The R&A - Working for Golf

The World Handicap System

A modern handicap system for all golfers everywhere

The new World Handicap System (WHS) has been designed to encourage more golfers to obtain a handicap - enabling them to play with, or against, each other anywhere around the world.

The idea for a new, unified system was conceived by The R&A and the USGA and developed following an extensive review of existing systems administered by six handicapping authorities. Adaptable across golfing cultures, the proposed new system will provide players with a consistent measure of playing ability globally, helping to make the game of golf more enjoyable.

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World Handicap System Videos

Highlights of the World Handicap System

Take a tour of some of the key features of the new system, supporting;

  • Enjoyment of the game for golfers everywhere
  • Golf on an equal footing – whatever the format, wherever the location
  • Local golfing cultures – competitive or recreational, singles or team
  • Golf in the modern world

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Inclusive, Accessible, Welcoming



Consistent & Portable

Modern & Adaptable

Minimal Number of Scores to Obtain a Handicap

To encourage new players to the game, National Associations can set the number of holes required to be submitted to obtain a handicap. It is recommended that the minimum number of holes should be 54, in any combination of 9-hole or 18-hole rounds.

Maximum Handicap

Under the new system, the maximum handicap that can be issued to a player of any gender is 54.0.

Maximum Hole Score

Golfers of all skill levels will occasionally make a high score on a hole, which does not reflect their potential. Under the new system, the maximum score per hole will be limited to Net Double Bogey, which is the equivalent of zero points in Stableford formats.

Acceptable Scores for Handicap Purposes

Singles and Stableford formats of stroke-play competitions must be submitted by all players. National Associations have discretion within their jurisdiction to decide if other acceptable formats of play can be submitted for handicap purposes – giving players plenty of opportunity to submit scores and provide evidence of their potential ability.

Providing consistency & portability



Consistent & Portable

Modern & Adaptable

Course Rating and Slope Rating

Course Rating indicates the difficulty of a golf course for a 0-handicap golfer. Slope Rating is relative to the Course Rating, providing strokes needed to play at the same level as the 0-handicap golfer for a specific set of tees. Course and Slope Ratings enable golfers’ handicaps to be portable from course to course, country to country.

Basis of Handicap Calculation

Averaging the best eight of a player’s most recent 20 scores provides a good indicator of potential ability. When combined with memory of demonstrated ability over time, the resulting handicap provides a balance between responsiveness and control - so a temporary loss of form should not automatically lead to an excessive increase in handicap.

Abnormal Course and Weather Conditions Adjustment

Golf is an outdoor sport and not always played in ideal conditions. The new system will consider the impact of daily course or weather conditions on each golfer’s performance. Such adjustments will be conservative and will only be made when there is clear evidence that an adjustment is warranted.

Modern & Adaptable



Consistent & Portable

Modern & Adaptable

Accommodating of Local Cultures

It is not our intention to try to force a change on the way that golf is played around the world or to try and remove the variations. The cultural diversity that exists within the game, including different formats of play and degrees of competitiveness, is what makes the sport so universally popular. Through collaboration with National Associations, the goal has been to try to accommodate those cultural differences within a single WHS.

9-Hole Scores

The new system is able to accept both 9-hole and 18-hole score formats for handicapping purposes, where selected by National Associations.

Daily Revisions

The player should submit their score as soon as practicable after completing the round, preferably before midnight on the day of play. This allows for a responsive update of the player’s handicap before the next time they play.

10 Key Principles

The WHS is based on solid foundations, agreed early in the process:


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