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Purpose and Authorization; Obtaining a Handicap Index
Handicapping
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Rule 2

Rule 1 covers the fundamentals of handicapping, including:

  • The purpose of the World Handicap System
  • Authorisation
  • Responsibilities of key stakeholders, and
  • How to obtain a Handicap Index.
1
Purpose and Authorization; Obtaining a Handicap Index
 
1.1
Purpose of the World Handicap System

The World Handicap System includes the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System. Its purpose is to enhance the enjoyment of the game of golf and to give as many golfers as possible the opportunity to:

  • Obtain and maintain a Handicap Index,
  • Use their Handicap Index on any golf course around the world, and
  • Compete, or play a casual round, with anyone else on a fair and equal basis.

This is achieved by:

  • Establishing course ratings and slope ratings for each set of tees, based on length and playing difficulty (see Diagram 1.1).
  • Applying adjustments to a Handicap Index to reflect the golf course being played and the format of play.
  • Assessing the impact of playing conditions, using players’ scores on a specific day and applying adjustments when necessary.
  • Limiting the maximum hole score for handicap purposes to ensure a Handicap Index continues to reflect a player’s demonstrated ability.
  • Applying a uniform calculation for updating a Handicap Index for all acceptable scores submitted.
  • Updating a Handicap Index on a daily basis, or soon thereafter.
  • Reviewing a player’s Handicap Index on a regular basis to ensure it continues to reflect the player’s demonstrated ability.
1.2
Authorization to Use the World Handicap System

In order to use the World Handicap System, an Association must be authorized by the USGA and The R&A. Within its area of jurisdiction, an Authorized Association may:

  • Use the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.
  • Use the registered marks of the World Handicap System.
  • Issue a Handicap Index either directly or, where delegated, through a golf club.
  • Issue a Course Rating and a Slope Rating.

The following trademarks and service marks are owned or licensed by the USGA and The R&A; all rights reserved:

World Handicap SystemTM, WHSTM, Handicap Index®, Score DifferentialTM, Low Handicap IndexTM, Course HandicapTM, Playing HandicapTM, Course RatingTM, Bogey RatingTM,  Slope RatingTM.

Any organization that is not authorized to use the World Handicap System is prohibited from using these marks or any part of the World Handicap System. This includes the Course Rating System and the handicap calculation formula, except when the organization provides handicapping products or services to a golf club through an Authorized Association.

1.3
Responsibilities of Player, Handicap Committee and Authorized Association

Players, Handicap Committees and Authorized Associations all play an important role in ensuring the Rules of Handicapping are being implemented and administered appropriately.

 The main areas of responsibility for each key stakeholder are:

  1. Player

    A player is expected to:

    • Act with integrity by following the Rules of Handicapping and to refrain from using, or circumventing, the Rules of Handicapping for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage,
    • Attempt to make the best score possible at each hole,
    • Submit acceptable scores for handicap purposes as soon as possible after the round is completed and before midnight local time,
    • Submit acceptable scores to provide reasonable evidence of their demonstrated ability,
    • Play by the Rules of Golf, and
    • Certify the scores of fellow players.
  2. Golf Club/Handicap Committee
    • A golf club is affiliated to its Authorized Association and is responsible for ensuring the Handicap Index of those members who have designated it to be their home club is administered in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.
    • A Handicap Committee is established by a golf club and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the golf club’s specified obligations and responsibilities under the Rules of Handicapping.
    • Where a National Association administers and manages a player’s Handicap Index directly, the National Association assumes the responsibilities of a golf club.
  3. Regional Golf Association
    • A Regional Golf Association is affiliated to its National Association and comprised of golf clubs and/or golfers within a defined area.
    • A Regional Golf Association has specific responsibilities within the World Handicap System and may be delegated additional obligations by its National Association.
  4. National Association
    • An authorized National Association has the exclusive rights to implement and administer the World Handicap System within its jurisdiction, including the issuance of a Handicap Index.
    • A National Association has specific responsibilities within the World Handicap System and may be delegated additional obligations by a Multi-National Association.
    • An authorized National Association may delegate some of its responsibilities to a Regional Golf Association or a golf club.
  5. Multi-National Association
    • Where a Multi-National Association is the Authorized Handicapping Body, the Multi-National Association has the exclusive rights to implement and administer the World Handicap System within its jurisdiction on behalf of all member National Associations.
    • An authorized Multi-National Association may delegate certain rights or responsibilities to a National Association within its jurisdictionto implement and fulfil the obligations of the World Handicap System on behalf of the Multi-National Association.
  6. The USGA and The R&A
    • Together, the USGA and The R&A are responsible for writing and interpreting the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.
    • The USGA and The R&A are the joint governing authorities of the World Handicap System and are responsible for authorizing the use of the World Handicap System.
The full rights and responsibilities of each key stakeholder are outlined in Appendix A.
1.4
How to Obtain a Handicap Index

 

a
Joining a Golf Club

In order to obtain a Handicap Index that can be administered in accordance with the Rules of Handicapping, a player must be:

  • A member of a golf club that is affiliated with an Authorized Association, or
  • A direct member of an Authorized Association which has assumed the responsibility of a golf club(see Rule 1.3(ii)).

By returning a score for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining a Handicap Index, the player acknowledges that the use of their scoring record will be available for:

  • Peer Review purposes (see Rule 4.4),
  • Issuance of a Handicap Index, and
  • Administration and research purposes.
b
Designating a Home Club

A player must designate one golf club as their home club, to be responsible for maintaining their Handicap Index. When a player is a member of more than one golf club, the player must ensure each golf club knows the details or which other golf clubs they are a member of and which golf club they have designated as their home club.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Golf Course

An area of land where golf is played, made up of the following five areas as defined in the Rules of Golf:

  1. The general area,
  2. The teeing area a player must play from in starting the hole being played,  
  3. All penalty areas,
  4. All bunkers, and
  5. The putting green of the hole being played.  

Each hole may have multiple teeing areas and, for handicap purposes, a golf course is made up of a designated set of tees on each hole. As such, each set of tees (or golf course) should have a separate Course Rating and Slope Rating, including one for each gender where appropriate.

Course Rating

An indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions (see Appendix G).

Slope Rating

An indication of the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to players who are scratch players (see Appendix G).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Golf Course

An area of land where golf is played, made up of the following five areas as defined in the Rules of Golf:

  1. The general area,
  2. The teeing area a player must play from in starting the hole being played,  
  3. All penalty areas,
  4. All bunkers, and
  5. The putting green of the hole being played.  

Each hole may have multiple teeing areas and, for handicap purposes, a golf course is made up of a designated set of tees on each hole. As such, each set of tees (or golf course) should have a separate Course Rating and Slope Rating, including one for each gender where appropriate.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Acceptable Score

A score from an authorized format of play which meets all the provisions set out within the Rules of Handicapping (see Rule 2).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Jurisdiction
The geographic territory in which an Authorized Association administers the Rules of Handicapping.
Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Course Rating

An indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions (see Appendix G).

Slope Rating

An indication of the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to players who are scratch players (see Appendix G).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Score Differential

The difference between a player’s adjusted gross score and the Course Rating, reflecting the Slope Rating and the playing conditions calculation.

It is the numerical value attributed to a score achieved on a golf course on a specific day that is posted into the player’s scoring record.  A Score Differential must be an 18-hole value or its calculated equivalent.

(See Rule 5.1.)

Low Handicap Index

The lowest Handicap Index achieved by a player during the 365-day period (one year) preceding the day on which the most recent score on their scoring record was played (see Rule 5.7).

Course Handicap

The number of handicap strokes a player receives, before handicap allowances, from a specific set of tees.

 (See Rule 6.1.)

Playing Handicap

The Course 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 round being played (see Rule 6.2).

Course Rating

An indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions (see Appendix G).

Slope Rating

An indication of the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to players who are scratch players (see Appendix G).

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Handicap Committee

The entity established by a golf club or an Authorized Association which is responsible for ensuring compliance with the obligations of the golf club or Authorized Association under the Rules of Handicapping (see Rule 1.3 and Appendix A).

Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Acceptable Score

A score from an authorized format of play which meets all the provisions set out within the Rules of Handicapping (see Rule 2).

Acceptable Score

A score from an authorized format of play which meets all the provisions set out within the Rules of Handicapping (see Rule 2).

Rules of Golf

The Rules of Golf as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”), including any Model Local Rules the Committee adopts for the competition or the golf course.

For the purpose of the Rules of Handicapping, all general references to the Rules of Golf should also be considered to cover the “Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities”.

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Member

An individual who joins a golf club in a manner determined by club policy, which allows the player to obtain a Handicap Index.

Home Club

A player’s primary golf club designated by the player to ensure their Handicap Index is managed in accordance with the Rules of Handicapping.

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Handicap Committee

The entity established by a golf club or an Authorized Association which is responsible for ensuring compliance with the obligations of the golf club or Authorized Association under the Rules of Handicapping (see Rule 1.3 and Appendix A).

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Jurisdiction
The geographic territory in which an Authorized Association administers the Rules of Handicapping.
Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Jurisdiction
The geographic territory in which an Authorized Association administers the Rules of Handicapping.
Jurisdiction
The geographic territory in which an Authorized Association administers the Rules of Handicapping.
Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping as approved by the United States Golf Association (“USGA”) and R&A Rules Limited (“The R&A”) and administered by the Authorized Association within its jurisdiction.

Member

An individual who joins a golf club in a manner determined by club policy, which allows the player to obtain a Handicap Index.

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Member

An individual who joins a golf club in a manner determined by club policy, which allows the player to obtain a Handicap Index.

Authorized Association

An entity that is authorized, in accordance with the structure set out by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A Rules Limited (The R&A).

To implement and administer the Rules of Handicapping within its jurisdiction and to carry out the responsibilities as delegated to it by the authority through which it is authorized.

Such an entity must be a Multi-National, National or Regional Association, Federation or Union.

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Scoring Record

A history of a player’s acceptable scores along with:

  • The player’s current Handicap Index,
  • The player’s Low Handicap Index,
  • Other details about each round (such as, the date the round was played), and
  • Any applicable adjustments (for example, an exceptional score).

(See Appendix B.)

Peer Review

The process by which a score or Handicap Index can be confirmed or challenged (see Rule 4.4).

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Home Club

A player’s primary golf club designated by the player to ensure their Handicap Index is managed in accordance with the Rules of Handicapping.

Handicap Index

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) (see Rule 5.2).

Member

An individual who joins a golf club in a manner determined by club policy, which allows the player to obtain a Handicap Index.

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Member

An individual who joins a golf club in a manner determined by club policy, which allows the player to obtain a Handicap Index.

Golf Club

An organization that is permitted, through affiliation to its Authorized Association, to administer and manage the Handicap Index of those players who have designated it as their home club, in accordance with the requirements of the Rules of Handicapping.

To qualify for affiliation, a golf club may be required to satisfy certain requirements as determined by its Authorized Association. 

Home Club

A player’s primary golf club designated by the player to ensure their Handicap Index is managed in accordance with the Rules of Handicapping.