An Introduction to the New World Handicap System

The new World Handicap System (WHS) will be launched in Scotland, and the rest of GB & I, on 2nd November 2020. 

The current golf handicapping system maintained by CONGU will be replaced by WHS which will unify the six different structures currently in operation throughout the world of golf.

With one single, global system in place for the first time, golfers will be able to obtain and maintain a handicap index and use this on any course around the world. 

Developed by The R&A and USGA in close coordination with existing handicapping authorities, WHS will provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.

Over the next two weeks, Scottish Golf will focus on one of the key features of WHS, helping golfers across Scotland better understand the new system for handicapping ahead of its launch.

Why We Are Moving to a New Handicap System

With WHS coming into play in Scotland on 2nd November 2020, many golfers across Scotland will be asking, “why are we moving to a new Handicap system?”

WHS aims to provide maximum enjoyment for all who play the game. The new system will enable players of any ability, from anywhere in the world, to play and compete with others on a fair basis. This will be the case whether in competition, or during a casual round.

WHS will encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap and once a golfer has their handicap, players of differing abilities, genders, and nationalities will be able to take their handicap to any course in the world where they will be able to compete on a fair basis.

Another key aim of WHS is that it will indicate, with accuracy, the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.

To find out more about WHS in Scotland, click here.

Handicap Index Calculation

One of the most common questions golfers will ask each other is, “what is your handicap?”

Under WHS, the way in which a handicap is calculated will change slightly, and golfers will receive a new Handicap Index.

A Handicap Index is designed to represent your demonstrated ability. It is calculated by averaging the best 8 score differentials out of the most recent 20 within your scoring record. Can be made up of both competition and general play scores.

A Handicap Index will be the measure of a player’s demonstrated ability calculated against the Slope Rating of a golf course of standard playing difficulty (that is, a course with a Slope Rating of 113).

Your Handicap Index provides you with a portable measure of your demonstrated playing ability that is consistent with how all other golfers will be measured around the world. It can be used to track your progress and to play in a casual or a competitive round with any other player from course to course and country to country.

How Do I Get Handicap Index(HI)?

For New Players:
Once you have joined a golf club and you have submitted scores from a total of 54 holes, made up of 9 or 18-hole scores, you will be allocated an initial Handicap Index.

You are then able to return competition and general play scores (pre-registered).

For Existing Members:
Scottish Golf will be using you existing scores on you CDH record to calculate your Handicap Index.

What is a Score Differential?

The difference between a player’s adjusted gross score and the Course Rating, taking account of Slope Rating. It is the value ‘played to’ on a specific course on a specific day.


To find out more about some of the other key features of WHS, click here.


Course Handicap & Playing Handicap

What is a Course Handicap?
Your Course Handicap will be the number of strokes a player receives, before handicap allowances, from a specific set of tees as determined by the Slope Rating: 

Course Handicap = Handicap Index x Slope Rating / 113

For example, for a golfer with a Handicap Index of 12.0, playing a course with a Slope Rating of 127, the calculation would be:

12.0 x (127/113) = 13.5 (14)

Note This is the handicap you will put on your card and use when submitting a score, this the important handicap to remember!

Playing Handicap
The Playing Handicap adjusted for any handicap allowances or Terms of the Competition. It represents the actual number of strokes the player gives or receives for the format of golf being played.

Playing Handicap = Course Handicap x Handicap Allowance 

For example, using the above example where the golfer has a Course Handicap of 13.5 and playing a competition with a 95% handicap allowance, the calculation for Playing Handicap would be:

13.5 x 0.95 = 12.8 (13)

Note-
This handicap is solely used for the purpose of calculating competition results or when working out allowances for a specific format of play.

Handicap Allowance
The percentage of a Course Handicap recommended to create equity for all players participating in a specific format of play.

To find out more about some of the other key features of WHS, click here.

Frequency of Handicap Index Update

The handicap calculation will take place every night at a specific time and a golfer’s new Handicap Index will be calculated ready for the following day.

It is therefore important that a player submits their score as soon as possible on the day of play, after completion of their round and before midnight (local time).

Golfers must input their gross score for every hole played. If a golfer’s score is not submitted on the day of play it will not be used in the Playing Conditions Calculation.

A golfer will be able to view their new Handicap Index on the Scottish Golf Platform (via the website or App) or through their own golf club.

Acceptable Scores under WHS

Under WHS, one of the key aims is to provide golfers with more opportunities to submit counting scores. 

Some of the factors that will mean a score is considered acceptable for handicapping purposes, as outlined in the new Rules of Handicapping, include:

  • In an authorized format of play; (Strokeplay, Stableford and Par/Bogey).
  • Over a minimum number of holes, (9 for 9 holes and 10 for 18 holes) all scores will be scaled up into an 18-hole differential.
  • By the Rules of Golf.
  • With at least one other person.
  • On a course with a current Course Rating and Slope Rating. 
  • During an active season.
  • Certified in accordance with Rules of Handicapping
Players must pre-register their intent to submit a score in general play for handicap purposes. General play is a significant benefit under WHS, allowing golfers to, so long as they pre-register and play the game by the WHS requirements, submit any round of golf from any golf course on the globe.  This is a massive opportunity for golfers who wish to consume their golf this way all year round and opens up new opportunities to maintain and obtain a handicap. General play scores can be submitted directly through the Scottish Golf App.

Such pre-registration must be made before the player starts the round, and in the manner prescribed by the Handicap Committee or Scottish Golf.

To find out more about the key features of WHS, click here.

Understanding Course & Slope Rating

The Course Rating system forms the foundation for the Rules of Handicapping. The system enables handicaps to be portable by adjusting a player’s handicap according to the relative difficulty of the golf course being played.  

What is Course Rating?
An indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions

What is a Bogey Rating?
An indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the bogey golfer under normal course and weather conditions

What is a Slope Rating?
A Slope Rating is the number which indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for bogey golfers, compared to scratch golfers. 

It is the combination of the Course Rating and the Bogey rating that allow us to calculate the Slope Rating of a set of tees.

Details of these ratings for courses across Scotland are available on the Scottish Golf Website and App for a course rating database lookup.

What is a Playing Conditions Calculation?

At the end of each day, a playing conditions calculation (PCC) takes place automatically, behind the scenes, to determine if scores made at the course were significantly higher or lower than expected.

If scores were unusually low or high, a PCC adjustment of between –1 and +3 will be applied to your score differential calculation to reflect the playing conditions on the day.

When abnormal playing conditions cause scores to be higher or lower than expected on a given day, a Playing Conditions Calculation will adjust score differentials to better reflect the player’s actual performance.

This means that a higher score on a tough day may still be a good score and one of your best 8, used to calculate your updated Handicap Index.

The PCC considers all acceptable scores submitted on a golf course on a given day (all formats, competitive & recreational, 9 & 18 holes).

For a PCC to be calculated, at least eight acceptable scores must be submitted by players with a Handicap Index of 36.0 or below.  The PCC is automatically applied within the calculation of score differentials for all players.

What are Exceptional Scores Under WHS?

A score differential which is at least 7.0 strokes or more better
than the player’s Handicap Index at the time the round was played.

Score can be from any format of play, competitive or general play and this is not restricted to competition scores.

When a player submits an exceptional score, the handicap formula applies an additional adjustment to the player’s updated Handicap Index.

This adjustment is in addition to any reduction caused within the 8/20 calculation.

The Handicap Committee can override the adjustment if they deem necessary.

What Are the Soft & Hard Cap& How Are They Used?

A player’s Low Handicap Index is remembered within the handicap formula – this is the lowest Handicap Index they have held within the last 12 months.

The Low Handicap Index provides a reference point against which the current Handicap Index can be compared.

This is to help ensure that the player’s current Handicap Index cannot stray too far away from their demonstrated ability, in too short a space of time.

If the new Index is more than a certain number of strokes above the Low Handicap Index, the cap is triggered.

The soft cap suppresses upward movement when the difference between the new calculated Index and the Low Index is greater than 3. 

The increase is suppressed by 50% of any value over 3.

The hard cap prevents further upward movement by placing a hard ceiling at 5 above the Low Index.

The soft cap and hard cap procedures only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their scoring record
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