The R&A - Working for Golf

WHS comes into effect in GB&I

The World Handicap System (WHS) comes into effect today for golfers in Great Britain and Ireland.

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

Launched in January 2020 and now live in more than 65 countries, the WHS provides golfers with a unified and more inclusive handicapping system for the first time.

The WHS is implemented and administered at the local level by national and regional golf associations around the world with England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf and Golf Ireland taking on this significant responsibility within GB&I. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions on golf are currently in place in Wales and Ireland and are expected later this week in England. WHS will be in operation from today onwards and as play resumes when restrictions are lifted.

The introduction of the WHS marks a considerable change for golfers in GB&I and will replace the previous Unified Handicapping System developed over many decades by the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU). While it may take golfers some time to get used to the new system, and for transition handicaps to settle down, the feedback received from elsewhere in the world strongly suggests that the WHS will help them to enjoy their golf all the more. For the first time, it will provide them with a Handicap Index which is a more responsive measure of their ability, and a Course Handicap which reflects the difficulty of the golf course being played.

The new system is designed to modernise handicapping by adapting to the way golfers now like to play and makes it easier for new golfers to participate. It will also enable golfers who play all of their golf in GB&I to compete equitably against golfers from other clubs, as well as golfers from other countries, which is an important step forward for the sport.

The key features of the WHS were inspired by the best features of the six main handicap systems that previously existed around the world, including the CONGU Unified Handicapping System - so some will already be familiar to GB&I players.

The key features of the system include:

  • A Course Rating System which sets out a consistent method of evaluating the difficulty of a golf course from each set of tees, with a player’s Handicap Index being adjusted to take account of the difficulty of the course being played
  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a Handicap Index reflects demonstrated ability
  • A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; with the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap being 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds (with some discretion available for national or regional associations)
  • An average-based calculation of a Handicap Index, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness/control
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on golfers’ performance each day
  • Timely handicap revisions
  • A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance, and so increase their enjoyment of the game 

To learn more about the World Handicap System please visit WHS.com.  For WHS information specific to a country, use the Association Finder for further information. A Course Handicap calculator is available at www.randa.org/en/worldhandicapsystem and materials specific to the GB&I golfer can be found here.