What the new World Handicap System means for you


New golf World Handicap System: Get yourself ready for the new World Handicap System 

Under the current handicap system, it can take weeks, months even, for your handicap to go up or down.

But that will all change when the new World Handicap System comes into effect for many on January 1, 2020, which could see your handicap change... daily.

The system aims to do away with buffer zones and CSS, and provide a more accurate reflection of your current playing ability by calculating your handicap based on your best eight of the last 20 scores. Competitive and recreational rounds, played over nine or 18 holes, will count towards handicap, of which the maximum limit will be 54 for everyone.

To keep things fair, your playing handicap will be adjusted daily, based on the weather conditions and difficulty of the course, while anyone caught trying to cheat the system with a No Return can now be issued with a penalty score.

However, a recent update made it clear that despite progress, not every country will adhere to the new system as early as January, 2020. Great Britain & Ireland are one of those countries who are experiencing a delay. (It has since been confirmed it will by implemented here on November 2, 2020)

"While many countries will be ready to transition to the WHS early in 2020, given both the magnitude of the change for some jurisdictions and varying seasonality throughout the world, it is anticipated that some will need more time," the governing body wrote. 

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, "The World Handicap System is a major new initiative for the sport which will establish a clearer and more consistent handicapping process for golfers throughout the world.

"We are working closely with national associations, as we do across all our core activities, to ensure they are fully prepared for the introduction of the new system as soon as possible after it becomes available for implementation."

What will the new World Handicap System means for you?

◆ The maximum handicap limit is 54.0, regardless of gender.

◆ Your handicap will be average-based from the best eight of the last 20 scores. England Golf report that the handicap index of most players will be within one stroke of their current CONGU handicap.

◆ A player will need to be a member of a club and return 54 holes worth of scores to be allocated an initial Handicap Index. Any combination is acceptable over nine or 18 holes.

◆ If a player has an existing handicap record, that will be used to generate their first handicap index.

◆ Once a player is allocated an index based on 54 holes, the system will start to build the record based on an adjusted average, relative to the number of scores that have been submitted.

◆ As long as you retain membership of an affiliated golf club designated to manage and maintain your handicap, your handicap will remain valid.

◆ To maintain an accurate handicap, it is recommended that players should return at least 20 scores over a two-year period.

◆ All singles competition scores must be submitted, but you will have the choice to submit social/recreational rounds as well. All scores will have to be pre-registered.


◆ A maximum hole score of nett double bogey (for handicapping purposes only) will remain in place.

◆ If a player pre-registers a round but fails to return their card, the score will be classed as a No Return (NR). However should the score be known, it will be posted by the Committee. If unknown, the Committee has discretion to apply a penalty score if the NR was for the purposes of manipulating a handicap.

◆ Your handicap will change depending on the course’s slope rating. This will indicate the difficulty of a golf course for the ‘bogey’ golfer relative to the scratch player.

◆ If you are playing a harder course (determined by slope rating), you may get extra shots, and if playing an easier course, get less.

◆ Each set of tees will have a course rating and slope rating. These will be displayed at the club, either in the pro shop or by the first tee/starter’s box. It will also be available on the England Golf website.

◆ Handicaps will be adjusted at the end of each day, using a Course Conditions Adjustment (similar to CSS). This will look at how players have performed compared to their expected performance on that golf course.

◆ An annual handicap review will still apply.

World Handicap System: Your Questions Answered

What is slope rating?

Slope rating is the difference between the course rating for a 'scratch' golfer and the course rating for a 'bogey' golfer multiplied by a factor. In effect, this will indicate the difficulty of a golf course for a 'bogey' golfer relative to a scratch golfer.

When will I know what my Handicap Index will be?

Before the end of 2019, all England Golf members will be shown their new handicap index, alongside their exact CONGU handicap.