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World Handicap System (WHS) Hub


Beginning in early 2020, the USGA and the R&A will implement major changes to the fabric of our handicap system. This revamped World Handicap System aims to bring the game of golf under a single set of handicapping rules and provide a more consistent measure of players’ ability between different regions of the world. The WHS Hub will serve as your one-stop shop for the key changes and what you need to know before this new system goes into place. Below you will find information on each of the major changes in digestible videos and printable PDF documents. Please share this WHS Hub with all of your fellow golfers!

For the full set of rules governing the World Handicap System, click here.

5 Things You Need to Know

1. Your Handicap Index may change.

But that’s okay! Finally, players around the world will have an apples-to-apples handicap. Your new Handicap Index will be more responsive to good scores by averaging your eight best scores out of your most recent 20 (currently, it’s 10 out of 20 with a .96 multiplier). In short, your Handicap Index will be determined by your demonstrated ability and consistency of scores. In most cases for golfers in the U.S., it will change less than one stroke.

2. You need to know your Course Handicap.

In the new system, your Course Handicap will be the number of strokes needed to play to par. This will result in greater variance in that number and presents a change, as historically it has represented the number of strokes needed to play to the Course Rating. This is a good thing, as par is an easy number to remember. Target score for the day? Par plus Course Handicap. The Course Rating will now be inherent within the calculation to be more intuitive and account for competing from different tees.

3. Net Double Bogey.

The maximum hole score for each player will be limited to a Net Double Bogey. This adjustment is more consistent from hole to hole than the Equitable Stroke Control procedure. Net Double Bogey is already used in many other parts of the world and the calculation is simple: Par + 2 + any handicap strokes you receive.

4. Your Handicap Index will be revised daily.

One way that handicapping is being modernized is a player’s Handicap Index will update daily (which will provide a fairer indication of a player’s ability in the moment), if the player submitted a score the day before. On days where the player does not submit a score, no update will take place.

5. Safeguards in the new system.

The new system will limit extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index, automatically and immediately reduce a Handicap Index when an exceptional score of at least 7 strokes better is posted, and account for abnormal course or weather conditions to ensure that scores reflect when a course plays significantly different than its established Course Rating and Slope Rating.

Basis of Calculation of Handicap Index

The 8 best of most recent 20 score differentials, which includes a Playing Conditions Calculation to account for any abnormal course or weather conditions.

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Frequency of Revisions

A player’s Handicap Index will update daily, provided the player submitted a score the day before. Otherwise, no update will take place.

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Handicap Formula

A general overview of the philosophy of and elements contributing to the Handicap Formula.

Course Handicap Calculation

Determining the number of strokes a player receives in relation the Par of the tees being played, including a Course Rating minus Par element. This is the number that is used to determine the maximum holes score for handicap purposes.

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Playing Handicap

The handicap used that maximizes equity when competing by applying a handicap allowance for a specific format.

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Net Double Bogey

The maximum hole score for handicap purposes. This maximum is double bogey plus any handicap strokes a player receives based on their Course Handicap.

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Maximum Handicap Index

The maximum Handicap Index for all golfers is 54.0, regardless of gender.

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Minimum Scores to Obtain a Handicap Index

The minimum is 54 holes worth of scores, most often via three 18-hole scores (including nine-hole scores that are combined into 18-hole scores).

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Acceptable Scores

Determining which scores are acceptable for handicap purposes, focusing on playing by the Rules of Golf and playing one’s own ball.

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Treatment of Nine-Hole Scores

Nine-holes scores are combined in the order that they are submitted and then used to produce an 18-hole Score Differential.

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Playing Conditions Calculation

When abnormal course or weather conditions cause scores to be unusually high or low on a given day, a “Playing Conditions Calculation” will adjust Score Differentials to better reflect a player’s actual performance.

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Exceptional Score Reduction

A score that produces a Score Differential of 7.0 strokes or more below the Handicap Index will result in an Exceptional Score Reduction that changes the Handicap Index. This reduction is in addition to the normal 8 of 20 calculation and depends on how much better the Score Differential is in comparison to the Handicap Index used during the round.

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Handicap Index Caps

A Soft Cap and Hard Cap will be included in the calculation to limit the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index within a 12-month period. These caps are in relation to the player’s “Low Handicap Index.”

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Handicap Review

An audit-like procedure by a Handicap Committee reviewing the Handicap Index of member(s) of a club to assure that the Handicap Index is reflective of demonstrated ability and scoring potential.

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Course Rating System

The basis for the World Handicap System. It is also an indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions.

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Certification Resources

Golf Clubs are required to complete a certification process in order to use the World Handicap System. Participation in a certification seminar and passing a test exhibiting knowledge about the World Handicap System is required.