The new World Handicap System (WHS) is designed to be more inclusive, accessible and to make golf easier to understand for all.
The WHS incorporates the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System, (a consistent method to calculate a golf courses difficulty), to successfully determine a golfer’s Handicap Index.
The system, which comes into effect on 2 November 2020 will replace the six different systems currently used by over 15 million golfers, in more than 80 countries, to unify all golfers across the world.
With golf being centred around one standard set of rules governed by The R&A and USGA, it makes sense to unify the previous six different handicapping systems, making for a more inclusive and equitable sport.
The WHS was therefore developed with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly.
With all golfers only initially required to submit scorecards for 54 holes to acquire a Handicap Index, the new WHS is less formidable for new players.
Golf Course Rating will be used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course. It measures how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on all rated golf courses) should take on any given course.
The rating does this by assessing two main types of challenges which, when combined, result in a common base from which to compare players’ abilities:
a) The playing length of the course
b) The obstacles that a player will encounter (e.g. size of green and hazards)
Golfers will consider the Handicap Index to be the most important element of
The Handicap Index will:
a) Measure the ability of a player
b) Be portable from course to course
c) Allow players to compete fairly and therefore promote inclusivity within
A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from the last
A Soft Cap and Hard Cap will be implemented to limit any extreme movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period.
The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a 3.0 stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index. The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement on 5.0 strokes over the Low Handicap Index.
Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability.
Slope Rating is the number which indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers, compared to Scratch Golfers. It is the difficulty comparison between a Bogey Golfer and a Scratch Golfer from the same set of tees.
The use of Slope allows a player’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and country to country.
The Slope Rating is a key component in calculating the number of strokes each player receives to play a particular golf course. The higher the Slope Rating, the more additional strokes a Bogey Golfer will need to be able to play it.
England Golf will provide Course & Slope Rating tables to all golf clubs. Tables should be positioned in clear locations around the club to make it simple for golfers to find prior to beginning their round.
Golfers simply have to choose the tees they are playing off that day and cross reference their Handicap Index on the Course & Slope Rating table to ascertain their Course Handicap.
Before any player starts their round they must convert their Handicap Index into a
The Course Handicap will determine the number of strokes a player will receive for
any set of tees on a course.
An easy way for a player to remember the WHS, is to think HCP!
1) Handicap Index
2) Course Handicap
Playing Handicap is a stroke allowance that is implemented in order to maintain the integrity of the WHS when used in competition. The Course Handicap converts to a Playing Handicap for competition purposes and changes depending on the format of play.
Golfers do not need to calculate this (it is generated before their round). Golfers should continue to play in the mindset of their Course Handicap in competition rounds.
After the completion of a competition round, a player has to submit their scorecard as soon as possible in order for their Handicap Index to be updated. Preferably, scores should be posted at the venue being played and on the same day, as this will be when a player’s Handicap Index will be updated. Posting of scores is possible by players utilising the technology available at their golf club.
For golfers playing in recreational rounds with friends, either in teams or pairs, even when there is no intention of submitting a score for handicap purposes, they will need to calculate their Course Handicap prior to their round.