Golf World Handicap System

world golf handicap system

As of January 2020 the golf handicap system has changed and been updated to the World Handicap System (WHS). Now golfers that travel the world to play on different courses can have more of an “Apples to Apples” measurement of their abilities.

What Is The Handicap System?

In collaboration between the USGA and the R&A golf governing bodies an extensive review was done of golf handicap systems which is administered by six existing golfing authorities – the already mentioned United States Golf Association (USGA), Golf Australia, the European Golf Association (EGA), the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU), the South African Golf Association (SAGA) and the Argentine Golf Association (AAG). After 7 years of development they have created a consistent handicap that can now be applied to different courses in different countries using the existing USGA course rating and slope rating system that is followed by over 80 countries.

The new World Handicap System (WHS) combines six different handicap systems into one single set of Rules for Handicapping allowing golfers to travel to different courses throughout the world and have a consistent golf handicap criteria. As of March 2020, over 35 countries have already updated their handicap system to reflect the new World System.

world handicap system countries

What Is A Golf Handicap?

For some, a day going out golfing is a chance to hang with some friends and enjoy a big park. For others, it is a contest against yourself to see if you can be better, or at least the same as you were the last time you golfed. The only way to truly quantify your skill level on a golf course is to know your handicap.

Ironically a golf handicap is not used properly by the majority of golfers. For many, they look at their handicap as a reference point as to how well they play but the handicap system was invented to allow players of different skill levels to play against each other on an equal footing. In other words, if you are playing against 3 others in a foursome and your goal is to keep track of scores and at the end of the round determine who played the best, it is a system to help determine a winner amongst the four of you.

So How Does It Work?

Let’s say you are a 10 handicap and your 3 other buddies are scratch golfers, the handicap system allows the player with the handicap to receive one stroke in their favor on the 10 most difficult holes on the course you are playing using the same set of golf tee boxes that everyone else is.

Your handicap is essentially the number of golf strokes you give to or receive from other players for the round of golf you are going to play. 

The World Handicap System allows for a maximum handicap limit of 54.0 for both men and women and is meant to encourage more golfers to start using the system to track their performance, measure their results and hopefully increase their enjoyment of the game of golf. By creating a system like this, golfers of different skill levels can play and compete against fellow golfers on an equal playing field no matter what course they are playing on. 

Explanation of the New World Handicap System

How Do You Calculate A Golf Handicap?

To calculate your golf handicap you need to start with your Handicap Index which forms the base for your Course and Playing Handicap. To establish a Handicap Index you need to play a minimum of 54 holes which can be any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds. Then when you go out to a course you use the slope rating and course rating which most golf courses provide to determine your handicap and the number of strokes you need to play for par.

Here is the simple math of calculating your golf handicap:

(Handicap Index) x (Slope Rating of the tee played / 113) + (Course Rating – Par)

You can use the USGA handicap calculator if you don’t feel like doing the math yourself.

After that, as you continue to golf, an average-based calculation of your handicap continues by taking the best 8 out of the last 20 rounds of golf played.

Also, since no round of golf can be considered equal because of poor weather conditions like rain or wind the WHS also includes a “playing condition calculation” that will possibly adjust your scores to factor in poor weather. That range can sway from -1.0 in easy weather conditions to a +3.0 for super bad weather.

How To Get A Golf Handicap

If you are an avid golfer and belong to a club then you can get an official golf handicap through them. Most clubs can issue Handicap Indexes to its members provided that club has a Handicap Committee. If however you do not belong to one, most countries have a standard golfing body that you can become a member of and for a fee set up a golf handicap. In the United States it can be done through the Allied Golf Associations which partners with the USGA and are state based which can be found on the USGA website for your individual state’s AGA.

In Canada if you are a member of Golf Canada or any of the Provincial Golf Associations you can pay an annual fee and get a golf handicap as well as if you are a member of a golf club with a Handicap Committee you can also set up a golf handicap. By joining the associations either in the US or Canada, you can receive perks such as green fee discounts and invitations to tournaments as well as some other benefits that each individual association offers. Other countries have similar criteria so if you live outside of North America look into what your country’s golf association is and you’ll find your info there.

Once you are set up through one of these systems you can then start to play as you will need a minimal of 54 holes to create your index using any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds of golf.

Does My Handicap Ever Expire?

The short answer is no, however you need to maintain your status. If you are a member of a golf club then your handicap exists as long as you are a member. If you choose to change golf clubs then your handicap cap be moved provided the new club has a handicap committee. If you are a member of an association like mentioned above then as long as you remain a member of an association then your handicap records remain intact. If you stop being a member of an association, your handicap remains, but you can’t post any new scores to it. If you reactivate your membership, your handicap will be there waiting for you.

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