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Frequently Asked Questions

1. World Handicap System

1.1) What is the World Handicap System (WHS) all about?
Golf already has a single set of playing Rules, a single set of equipment Rules and a single set of Rules of Amateur Status overseen by the USGA and The R&A. Yet, today there are six different handicap systems used around the world. Each is well developed and successfully provides equity for play locally, but each of the different systems produces slightly differing results. The WHS will unify the six systems into a single system that will:

– enable golfers of different ability to play and compete on a fair and equitable basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world;
– be easy to understand and implement, without sacrificing accuracy; and
– meet the varied needs and expectations of golfers, golf clubs and golf authorities all around the world and be adaptable to suit all golfing cultures.

After significant engagement and collaboration with the existing handicapping authorities and other National Associations, it has been agreed that the time is right to bring the different handicapping systems together as a fourth set of Rules, in support of the global game.

In addition, this project has provided an opportunity for the existing handicapping authorities to come together and share their combined experiences to produce a system which is modern and relevant for the way the game is played today around the world.

The WHS will encompass both the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System (formerly the USGA Course Rating and Slope System).

1.2) What are the benefits of the World Handicap System?
As the world becomes a smaller place with a much greater frequency of international play (as demonstrated by golf returning to the Olympics in 2016), we believe the development of a single handicap system will result in easier administration of international events and, potentially, allow National Associations more opportunity to focus attention on golf development and strategic planning to support the sport. It would also provide the opportunity to evaluate de-personal golfing data to help monitor the health of the game.

1.3) Have you consulted with golfers and golf club administrators about the World Handicap System?
Yes. We have solicited the opinions of golfers and golf club administrators all around the world via an online survey, to which we received over 52,000 responses. We have also conducted focus group sessions in five markets throughout Europe, the USA and South America. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive; for example, 76% surveyed are supportive, 22% undecided at this stage and only 2% opposed.

1.4) What is the timeline for implementation of the World Handicap System?
The first and major batch of changes will be made on 1 October 2019, and the remainder on 1 January 2020. For an overview of the changes, please click HERE.

1.5) Which changes should I be aware of?

The most important changes will be made on 1 October 2019, and it’s advisable that all golfers are familiar with them:

1. Average of the best 8 of the last 20 Score Differentials

Your Handicap Index calculation will be based on the average of your best 8 Score Differentials from your last 20 scores, with no further adjustment. All Handicap Indexes will be recalculated overnight on the 30th September 2019. The impact will be different for each golfer, so your Handicap Index on 1 October 2019 might be slightly higher or lower than your current Handicap Index, due to the combination of the average of the best 8 of the last 20 scores and the dropping of the 0.96 multiplier.

2. Maximum Score allowed on a hole changes to Net Double Bogey

When entering your score for Handicap purposes, the maximum score allowed, and what you have to record for a hole where you ‘ring out’, is a Net Double Bogey (Net Two Over Par or Zero Stableford Points – as shown in the table below).

3. 9-Hole Course Handicap

When playing nine holes you must use your 9-hole Course Handicap based on the nine holes you elect to play. This 9-hole Course Handicap can be looked up on a chart at the club or on the HNA App.

4. 9-Hole scores and incomplete rounds

If you have played between 9 holes and 13 holes, you must enter a 9-hole score. If you have played 14 holes or more, you must enter your Adjusted Gross Score for the holes played and add par plus any Handicap Strokes you are entitled to for the remaining unplayed holes, based on your Course Handicap. Enter this Adjusted Gross Score as an 18-hole score.

The 9-hole calculation will automatically be completed by the system by first converting your nine-hole score into an 18-hole score (by taking your Adjusted Gross Score for the nine holes you played, adding par for that nine, plus your handicap strokes for that nine, plus 1 additional stroke) before converting it into a differential using the Course- and Slope Ratings of the nine you played.

5. Holes not completed – most likely score

Where possible, players should always putt out and complete the hole. If, however, you do not finish a hole and you are on the green and within 1.5 metres of the hole, record 1 extra shot. If you are between 1.5 metres and 20 metres from the hole, record 2 or 3 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and the player’s ability. If you are more than 20 metres, then add 3 or 4 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and player’s ability.

6. 24 hours to enter a score before receiving a penalty

The time frame for entering a score before incurring a penalty has been reduced from 72 hours to 24 hours. Failure to enter a score within 24 hours (from 23h00 on the day of the round) will result in a penalty and the late score entered will be adjusted to the lowest differential in the player’s last 20.

7. Golfers are required to ensure a round is Registered/Opened before playing and before entering a score

Golfers need to ensure a round is opened/registered on the system before they play. The clubs are encouraged to open all rounds (including those for affiliated visitors) on the club systems or terminals. If, however, the club does not open the round prior to play, the golfer must open a round on his/her HNA phone app or on the Handicap Terminal before play. (This option will be available on the App and Terminal from October 1).

A score may not be entered without opening a round. Any score entered for which the round was opened only after completion of the round will be flagged in the system for possible investigation by your Club Handicap Committee. All valid rounds (see section 12 below), played with a marker and under the Rules of Golf, must be entered on the system. This now includes all Match Play scores.

8. The exceptional score will be changed to

If a player’s score differential is 7 to 9.9 shots below their Handicap Index, their Handicap Index will be reduced by 1 shot. If a player’s score differential is 10 or more shots below their Handicap Index, their Handicap Index will be reduced by 2 shots.

9. The maximum Handicap Index will change to 54 for men and women

1.6) Is there a place I can go for more information about the World Handicap System?
You can visit www.usga.org or www.randa.org.

2. Handicap Index Calculation Method

2.1) How is a Handicap Index calculated?

The Handicap Index formula is based on the best Differential(s) in a player’s scoring record. If a player’s scoring record contains 20 scores, the best 8 Differentials of the most recent 20 rounds entered are used to calculate the Handicap Index. For players with fewer than 20 scores, the table below details the number of scores the system will use to compute the player’s Handicap Index. A Handicap Index must not be issued to a player who has returned fewer than five acceptable scores.

No of differentials in scoring record Differentials to be used in calculation Adjustment
5 Lowest 1 0
6 Average of lowest 2 –1.0
7 or 8 Average of lowest 2 0
9 to 11 Average of lowest 3 0
12 to 14 Average of lowest 4 0
15 or 16 Average of lowest 5 0
17 or 18 Average of lowest 6 0
19 Average of lowest 7 0
20 Average of lowest 8 0

a) Select the number of differentials from the above table

b) Average these to obtain an intermediate Handicap Index accurate to one decimal place.

Handicap Index =  Average of the lowest valid differentials 

2.2) How often is my Handicap Index calculated?
In order to be equitable, Handicap Indexes must always be kept up to date, and are revised daily at 4am. Although players are allowed 24 hours after completing a round to record a score, this period must not be used to delay score entry when the club terminal is operational.

2.3) I’ve played very badly of late. Why is my Handicap Index not moving out?
It’s important to realise that your worst differentials aren’t considered in your Handicap Index calculation. Only your 8 best differentials are (while the 12 worst ones are disregarded). This means that it’s quite normal if you play a number of bad rounds and not see a change in your Handicap Index.

2.4) That’s all good, but how is it possible that a very bad score has caused my Handicap Index to come down and not go out?
In this situation, you need to compare the differential you entered with the differential that, because of the new entry, is no longer considered in the Handicap Index calculation—the 21st most recent differential, in other words. In all likelihood, the new differential is better than the old one. You may also have unknowingly received a late-score penalty (please see section 6 below).

3. Entering and Editing of Scores

3.1) Where do I enter scores?
Scores can be entered at any GolfRSA Handicap Terminal (situated at any affiliated golf club in South Africa and some neighbouring states), online via the ‘Golfer Login’ section of the www.handicaps.co.za website, via one of the SAGA Golf mobile applications, or by contacting your home club. (Please note that Handicaps Network Africa cannot enter scores on your behalf. Only your home club can.)

3.2) Do I have to enter a score for every round I play?
Yes, a score must be entered for every round that you play except in the following situations:
a) When the score cannot be ratified by a playing partner or competitor
b) When the types or number of clubs were limited (as in a competition in which only iron clubs were allowed)
c) When the round played included the use of “Mulligans”
d) When more than one ball was used at a time
e) When the course played is not officially rated including when a course is set up much longer or shorter than the Average Playing Length when the rating of the course was determined
f) When the player used non-conforming clubs, balls or tees, or with respect to Rule 14-3 (Rules of Golf) where an artificial device was used in the execution of stroke or when equipment was used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke.

3.3) What score do I need to enter?
The GolfRSA Handicap System uses an Adjusted Gross score when calculating the differential for each round played. An Adjusted Gross is obtained by applying the below maximum score rule to the score achieved on each hole or for unfinished holes where the score was likely to be higher than the maximum allowed.

When entering your score for Handicap purposes, the maximum score allowed, and what you have to record for a hole where you ‘ring out’, is a Net Double Bogey (Net Two Over Par or Zero Stableford Points – as shown in the table below).

Where a player is unsure of how to adjust the Gross score on each hole, the player may enter the scores achieved on each hole using the GolfRSA Handicap Terminal function “Hole-by-Hole” scoring, and the system will adjust the player’s actual score to the maximum allowed per hole, based on the stroke allocation per hole, as entered on the system by the club, to give a total Adjusted Gross Score for the round.

3.4) What score do I enter for a particular hole if I do not finish it?
Where possible, players should always putt out and complete the hole. If, however, you do not finish a hole and you are on the green and within 1.5 metres of the hole, record 1 extra shot. If you are between 1.5 metres and 20 metres from the hole, record 2 or 3 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and the player’s ability. If you are more than 20 metres, then add 3 or 4 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and player’s ability. The number of strokes most likely to have been achieved should not exceed the maximum allowed on each hole as detailed above.

3.5) Is anybody else able to enter a score for me?
Yes, your home club’s handicap administrator can enter scores for you.

3.6) I entered my score incorrectly. Can somebody fix this?
Yes, your home club’s handicap administrator will be able to correct the entry for you.

3.7) Is there a time limit for the entering of scores?
All scores must be submitted within 24 hours of the completion of the round. The period of 24 hours is taken from 23h00 on the day of play to 23h00 the following day. Scores not returned during this period will result in a penalty score. Please note that the onus is on the player to make sure that their scores are recorded successfully. They can do so by visiting their ‘Handicap Record Sheet’. If a score doesn’t show here, then it hasn’t been entered successfully and will have to be resubmitted.

3.8) Can I enter scores for rounds played outside of South Africa?
Yes, scores can be entered for courses not registered on our system. These can be entered on the system after selecting the ‘Foreign/Other’ option during step 1 of the score-entering process.

3.9) I’m struggling to enter my score via www.handicaps.co.za. How does one do this?
After logging in to your account via the ‘Golfer Login’ section, click on ‘Enter Score’, then complete every stage during Step 1 of the process: Date, AM/PM, Club, Course, Tee, Holes. Pay special attention to the final stage, where you have to select the number of holes you played. You need to select either ‘FULL 18’ or ‘1ST 9 (OUT)’ or ‘2ND 9 (IN)’ by clicking on the relevant icon.

If you do all of this correctly, Step 2 will appear. Here you need to select either ‘HOLE-BY-HOLE’ or ‘QUICK’ or ‘NO RETURN’—again by clicking on the relevant icon. If you select ‘HOLE-BY-HOLE’, you’ll have to enter a score for each hole of the course you played. If you select ‘QUICK’, you’ll simply have to enter your Adjusted Gross score. If you select ‘NO RETURN’, you won’t have to enter anything, as this option will effectively cancel out your round.

Having made your selection and entered the required information, simply hit ‘SUBMIT’.

4. The USGA Course Rating System & Slope

On 3 September 2018, we implemented the USGA Course Rating as well as Slope. Under this system, a player’s course handicap on any given day will be determined according to the difficulty of the course they choose to play.

GolfRSA believes that this will be fairer than our current handicap, which does not equalise the higher and lower handicaps well on a difficult golf course. It will also bring SA in line with the rest of the world when the World Handicap System is implemented and make our Handicap Index portable from country to country.

4.1) What is the difference between my Handicap Index and the Course Handicap?
The Handicap Index is an indication of your potential as a golfer. The Course Handicap is the handicap you will use when playing from a selected Tee (colour course) at a particular club—calculated taking the difficulty of the course into consideration. Once you have selected which course (Tee) you are going to play, the Course Handicap is obtained from the Mobile App, the HNA system (website or terminal) or, where neither is available, from Course Handicap Conversion Tables at the club.

4.2) Can men and women play off the same tee and compete?
Definitely—this is one of the reasons why the system has been introduced. There are no Men’s, Senior’s or Women’s Tees anymore. We will be referring to the various courses by the colour of the Tee. All the Tees have been rated for Men, while only certain Tees have been rated for Women. If the Women at the club feel that they want more options, they can request this from GolfRSA.

4.3) Why is my Course Handicap a figure with a decimal—do I play with this?
When the Course Handicap is calculated it takes into account the Course Rating that has been calculated to one decimal point and your Handicap Index is to a decimal point. Before playing you must round the decimal in your Course Handicap up or down to a whole number, i.e. 18.2 becomes 18, 18.5 becomes 19 and 18.7 also becomes 19.

4.4) How will Slope Ratings make things fairer?
Generally speaking, a higher handicapper finds it more difficult to adjust to a difficult course than a lower handicapper. The slope adjustment balances this out. For example, if the White Tees are harder than the Blue Tees, a high-handicapper may play the White Tees off a handicap of 28 and the Blue Tees off 24. (He gets four more shots for the harder course.) The low handicap player finds it easier to adjust, so they may play the White Tees off 4 and the Blue Tees off 3. (He only gets one shot more for the harder course.)

4.5) What do I need to do when arriving at a course other than my home course?
Decide which Tee you want to play from, or ascertain which is specified for the day’s competition. Enter this choice on the Mobile App, the HNA system or the Course Handicap Conversion Tables at the club. Any of these will give you your Course Handicap.

4.6) What are the features of Slope?
Every set of Tees will have a Course Rating to one decimal point. Every set of Tees on every golf course will also have a Slope Rating determined in accordance with the new Slope Rating System. The Course and Slope Ratings are different for men and women. The maximum Slope Rating is 155 and the minimum is 55—the Neutral Rating is 113.

For more information, please download the South African Golfer’s Guide to the USGA Course Rating System.

5. Handicap Index displays as 'N/A'

5) Why is my Handicap Index displaying as N/A?
For one of two reasons: 1) you don’t have at least five valid scores on your profile, or 2) you have two or more open rounds against your name. To regain your Handicap Index, you’ll have to close the rounds.

6. Penalty Scores

6.1) Why did I receive a Penalty Score?
Penalty Scores are awarded automatically if you fail to enter a score within the 24-hour window period allowed for score entry, which starts at 23:00 on the day of play. This is done to ensure all Handicap Indexes are up to date and to stop people from delaying score entry prior to month end or to delay putting in exceptional scores.

6.2) How is a penalty score calculated?
A Penalty Score is the lowest differential of the player’s last 20 recorded scores, or such penalty as the club handicapper may decide, based on the circumstances around the failure of the player to enter the score.

6.3) How long will a Penalty Score be considered in my handicap calculation?
A Penalty Score will be considered in your Handicap Index calculation until it falls out of your most recent 20 scores.

6.4) Is it possible to remove a Penalty Score?
Yes. If you feel that you received a penalty score unfairly (it might not have been possible for you to enter a score in good time), please get touch with your home club’s handicap administrator, who’ll look into the matter and remove it if necessary. Please note that the onus is on the player to make sure that their scores have been recorded successfully. They can do so by visiting their ‘Handicap Record Sheet’. If a score doesn’t show here, then it hasn’t been entered successfully and it will have to be resubmitted.

7. Maximum Scores

7.1) What is the maximum score I can enter per hole?

When entering your score for Handicap purposes, the maximum score allowed, and what you have to record for a hole where you ‘ring out’, is a Net Double Bogey (Net Two Over Par or Zero Stableford Points – as shown in the table below).

Where a player is unsure of how to adjust the Gross score on each hole, the player may enter the scores achieved on each hole using the GolfRSA Handicap Terminal function “Hole-by-Hole” scoring, and the system will adjust the player’s actual score to the maximum allowed per hole, based on the stroke allocation per hole, as entered on the system by the club, to give a total Adjusted Gross Score for the round.

7.2) Is it compulsory for me to adhere to the maximum score rule?
Yes, it’s compulsory.

8. Exceptional Scores

8.1) What is an exceptional score?

When an exceptional score is posted to a player’s scoring record, the Handicap Index will be reduced in accordance with the following adjustment table:

Number of strokes the Score Differential is lower than a player’s Handicap Index in effect when the round was played Exceptional score reduction
7.0 – 9.9 -1.0
10.0 or more -2.0
  • A reduction can be applied based on a single exceptional score. 
  • Reductions for multiple exceptional scores are applied cumulatively.
  • A reduction is automatically applied to a Handicap Index after it is updated following the submission of an exceptional score. 
  • To ensure that the impact of the adjustment remains after the next score is submitted, the reduction is also applied to the previous 19 Score Differentials recorded in the player’s scoring record. The impact of the adjustment will become gradually diluted as new scores are submitted.

Where there are fewer than 20 scores in a player’s scoring record the reduction is applied to all recorded Score Differentials.

9. Nine-hole Scores

9.1) Must I enter a nine-hole score for Handicap Index purposes?
Yes. Players are obliged to enter all nine-hole scores into the GolfRSA Handicap System except in the following situations:
a) When the score cannot be ratified by a playing partner or competitor
b) When the types or number of clubs were limited (as in a competition in which only iron clubs were allowed)
c) When the round played included the use of “Mulligans”
d) When more than one ball was used at a time
e) When the course played is not officially rated including when a course is set up much longer or shorter than the Average Playing Length when the rating of the course was determined
f) When the player used non-conforming clubs, balls or tees, or with respect to Rule 14-3 (Rules of Golf) where an artificial device was used in the execution of stroke or when equipment was used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke.

9.2) How are nine-hole scores applied to the Handicap Index calculation?
The 9-hole calculation will automatically be completed by the system by first converting your nine-hole score into an 18-hole score (by taking your Adjusted Gross Score for the nine holes you played, adding par for that nine, plus your handicap strokes for that nine, plus 1 additional stroke) before converting it into a differential using the Course- and Slope Ratings of the nine you played.

9.3) Can I receive an ‘Exceptional’ round for a nine-hole score?
Yes, you can.

10. Incomplete Holes

10) What score should I enter if I do not finish a hole?
Where possible, players should always putt out and complete the hole. If, however, you do not finish a hole and you are on the green and within 1.5 metres of the hole, record 1 extra shot. If you are between 1.5 metres and 20 metres from the hole, record 2 or 3 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and the player’s ability. If you are more than 20 metres, then add 3 or 4 strokes, depending on the difficulty of the green and player’s ability.

11. Incomplete Rounds

11.1) What do I enter for incompleted rounds?

If a player completes 14 or more holes, the player must post an 18-hole score. If more than 9 but less than 14 holes are played, the player must post a nine-hole score. Scores for unplayed holes must be recorded as par plus any handicap strokes that the player is entitled to receive on the unplayed holes.

Example: A player with a Course handicap of 24 stops playing after 16 holes because of lightning. Hole 17 is a par 3 and is stroke index is 18 on the course scorecard. The player will record 3 (par) plus 1 handicap stroke for a gross 4 on hole 17. Hole 18 is a par 4 and is stroke index is 6 on the course card. The player will record 4 (par) plus 2 handicap strokes for a 6 on hole 18.

11.2) What do I enter if I played less than nine holes—or didn’t even start the round (because of heavy rain, for instance)?
A ‘No Return’ (NR). This will essentially cancel out the round. In other words, it will have no effect on your Handicap Index.

12. Scores not acceptable

12) Which scores am I not allowed to enter into the GolfRSA Handicap System?
a) When the score cannot be ratified by a playing partner or competitor
b) When the types or number of clubs were limited (as in a competition in which only iron clubs were allowed)
c) When the round played included the use of “Mulligans”
d) When more than one ball was used at a time
e) When the course played is not officially rated including when a course is set up much longer or shorter than the Average Playing Length when the rating of the course was determined
f) When the player used non-conforming clubs, balls or tees, or with respect to Rule 14-3 (Rules of Golf) where an artificial device was used in the execution of stroke or when equipment was used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke.

In each of these instances, a ‘No Return’ should be entered into the system. This will essentially nullify the round.

13. Discovery Vitality

13.1)  How do I link my Vitality and HNA memberships?
– Log in to the ‘Golfer Login’ section on www.handicaps.co.za
– Go to ‘My Account’
– Click on the ‘Activate’ button next to the orange Discovery Vitality logo
– Fill in your Discovery Health number and click submit

For the next few days you’ll see a message in that space that reads ‘Status: Pending’. This will change to ‘Status: Active’ when your account has been validated by Discovery. You’ll receive an email when this happens. If you don’t receive this email within five days, please contact 0860 99 88 77.

13.2) When will I not earn Vitality points?
– When you have not linked your Vitality membership details to the HNA database
– When you enter a ‘No Return’
– When you receive a penalty score
– When you don’t enter a score after your game

13.3) Can points be backdated?
No, you will only earn Vitality points for scores you enter after you have linked your Vitality and HNA memberships.

13.4) Where can I view how many Vitality points I’ve earned?
You can view a detailed breakdown of the points you have earned recently on the Vitality Points Monitor.

13.5) I am a member of Vitality but not of an SAGA-affiliated golf club. Can I still earn Vitality points for playing rounds of golf?
No, only individuals who are a member of both Discovery Vitality and an SAGA-affiliated golf club can earn Vitality points for playing rounds of golf.

If you have any additional queries, please visit the Discovery Vitality support page or call 0860 99 88 77.

14. Registered Rounds Percentage

14.1) What is the Registered Rounds Percentage?
The Registered Rounds Percentage attempts to indicate how many of a golfer’s last 20 scores were opened at the club before playing. For a round to be considered as registered, it has to be opened within the following time periods:

  • for 9-hole AM rounds: before 10:30
  • for 9-hole PM rounds: before 18:30
  • for 18-hole AM rounds: before 09:00
  • for 18-hole PM rounds: before 17:00

Please note that rounds entered via the ‘Events’ and ‘My Fourball’ sections of the app will not automatically be flagged as registered. They still need to be opened as per usual.

The reason these time periods are in place is that they encourage players to open their rounds before they go onto the course and not afterwards.

14.2) How do I register a round?
By visiting the pro shop before your round, handing the attendant your handicap card, and asking them to do so. Please note that the onus is on the player to get their rounds registered. If you’re unable to register your round in the pro shop, you must do so yourself either via the HNA Handicaps & Tournament App or a handicap terminal at the club.

14.3) When will the Registered Rounds Percentage be calculated?
The Registered Rounds Percentage will be computed at the end of each day. It will not be possible to declare a ‘Foreign Round’ as a Registered Round.

14.4) How will ‘Foreign Rounds’, which can’t be registered, affect my percentage?
Foreign rounds only affect your RR percentage insofar as they shrink the pool of rounds used in the calculation. So if there are, for instance, five foreign rounds among your last 20 entries, only 15 of those will be used to calculate the percentage.

14.5) Does my Registered Rounds Percentage affect my Handicap Index?
Not at all—the figure is only there to show how often you have gone through the right channels when you have played, by having the club open your round.