The R&A - Working for Golf

Highlights of the World Handicap System

First and foremost, there is no intention to change the way golf is played around the world. The World Handicap System is designed to accommodate the many different golfing cultures, whether they be predominantly recreational or competitive in nature, or whether there is one particular format of play that is more popular than others. 

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Key Features

Calculation of Playing Handicap

The number of strokes received during a round will be based on the choice of course, tees and format of play. This will include any Handicap Allowances that have been set to promote fairness of play.

Go out and enjoy your Round

Under the new system, golfers should feel like they can simply play and enjoy their round – just the same as always.

Submit your Score

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

There is no real need for golfers to worry about the technical details of the new system. However, for those who are interested – here are some of the highlights:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Accommodating Local Golfing 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 day they play.