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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 unifies the six systems into a single system that:

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

The WHS encompasses 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), a single handicap system makes for easier administration of international events and allows National Associations to focus more on golf development and strategic planning to support the sport. It also provides the opportunity to evaluate de-personal golfing data to help monitor the health of the game.

1.3) Did you consult with golfers and golf club administrators about the formation of the World Handicap System?
Yes. We 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 also conducted focus group sessions in five markets throughout Europe, the USA and South America. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive; for example, 76% surveyed were supportive, 22% undecided at that stage, and only 2% opposed.

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

2. Handicap Index Calculations

2.1) How is a Handicap Index calculated?

The Handicap Index formula is based on the best Score Differential(s) in a player’s scoring record. If a player’s scoring record contains 20 scores, the best 8 Score 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) 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 & 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.

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 three 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 curb Handicap Index manipulation.

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 in 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) How many holes must I play for a score to be acceptable for handicap purposes?

For an 18-hole Score

For an 18-hole score to be acceptable for handicap purposes, a minimum of 10
holes must be played.

For a 9-hole Score

For a 9-hole score to be acceptable for handicap purposes, all 9 holes must be played. If a player has not played at least 9 holes, the score is not acceptable for handicap purposes and the round must be closed with a No Return.

11.2) What score should I record for holes not played?

Where the minimum number of holes have been completed, the player must use the following table to produce an 18-hole score:

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. Rounds not opened before play will be considered as non-registered rounds.

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.

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.

15. Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC)

15.1) What is 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.

16. Low Handicap Index (Low HI)

16.1) What is a Low Handicap Index?

A player’s Low Handicap Index (Low HI) represents their lowest Handicap Index over the preceding 365-day period and provides a reference point against which their current Handicap Index can be compared and capped.

Indexes are capped to ensure they do not increase too quickly.

There are two triggers:

(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.

17. Playing Handicap Calculation

17.1) What is a Playing Handicap?

The Technical Committee of the World Handicap System analysed millions of scoring records and arrived at a recommended set of allowances that competition organisers and clubs may apply to competitors’ Course Handicaps, resulting in Playing Handicaps. These allowances are 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 allowance or not.

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.