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World Handicap System for Golfers

An Introduction to the new World Handicap System (WHS)

The new World Handicap System (WHS) will be launched in Scotland, and the rest of GB and I, on 2nd November 2020.  

The current golf handicapping system maintained by CONGU will be replaced by WHS which will unify the six different structures currently in operation throughout the world of golf.

With one single, global system in place for the first time, golfers will be able to obtain and maintain a handicap index and use this on any course around the world. 

Developed by The R&A and USGA in close coordination with existing handicapping authorities, WHS will provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.

Over the next two weeks, Scottish Golf will focus on one of the key features of WHS, helping golfers across Scotland better understand the new system for handicapping ahead of its launch. 


Day 1 – Purpose of World Handicap System

As we near the implementation of WHS on November 2nd in Scotland, many Golfers across Scotland will be asking, “why a new Handicap System?”

WHS has a number of key aims such as providing maximum enjoyment for all who play the game as well as enabling players from anywhere in the world, to play and compete with others on a fair basis.

More information on the purpose of WHS can be found here.


Day 2 – Handicap Index Calculation

One of the most common questions golfers will ask each other is, what is your handicap? 

Under WHS, the way in which a handicap is calculated will change slightly, and golfers will receive a new Handicap Index.

A Handicap Index is designed to represent your demonstrated ability.  It is calculated by averaging the best 8 score differentials out of the most recent 20 within your scoring record. Can be made up of both competition and general play scores.

More information on the purpose of WHS can be found here.


Day 3 – Course & Playing Handicap

As part of WHS, golfers will have a Course and Playing Handicap.

Your Course Handicap will be the number of strokes a player receives, before handicap allowances, from a specific set of tees as determined by the Slope Rating.

The Course Handicap is adjusted for any handicap allowances or Terms of the Competition. It represents the actual number of strokes the player gives or receives for the format of golf being played.


Day 4 – Frequency of Handicap Index Update

A player should submit their score as soon as possible on the day of play, after completion of their round and before midnight (local time).

The handicap calculation will take place every night at a specific time and a golfer’s new handicap index will be calculated ready for the following day. A golfer will be able to view their new handicap index on the Scottish Golf Platform (via the website or App) or through their own golf club.

If a golfer’s score is not submitted on the day of play it will not be used in the Playing Conditions Calculation.


Day 5 – Acceptable Scores

Under WHS, one of the key aims is to provide golfers with more opportunities to submit counting scores.  

The factors that will mean a score is considered acceptable for handicapping purposes are outlined in the Rules of Handicapping and can be found below.


Day 6 – Course & Slope Rating

The Course Rating system forms the foundation for the Rules of Handicapping.

The system enables handicaps to be portable by adjusting a player’s handicap according to the relative difficulty of the golf course being played.  


Day 7 – Playing Conditions Calculation

At the end of each day, a playing conditions calculation (PCC) takes place automatically, behind the scenes, to determine if scores made at the course were significantly higher or lower than expected.

If scores were unusually low or high, a PCC adjustment of between –1 and +3 will beapplied to your score differential calculation to reflect the playing conditions on the day.


Day 8 – Exceptional Score Reduction

A score differential which is at least 7.0 strokes or more better than the player’s Handicap Index at the time the round was played.

Score can be from any format of play, competitive or general play and this is not restricted to competition scores.


Day 9 – Soft & Hard Cap

A player’s Low Handicap Index is remembered within the handicap formula – this is the lowest Handicap Index they have held within the last 12 months. 

The Low Handicap Index provides a reference point against which the current Handicap Index can be compared.

If the new Index is more than a certain number of strokes above the Low Handicap Index, the cap is triggered.

The soft cap suppresses upward movement when the difference between the new calculated Index and the Low Index is greater than 3. 

The hard cap prevents further upward movement by placing a hard ceiling at 5 above the Low Index.