One objective of the World Handicap System was to unite six handicapping bodies around the world to make handicaps truly portable internationally. Another was to make those handicaps more reflective of your current playing ability by shifting to an average rather than an aggregate system of calculation.
It was the biggest change to handicapping in decades and we’ve all had to get used to a collection of new terms and methods of logging our scores.
This video explains everything you need to know about the World Handicap System:
But has it proved to be a success and, if it does fall short in certain areas, where are they? We picked the brains of our online community.
"I started the year at 2.6 and have finished at 1.2. Using the old system I worked out that I would have finished at 2.0.
The good things for me - the ability to put any card in from any course, the EG App making it easier and the key one is your handicap being more reflective of current playing. The last three medals have been by a 8HC, 5HC and 4HC with a Net 66 from the 5 the lowest. At the start it was net 61/62 with a 59 winning and Stableford points of above 45 were needed. But we now have a lot more putting cards in and handicaps seem to be looking more realistic." Phil Coumbe, Handicap Index 1.2
"I've loved it, not having to go into the shop to tell them I wanted to put a supplementary card in and just doing it on the app has been great. I haven't played in any comps all year so I doubt I would've put many in at all." Barry Purewal, 15.0
"Overall my reaction is positive (just). It took me a while to realise that it isn't right or wrong - it's just different! Yes you can complain about the implementation (and I did) and EG dodged a bullet or two due to lockdown but overall it's encouraging people to add cards for handicap and generally their handicaps now reflect their playing ability more closely. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that handicaps would vary throughout the year and not be like the more linear older system. However, taking into account the differing conditions throughout the year that's pretty logical.
By and large it works - you can argue about course ratings and slope ratings but they have been used around the world for decades. I wish we had gone for gender neutral tees from the start but I'm sure we will sort this out in the next 12 months." Mike Chapman, 2.5
Related post: The problem with the WHS
"Handicaps are more reflective of playing ability much quicker. It hurts your ego but it is the truth, if you put enough cards in and I like the way your handicap alters for tougher courses. My club never had qualifiers in winter but are doing so this year. All off the yellows but that is still 6,400yds. In the past they have moved the odd tee forward but this is not happening this year so far. With little run, cold weather generally reducing distance etc I reckon I will go up three shots by April. That might be optimistic as well.
People will start the new season with distorted handicaps and that will be a real issue but maybe we just have to accept this with this system? It is a 12-month handicap that will be more erratic than we are used to. We have to change our mindset?" Neil Woods, 18.0
"As a beginner it's brilliant and has allowed me to get a handicap much sooner and get hooked on watching it progress than I think the previous system would.
There are a few reasons for that:
- All of our comps are off whites and I'm not yet at the standard where I can play off whites at my course. By using the app/WHS I can play with friends off yellows on not just my course but other courses and get a handicap.
- It all feels quite transparent compared to handing a card into the secretary and seeing what happens.
- I love being able to add friends from different clubs and see how we are all progressing
Granted I am a relatively newcomer so don’t have experience of the old system but if one of the aims of WHS was to make it easier for beginners and newcomers to obtain, track and keep a handicap, it’s mission accomplished in my view." Sean Geddes, 28.0
"I've had a really good year, but in fairness, I've really put in the practice hours. At the start of the year my handicap was 9.5 and I've now got it down to 5.1. I think with the old handicap system I would have got it down, but probably not by 4.4 shots.
I like the app, even if it is a little bit glitchy. And I like the idea that you add in every round. Although I must admit, there have been rounds I haven't added on when I've just gone to play with mates and we're not taking it too seriously.
I think the course ratings have not been done properly in my area - almost like someone has just looked at course length and decided on the difficulty based on that. Some of them are completely laughable." Howard Bowden, 5.1
Related post: How often should golfers play to their handicap?
"Getting more shots at harder courses so you don't feel like you've slogged your heart out for 31 points is a nice touch. I like the app with the records of your rounds, handicap graph, being able to put cards in easily etc and the calculation, being as baffling as it is, I've basically stopped caring about my handicap as much, which is probably a good thing." Olly Cole, 15.0
"I have managed to put in 77 qualifying rounds this year, so I feel I've given it a fair run. Overall I think it's a really positive move. The ability to put scores in outside of official competitions has been a huge benefit for me, and made my social golf infinitely more enjoyably, as I don't hugely enjoy just slapping it round and playing for a fiver.
I think the app is generally pretty good, and improving all the time and I have generally found the whole system incredibly easy to understand too, if you're prepared to spend a couple of minutes looking at it. There was a lot of "OMG IT’S CRAP IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE" at the start, but people who have actively engaged in it, seem to be more on board.
It's also a nice way of keeping track of all the different courses I've played, and looking at how they compare for difficulty." James Somerside, 3.2
"The best thing is the way that it accurately reflects your ability, especially if you play a lot. I remember I hit a hot streak in 2015, and received an ESR down to 5.5. It took me two years to get back to where I usually live, around the 9 mark. Now, with 20 scores totally refreshing your handicap record, that is no longer a worry.
Now competitions are more open. Now that we have a proper, rated, 9-hole course, our winter 9-hole comps are competitive and unpredictable. When we used to run comps with contrived handicaps, it was impossible for a large group of players to win. That is not the case now." Ian McCulloch, 8.3
"The EG app allows people to quit rounds (but that should be changing). There is a lack of connection between the governing bodies (it’s far from ‘World’) and the ability to start to enter a scorecard halfway round a round isn’t right. Also the overly complicated working out of playing handicap at times and the apparent way that for some handicaps have shot through the roof.
The PCC (Playing Conditions Calculation) is no different to CSS. Overall I think it’s worked a little better than I thought but there is still a good way to go." Phil Coumbe, 1.2
"It is more complicated to understand than it should be. I doubt more than 10% of golfers, I am being generous, fully understand the calculation (I'm not one of them). Okay, the computer does the work but I am not sure that is overly impressive. Having an index, a course handicap and a playing handicap is one too many. They should have found a way to simplify that." Neil Woods, 18.0
"My handicap keeps going up and down with every score, just as I’m thinking I’m heading in the right direction, a good score drops off and I’m back up by 0.4 or whatever. I still don’t really totally understand it but I’ve only been playing properly for a couple of years so I guess I don’t really know any different." Tim Dyke, 18.9
"Things not to like…
1. The frequency of ultra low net scoring
2. The imposition of mandatory allowances on formats of golf that have never been tracked before and have ruined the format
3. A "world" system that only works in your own country
4. A "world" system that is being implemented in many different ways in many different jurisdictions
5. A PCC that no-one understands, that almost never moves, and that the authorities can't explain
6. No winter period, all scores count regardless of playing conditions
7. Not having a ‘set’ handicap, it changes course to course" Grant Duguid, 6.7
"Folks can too easily choose to not submit a score/delete their scoring intent, or register for a round after they have played and then wait a few hours to enter their score. And the PCC calculation is an utter waste of time. Forget the WORLD aspect of the WHS.....its not even a common UK wide system." Nick Davis, 7.8
"- The 95% thing is just annoying. Why do you give me a course handicap and then tell me to play off 95% of that? Just include that in the bloody calculation and give me the number.
- I still don't really like that you can have a good round but your handicap still goes up (if you knock a better one off your record), but that has stopped me caring about it which could be seen as a positive.
- I think the course/slope rating at my club is too low, they've basically rated it as an easy course just because it's short, but the greens are more hellish than any other course in the surrounding areas - this seems to get ignored in the ratings." Olly Cole, 15.0
"You should have to sign in on a screen within the pro shop before the round, rather than just tapping the app, as it's too easy to do this after a couple of holes...
Lower handicaps seem to have come down across the board, but particularly so for people who aren't playing a lot. This has meant me getting balloted out of Scratch Opens several times this year, when I'm 100% confident I would score lower than half the field who got in." James Somerside, 3.2
"The negatives have been the ridiculous scores that have been winning our comps. I have often just not entered some and just had a knock on the Sunday instead. That culminated last weekend when my mate shot a 62 gross and came fourth! It’s created so many bandits that the game has changed for the worse for me." Billy Rawsthorne, 6.3
Related post: How do I find out my course handicap?
"- The communication and implementation was awful - this was a major cultural and behavioural shift in what a HI actually is, and how they want us to use it. (Virtually ignored in the initial briefings.) Materials not tailored for the key stakeholders. (i.e. yer-average-player!) This is evidenced by the amount of information I never saw in materials, but only found out from the discussion on here.
- Home Unions have gone it ‘alone’ - so certainly not a "World System" - heck not even a UK system. (a real issue for us folk who live near a border or who cross them to play regularly)
- Over engineered - too many steps to get to your shot allowance. I think the folk who did this must have shares in companies that make the charts that now proliferate golf clubs!" Ian Miller, 12.1
"I don't like the way that you can, in effect, give up on a round after 15 holes and your score is gone and your index isn't affected. Similarly, if you post a half decent score and your index goes up...in a way it doesn't make sense. I also don't like that there's no requirement to put scores in to keep a handicap." Ian Murgatroyd, 7.7
"Off the back tees CR is 72; off front tees CR is 70. SR is 125 for both tees. I play most of my competitive golf off the backs. When off the fronts I generally don’t score two shots better than off the whites and so off fronts I often find my H/I going up as a result of what I would consider a good knock- say 36pts…and that I struggle with. Though I know why and I can accept it." Hugh McKinnon, 10.0
"Our place is quite prone to the elements and I remember on a few occasions where the conditions have been really tough, I think only 2-3 people played to handicap, nobody bettered their handicap out of a field of 70 golfers and PCC didn't budge." Richard Beech, 5.5
"The worst thing is the PCC adjustment. Not one PCC rating has been anything other than zero for all the men’s comps at our club since WHS kicked in, and not publishing the algorithm is dreadful. Along with the shambles at the start, when many, many scores were lost in the changeover to WHS. What a terrible way to kick off a system many years in the planning." Ian McCulloch, 8.3
"The PCC is probably the biggest issue. It should be both a publicly available calculation and should be to one decimal place, to be mathematically accurate in the same way that our handicaps are one decimal place. Why can the weather and PCC only add one whole shot? If PCC calculations come in at 0.49 and rounds to 0, that is daylight robbery from a lot of the field. Likewise, if it comes in at 0.51, rounds up to 1 and half the field get a new “top 8” score as a result, that’s equally as bad. Why not just have it rounded to one decimal place, meaning more minor changes in weather, course conditions and setup etc still have an impact." Jonny Gutteridge, 3.8
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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