What the new World Handicap system means for you


Could your handicap be about to change every day in a week? It may seem ludicrous but that’s what could happen in 2020 due to the introduction of the new World Handicap System.

Put the pitch forks down. The R&A and USGA may be up to their tricks again, fiddling with golf’s rules, but the good news is that you’ve got until 2020 to get your head around it.

Related: EXPLAINED – Golf’s new World Handicap System 

We now know the World Handicap System will completely change the way handicaps are currently calculated in the UK, and aim to provide a more accurate representation of your current playing ability (bad luck, bandits). It’s more inline with the current USGA handicap system, which calculates handicaps based on the best 10 of your last 20 rounds and has a slope rating system which can make your handicap fluctuate prior to your round depending on the difficulty of the course.

In the proposed changes, competitive and recreational rounds will count towards handicaps, which will be revised daily according to the course and weather conditions. In theory, this should make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap, provide fairer competitions and crucially, temper expectations if you’re playing a brutally hard golf course. That should keep those angry golfers satisfied for longer!

Related: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Golf

Martin Slumbers, R&A Chief Executive, said: “We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the copmlexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make more enjoyable.”

So what does the World Handicap System will mean for you?

➤ A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender.

➤ A player’s handicap will be average-based from the best eight of the past 20 scores (both competition and recreational scores will count, although as far as we understand you’ll still need a card marked). This means that the more you play, the more accurate your current playing ability and therefore handicap is at the time.

➤ 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. This means that if you are playing a harder course (determined by slope rating), you may get extra shots, and if playing an easier course, get less.

➤ Daily handicap revisions, taking into account a new course and weather conditions calculation.

➤ Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes. However, a mechanism will prevent extreme upward movement in your handicap.

➤ Recommended that the minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and nine-hole rounds.

➤ A limit of a net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). This is one aspect of the current CONGU handicap system we use already: you can score a 10 on a par-four, but if you’re handicap is 18 it will only count as a 7 for handicap purposes.

It is important to note that this is still very much subject to change, and you can give your thoughts and feedback to both the R&A and USGA. To provide feedback on the new World Handicap System or for more information, visit www.randa.org. Golfers are encouraged to follow and join in the conversation on social media by using #golfwhs2020.

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