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?
1.5.1) 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.
1.5.2) 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).
1.5.3) 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.
1.5.4) 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.
1.5.5) 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.
1.5.6) 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.
1.5.7) 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.
1.5.8) 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.
1.5.9) The introduction of the Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC)
A player’s performance in a round is measured against the Course Rating and Slope Rating of the tees that were played. However, these values are based on normal playing conditions and factors such as weather or course set-up can make a course play harder or easier than normal.
When abnormal course or weather conditions cause scores to be unusually high or low on a given day, a Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) will adjust Score Differentials to better reflect the player’s actual performance. This mechanism works by a statistical procedure which evaluates acceptable scores submitted each day and compares them to the expected scores of those players. The PCC is calculated automatically by the handicap server, so there is no additional work for players or club administrators.
Since scores made each day are used to determine if an adjustment is needed, it is important that players submit their scores on the same day of play. The PCC is designed to be conservative and generally won’t result in an adjustment unless there is strong evidence to suggest it is necessary. Adjustments will range between -1.0 (when the golf course is playing easier) and +3.0 (when conditions are more challenging) and will be applied within the Score Differential calculation.
By including a Playing Conditions Calculation, the World Handicap System recognizes that a high score in harder playing conditions may be better than a good score submitted in easier conditions. This helps to ensure that the Handicap Index of each player will continue to reflect their demonstrated ability, regardless of the conditions in which they play.
1.5.10) Low Handicap Index and a cap on the movement of an Index over a 12-month period
The Low Handicap Index represents the demonstrated ability of a player over the preceding 365-day period and provides a reference point against which the current Handicap Index can be compared.
Limits on Upward Movement of a Handicap Index
Limits (or caps) on upward movement of a Handicap Index ensure that a player’s HI does not increase too quickly.
To ensure this, there are two triggers within the cap procedure:
(i) The soft cap. This is triggered when the difference between a player’s newly calculated Handicap Index and their Low Handicap Index is greater than 3.0 strokes.
When a calculated Handicap Index increase is greater than 3.0 strokes, the value above 3.0 strokes is restricted to 50% of the increase.
(ii) The hard cap. The hard cap triggers to restrict the amount by which a player’s Handicap Index can increase, after application of the soft cap, to no more than 5.0 strokes above their Low Handicap Index.
There is no limit on the amount by which a player’s Handicap Index can decrease.
1.5.11) Playing Handicap Calculation
The Technical Committee of the World Handicap System has analysed millions of scoring records and it has arrived at a recommended set of allowances that may be applied to competitors’ Course Handicaps by competition organisers and clubs. The application of a Handicap Allowance is intended to give all participants a fair chance of winning.
These are only recommendations, and it is up to each competition organiser to decide whether to implement the recommended allowance or any other allowance.
It is important to note that the Playing Handicap is only used in determining competition scores and golfers must always use their Course Handicap when entering Adjusted Gross or Hole-by-Hole scores into the system.
The Playing Handicap is calculated as follows:
Playing Handicap = Course Handicap x Handicap Allowance
The calculated Playing Handicap is rounded to the nearest whole number, with .5 rounded upwards.
Below is a table of recommended allowances. Note: some of these competition formats, where players don’t play their own ball for the whole round, like Foursomes, Greensomes Pinehurst/Chapman and Scramble, are not valid handicap scores, and are not acceptable for handicap score entry purposes.