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Purpose and Authorization; Obtaining a Handicap Index
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.
Purpose and Authorization; Obtaining a Handicap Index

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 equitable 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.

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.

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: i.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,
    • Submit acceptable scores to provide reasonable evidence of their demonstrated ability,
    • 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,
    • Play by the Rules of Golf, and
    • Certify the scores of other players.
ii.Golf Club/Handicap Committee
  • 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.
  • 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.
iii.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.
iv.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.
v.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 jurisdiction to implement and fulfil the obligations of the World Handicap System on behalf of the Multi-National Association.
vi.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.

How to Obtain a Handicap Index


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.

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.
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