Golf World Handicap System Announced For 2020

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The handicap system is set to undergo a huge makeover worldwide, with a new World Handicap System set to come in for 2020

Golf World Handicap System Announced For 2020

There has been talk of a major handicap shake-up in recent months and years and the news has finally come.

Golf's governing bodies, the R&A and USGA, have announced that a new 'World Handicap System' is set to come in to play for 2020.

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It has been designed to create a more 'consistent measure of playing ability'.

Feautures of the new system include social rounds counting towards handicap and an average-based handicap which takes into account your best 8 of the last 20 scores.

Instead of handing in three cards like we do here in the UK, a handicap can be generated from 54-holes of different combinations to include nine hole scores as well as standard 18 hole scores.

The new World Handicap System also mirrors CONGU's recent changes to allow golfers can have a handicap of up to 54.

The R&A and USGA says the new World Handicap System will feature the following: 

  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability
  • A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction
  • A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries
  • An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day
  • Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation
  • A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game

The R&A and USGA announce the new World Handicap System having 'extensively reviewed' the six current handicapping authorities across the world - Golf Australia, CONGU (The Council of National Golf Unions), EGA (European Golf Association), SAGA (South African Golf Association), AAG (Argentine Golf Association) and the USGA (United States Golf Association).

Golf's governing bodies conducted research across 15 countries where 76% supported the World Handicap System. 22% were 'willing to consider its benefits' whilst just 2% were 'opposed'.

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That was after a number of focus groups with more than 300 golf administrators and golfers from across the world.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, says the new system has been brought in to make golf more moden, more accessible and more enjoyable.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers," he said.

"Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, commented, “For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernising golf’s Rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

The focus of the new World Handicap System has been built upon three main objectives:

  • to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap
  • to enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and compete on a fair basis
  • to indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.  

There will now be a two-year transition period with a hope of its implementation starting in 2020.

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Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV