while the calculation works, it is too static in certain situations which results in little or no movement in the PCC. We are hoping for an update shortly."

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England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, Gemma Hunter, went into further detail on the review during a recent webinar to a Golf Club Managers’ Association webinar. She said: “The PCC calculation is currently under review. It will still exist but the R&A and USGA are looking to scale the PCC to a level that is more reflective of the conditions people face and the scores being returned. The biggest challenge with this is to try and find something that is acceptable around the world because there is one single calculation.”

“We have looked at our data and we’ve identified that, around about 92 per cent of the time, the PCC remains at zero, which is far, far, far too conservative than what we need it to be. We don’t want it to be to the extremes of the old CSS calculation. We need to try and find some middle ground.”

With the decision on any change due in a matter of weeks, Hunter also pointed out that anyone concerned about how that might affect already submitted scores need not worry. She said: “We’re hoping for some form of decision, ideally, by the end of May. As soon as we know if any changes are going to be made we will be informing everybody of the process. It will only affect future scores. We won’t be doing any backdating.”

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.