Golf World Handicap System: What You Need To Know

The World Handicap System is now live in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland

World Handicap System
(Image credit: Getty Images creative)

The World Handicap System is now live in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. In this video and article, we look at what you need to know.

Golf World Handicap System: What You Need To Know

The World Handicap System is now live in the UK and Ireland!

Developed by The R&A and USGA, the World Handicap System (WHS) represents a major shift in handicapping and will unite six handicapping bodies across the globe under one standardised system.

This will allow handicaps to be truly portable and make for a fairer and more equitable system of accurately calculating a golfer’s current playing ability.

Here we give the lowdown on some of the key things you need to know about the brand new WHS.

Why is WHS being adopted?

The principal aim is to make handicapping easier to understand and transferable to any course anywhere in the world.

Handicaps used by 15 million golfers in 80 countries worldwide will be equitable.

It also aims to make it easier for players to obtain and maintain a handicap and to enjoy a level playing field, wherever they play whether in recreational games or in competition; the objective being to grow the game.

How do I get a WHS handicap?

If you have a current CONGU handicap, you won’t need to do anything.

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

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.

And what is Handicap Index?

This is the key number in WHS.

It’s calculated from an average of the best eight of your last 20 returned scores.

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.

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

Won’t my Handicap Index be liable to vary wildly?

There will be caps in place – 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.)

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How is a course rating?

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.

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

And how do I work out my Course Handicap?

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.

They then go out and play to that number.

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

Will every round count for my handicap?

No! Although a recreational round can be counting, you will have to select to pre-register before teeing off if you want it to.

If you haven’t pre-registered, a score cannot be submitted.

And what scores/formats are acceptable for submission?

A singles competition score or pre-registered social score from a course and tee that has a Course and Slope Rating for your gender, played to singles medal, Stableford, Par/Bogey format.

Can I submit scores playing by myself?

No. Counting scores must be completed with at least one other person.

Related: Should pay-and-play golfers be allowed official handicaps?

Will playing conditions be taken into consideration?

Yes. 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.

Will there still be two calculations for home and away players as per current CSS?


Where can I find out more about WHS?

WHS: What You Need To Know

Golf World Handicap System: What You Need To Know

England Golf has an education campaign called “Know the Score” which clubs are using to give their members all the necessary information.

A WHS toolkit has also been issued to all golf clubs in England, which contains a raft of useful resources they can access to help educate their members.

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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