The R&A and USGA announce 2024 World Handicap System™ revisions
(St Andrews, Scotland and Liberty Corner, NJ, USA) – The R&A and the USGA today announced the first update to the World Handicap System™ (WHS™) as part of an ongoing review of the Rules of Handicapping™ and Course Rating System™ with a continued emphasis on accuracy, consistency and equity. The latest revisions will go into effect January 17, 2024.
Many countries have seen significant increases in the number of scores being submitted for handicapping purposes since the WHS was introduced, reflecting golf’s broadening appeal. More than 100 million scores have been posted each year, unifying millions of golfers through a standard measure of playing ability. The 2024 update leverages the performance data gathered from around the world, in addition to feedback received from many of the 125 countries now using the system.
Significant updates to the WHS include:
Inclusion of Shorter-Length Golf CoursesWithin the Course Rating System: The overall length requirements for Course Rating in the WHS will be significantly reduced. A set of tees on an 18-hole course may be as short as 1,500 yards [1,370 metres] to be eligible for a Course Rating and Slope Rating®, and a set of tees on a 9-hole course may be as short as 750 yards [685 metres]. This change is intended to expand the WHS to thousands of shorter length courses, including par-3 courses, and enable more golfers to obtain and use a Handicap Index.
Use of an Expected Score for a Hole Not Played: Improvements have been made to the method used to handle holes not played, which will now be based on a player’s expected score rather than a score of net par. This new method will produce a 9-hole or 18-hole Score Differential that more accurately reflects a player’s ability. As golfers across the world are playing more 9-hole rounds, an expected score can also be used to convert a 9-hole round into an 18-hole Score Differential. For some countries, this means that 9-hole scores will be considered in the calculation of a player’s Handicap Index immediately after the day of play, rather than waiting to combine with another 9-hole score.
Playing Conditions Calculation Adjustments Made More Frequent: The Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) has been modified to increase the likelihood of an adjustment for abnormal playing conditions. National associations were given discretion, beginning in July 2022, to introduce this revision within their computation platforms, which will be complete by 1 April 2024.
Enhanced Guidance on Conducting a Handicap Review: The role of the Handicap Committee is vital to the success of the WHS and the Rules recommend that a Handicap Review is conducted regularly, or at least once a year to ensure a Handicap Index® remains reflective of a player’s ability. New reporting tools have been developed that national associations can incorporate into their handicapping software to assist Committees in conducting the review process effectively and consistently.
Since its inception, the WHS has embraced the many ways golf is played around the world by giving national associations scope to apply regional discretionary items, with the objective for greater alignment over time. For this reason, the governing bodies expect countries to continue to shift the way they calculate Course Handicaps so that they are relative to par, making a golfer’s target score to “play to handicap” more intuitive.
Golfers are encouraged to visit their national association’s website to learn more about the discretionary items that apply to their region. Contact details for national associations can be found on the WHS website here: www.whs.com/#association.
The R&A and the USGA have also recently launched a new WHS Software Accreditation and Interoperability Programme to help ensure that there is consistency and accuracy in the calculation of handicaps worldwide, and to assist with the retrieval of a Handicap Index and the return of away scores from country to country.
Claire Bates, Director – Handicapping at The R&A said, “We have made good progress in the early stages of the WHS but we know there are always areas that can be improved as we gather more data and information on the system from around the world. Conducting a regular review process is important in terms of good governance and enables us to examine some of the key areas in which we have received feedback. We will continue to work with the handicapping bodies and national associations around the world to ensure that the WHS is providing golfers with a system that provides a sensible balance between inclusivity and integrity, making it as easy as possible to get a Handicap Index, subject to meaningful safeguards.”
Steve Edmondson, Managing Director – Handicapping & Course Rating at the USGA said, “The game of golf continues to evolve and the WHS has embraced those changes in a dynamic way to help all golfers, everywhere they play. It is a monumental time in golf, and improving both the accessibility of obtaining a Handicap Index and leveraging powerful data and technology to easily and accurately track performance is a great step forward.”
The R&A and the USGA jointly launched and govern the WHS to provide a modern and responsive system, that gives an accurate reflection of a player’s demonstrated ability. It is calculated by incorporating the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System and is administered by a range of handicapping bodies and national associations around the world.
The more flexible and accessible nature of the system has led to the introduction of successful initiatives from a number of national associations aimed at making it easier to obtain a Handicap Index and be part of the WHS.
Mirroring the review processes of other areas of governance in golf, including the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status, reviews of the WHS will continue to be conducted at regular intervals, taking into consideration performance data and feedback to help identify areas for improvement.
To learn more about the World Handicap System please visit www.WHS.com.
World Handicap System certification dates announced
Since 2003, Golf Manitoba and Golf Canada have been providing member clubs with educational sessions relating to the handicap system. These seminars are being offered as part of the copyright agreement between Golf Canada and the United States Golf Association (USGA) to try and maintain a consistent manner in which the handicap system is utilized. To date, approximately 400+ participants have attended these seminars.
With the introduction of the World Handicap System (WHS) in early 2020, member clubs/leagues will be required for certification under the WHS. In preparation for this, Golf Manitoba will be offering a number of certification opportunities starting in March. The certification seminars will give attendees a thorough knowledge of the Rules of Handicapping as governed by the WHS. The Handicap Seminars are beneficial for Handicap Committee members, Golf Professionals, Superintendents, General Managers, Club Members and others interested in learning more about Handicapping in general.
These information only sessions will provide you a brief overview of the World Handicap System. These sessions are approximately 30 minutes long and will run concurrently during the Golf Manitoba Winter Rules Seminars and are free to attend. Upcoming rules seminar dates:
February 13 – Niakwa Country Club
March 11 – St. Charles Country Club
April 7 – Southwood Golf & Country Club
For more information and to RSVP for an upcoming seminar, please visit golfmb.ca/seminars.
In January 2020, the new Rules of Handicapping will be introduced in Canada.
#1. Handicap Index calculation is changing.
Your number will be based off your 8 best scores out of the past 20. For most golfers, the change will be minor, but you may see that your Handicap Index is different in January, despite not having played!
#2. Your course handicap will change.
Slope Rating and now Course Rating and Par will be used to determine your Course Handicap, allowing you to play from different sets of tees without any adjustment.
#4. Safeguards have been added to protect your Handicap Index. The system will account for abnormal playing conditions, limit extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index, and reduce a Handicap Index when an exceptional score is posted.
To ensure you’re ready to starting entering scores under the new World Handicap System, Golf Canada/Manitoba will be providing a number of educational tools and resources including an opportunity to attend both online and in-person seminars. Stay tuned for upcoming seminar dates, times and locations.
Your golf handicap is changing – find out why it matters
Welcome to Golf Handicaps for Dummies: Why having a handicap is not a handicap.
No, I’m not calling you a dummy, but if you’re a golfer of any ability who doesn’t maintain an accurate and consistent handicap, you’re not taking advantage of one of the fundamentals that makes golf the most democratic of sports. And that’s just dumb.
With all due respect, you can’t go one-on-one with a pro basketball player or hope to score on an NHL goalie. They’re not going to let you shoot at a basket that’s lower than regulation or a net that’s 10 feet wide and six feet high.
But golf’s handicap system allows you to compete on an equitable basis with players who are more or less accomplished than you are. Maintaining a handicap also allows you to monitor your progress every time you play. It’s an integral part of your golf experience.
And, starting Jan. 8, the new World Handicap System makes that scenario even more attractive. More user-friendly, in other words.
“The new system gives golfers an increased opportunity to have fun and compete equitably across all skill levels and ages,” says Shaun Hall, Golf Canada’s senior manager of handicap & course rating.
“You don’t have to be a competitive golfer. If you simply enjoy playing, having a handicap makes the game more enjoyable and allows you to track whether you’re improving.”
I reached out on Twitter with the question, “Do you maintain a handicap and why?” and received some testimonials.
Ontario golfer Donal Byrne says, “I’m a huge fan of keeping a handicap. I was thrilled to have closed the season inside of 20 [Handicap Index] for the first time. We should celebrate everyone who plays, no matter how they play. I just won’t play anyone who doesn’t have a handicap for money!”
And from Charlottetown, Jeff Craig, whose Twitter profile says he’s “dedicated in my quest to break par,” says, “It bugs the Hell out of me when someone [without a handicap] says, ‘Well, I usually shoot in the mid-80s and wants to play for something.’”
On a personal note, my wife loves the game and posts every score. Her pride in seeing her handicap decrease is evident. Because she is diligent about maintaining her handicap and improving her skills, she was able to win the ladies’ net championship at her club. As a side note, she plays annually in a member-guest at another club where you must have an official Golf Canada Handicap Index to participate.
When she first took up golf, she had waffled about establishing a handicap because, in her words, “I don’t think I’m good enough to have a handicap.”
And that’s the most common excuse recreational golfers give for not caring about a handicap. “I’m not good enough.” Hall disputes that, especially given the fact that under the new system the maximum Handicap Index (which replaces the previous “Handicap Factor” in Canada) has been raised to 54.0 for both men and women. Previously, it was 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women.
Another significant change is to Equitable Stroke Control (ESC). Starting in 2020, net double bogey on any hole is the maximum allowed, whether it’s a par 3, par 4 or par 5. So, for handicap purposes, you can count a maximum of two strokes over par plus any strokes you are entitled to, based on the stroke allowance for that hole.
Obviously, from its name, the World Handicap System is now accepted globally, meaning the same parameters are in place no matter where you play, a boon for Canadians who travel and golf outside the country. As before, all scores can be conveniently posted on the Golf Canada Score Centre, club kiosk or Golf Canada app from your phone or tablet.
3 more significant innovations
Only three 18-hole scores (or the equivalent combination of nine-hole scores) are needed to establish a Handicap Index. Previously, the minimum was five. What golfer doesn’t play more than 54 holes in a season?
Only eight of your lowest 20 most recent scores will be used to calculate your Handicap Index, rather than the previous 10.
And a Playing Conditions Calculation will analyze how you played that day compared to your expected performance on that particular course, taking into account weather and course setup.
Don’t ask me how that last one works, because I’m a tech dummy.
If you want to delve deeper into the mechanics and details of the new World Handicap System, click here.
But even if you don’t, don’t be a dummy. Take advantage of the new World Handicap System in 2020.
World Handicap System coming to Canada in January 2020
LIBERTY CORNER, N.J., and ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (Nov. 4, 2019) – The World Handicap System (WHS) is ready to be launched in January 2020 and will provide golfers with a unified and more inclusive handicapping system for the first time.
Though many countries are planning to adopt the new system in January, the system will go live in other parts of the world throughout the year to accommodate different implementation plans and variations in the golf calendar.
Developed by the USGA and The R&A in close coordination with existing handicapping authorities, the WHS will provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.
A key objective of the initiative was to develop a modern system, enabling as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index. Golfers will be able to transport their Handicap Index globally and compete or play a casual round with players from other regions on a fair basis. It will also indicate the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving the next time they go out to play.
The table lists the estimated implementation timeframes for a selection of countries:
*Indicative time frame
Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, Republic of Korea, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela
February – March – April
Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden
May – June – July – August
September – October – November – December
Great Britain and Ireland
The WHS has two main components – the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System. The Rules of Handicapping are encompassed within seven Rules to inform administrators and golfers on how an official Handicap Index is calculated and administered, with some flexibility given to national associations based on how the sport is played and enjoyed in their region. The Course Rating System, based on the USGA Course Rating System first adopted nearly 50 years ago and already adopted on nearly every continent, sets out a consistent method of determining a course’s difficulty. Together, these components become the foundational elements in determining a golfer’s Handicap Index.
“When the golf community works together, everyone benefits,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “We have seen the benefit that handicapping has provided for decades, providing greater enjoyment for all who play. To have a single set of Rules of Handicapping for the game will connect golfers from country to country, and we are excited to bring the best of all worlds together through this initiative.
“It is one of the many ways we are investing in golf’s future, to strengthen and foster growth of the entire game for years to come.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “The game of golf is transforming to meet the needs of the modern-day golfer; modernizing the Rules this year was an important step forward in that regard and the World Handicap System will be another.
“Our hope is that the launch of the WHS will be a catalyst for change; signalling the start of a new era of golfer engagement, being inclusive by embracing all golfers, whatever their level of ability, and broadening its appeal to a much wider audience.”
“Change also means opportunity and, managed appropriately, this can only be good for the game. It does mean there will be a period of adjustment, as we saw with the new Rules, but once it beds in golfers and golf clubs will benefit in many ways from the new system.”
In preparation for the launch of the WHS, more than 3,000 golf courses have been rated for the first time and an extensive education program has been delivered. By the end of 2019, more than 90 National Associations will have attended an educational seminar and a robust library of resources is hosted on WHS.com to support regional education.
Rules of Handicapping books are being produced and will be translated and delivered through national associations.
In addition, the USGA and The R&A have developed a series of golfer-focused materials, including videos, infographics and posters, which can be used by national associations and shared with golf clubs for the benefit of golfers.
This includes a promotional video which can be seen here featuring Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and voices of recreational golfers from around the world to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap.
The materials explain the system’s key features, including:
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, 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 a player’s 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 to increase their enjoyment of the game
The formation of a World Handicap System was first conceived in 2011 between the USGA and The R&A in an effort to engage more golfers in the game and promote equity, no matter where golf is played. The effort unites six existing handicapping systems into one, while embracing the many ways the game is played across cultures.
Beginning in 2020, the new WHS will be governed by the USGA and The R&A and administered by national and regional golf associations around the world.
The existing six handicapping authorities, Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA, represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.
As an extension of their support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support the USGA’s and The R&A’s efforts to implement the World Handicap System.