Here's what the new World Handicap System means for you

USGA, R&A revise handicapping process.

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The United States Golf Association wants to help you with your handicap. Not by teaching you to play better but simply by helping you find out what your true handicap is. To do that, the USGA has teamed with the R&A on a World Handicap System, to be rolled out in 2020.

The new system would, for the first time, transcend national and continental boundaries and loop the entire world of golfers globally into a single, unified network. Right now the international handicap system is a hodgepodge of different accounting networks, with portability a problem, comparability among like-numbered handicaps questionable and faith in the equity of the outcomes questionable in too many cases.

The WHS brings under one umbrella what had been separately administered systems involving Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association, the South African Golf Association, the Argentine Golf Association and the USGA. Collectively they represent 15 million golfers in 80 countries – 25 percent of the estimated 60 million golfers worldwide.

The WHS involves two components: one for course evaluation and the other for golfer handicapping. The course assessment element includes a rigorous set of measurements to derive both the rating and slope of a golf course for each of its formal teeing grounds. While almost all 16,750 U.S. golf courses have been evaluated for slope and rating, the system has been recently extended in anticipation of the WHS to include more of the 22,100 courses outside the U.S. (Course inventory numbers per the National Golf Foundation). A recent push to rate 3,000 more courses has virtually completed the process for Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico.

In an effort to promote the new handicap system the USGA has run training workshops. There have been 10 overseas )co-sponsored by the R&A), with participation from 100 countries, plus another 10 domestically reaching all 59 U.S. state and regional golf associations. The system does not supersede existing networks by which golfers receive their index data, but it does unify the calculus by which those numbers are determined.

Lance Hellring, handicap chair at LaGorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Fla., attended the Florida State Golf Association meeting with the USGA and came away impressed with the new handicap method's ease and timeliness of information input and delivery. "The new system is doing a much better job," said Hellring, "of incorporating today's technology opportunities, information storage, smartphone access, and real-time, day-to-day application by course professionals, event managers and everyday amateurs."

For U.S. golfers, the system involves only a few noticeable changes. For one thing, a handicap index will now be based upon the eight best of the last 20 posted scores, rather than the 10 best. And instead of taking 96 percent of that total average, the index will represent 100 percent. As Steve Edmondson, USGA managing director of handicapping and course rating, told us, “the results will be more responsive to better rounds and favor the more consistent golfer.”

The resulting index will also travel better, fitting in with handicap efforts worldwide. And good news for golfers who feel challenged by the game, the system will raise the bar on maximum handicap to 54, whereas the previous limits were 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. Another major tweak: the maximum score that can be turned in for handicap purposes on any one hole is net-double bogey. And should the cloud-based algorithmic system “detect” unusually high or low scores posted from any one course by eight or more golfers in a single day, a built-in adjustment system will take place to deal with what are presumably anomalous course or weather conditions.

Overseas, the impact will be mixed. In the U.K., for example, where the system does not go into effect until Nov. 2, 2020, match play is common. Converting that to a postable score is possible, though it will require some cultural adjustment for golfers to keep track. Neil Hampton, general manager of Royal Dornoch Golf Club in northern Scotland, doesn't anticipate much incentive for players to switch over to stroke play. And he thinks more overseas golfers will be able to determine their handicap for the day and post their scores afterwards.

The biggest change from his standpoint is that "clubs will no longer have any role in calculating or adjusting handicaps as this will be done by the WHS cloud at the end of each day. "

For all these changes, the USGA and the golf industry still have a long way to go when it comes to making index and handicap a regular part of the game. Industry estimates suggest only 10-15 percent of U.S. golfers carry a handicap at all. Of those who do carry a handicap, the average for men is 14.3 and 26.5 for women. One can only imagine what the average would look like if more everyday golfers participated in the handicap system.

One hindrance to increasing participation is a recent decision by the USGA disallowing golfers who played a solo round from posting their scores. The official rationale has to do with ensuring proper protocol on witnessing a round and having playing partners attest to the score afterwards. It was also a concession made to handicap systems worldwide to create a standard for those posting and to discourage sandbagging (inflated handicaps) or ego-flattering (deflated handicaps).

But the tacit, if unintended consequence is basically to tell solo golfers that they are disqualified from posting their rounds out of concern for their cheating on their scores. In a game based upon honor and self-reporting of infractions, it seems strange to build distrust into the system. But that’s what it takes to get a refined handicap system going. Golfers will judge for themselves if it’s worthwhile.

Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist, Bradley S. Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golfweek, Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Follow Brad on Twitter
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It appears to me that golf of all the sports must have the most cheaters. The new rules on handicap was put in place to stop players from sandbagging their scores.....in other words cheating...what other sport have you seen put in rules to stop cheating? Since only 20% of golfers keep handicaps ..that 20% must be made up of a lot of sad humans who have to lie to win.....in addition the new rules hurt high handicappers ...they can't even put down their real score....they blow up at least one hole a game...I know I am one....Again it is really sad the game wants to get rid of high handicappers...so let the game die ..if that's what they want.

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What is my handicap index if my lowest 8 scores are equal to handicap of 141.5 / 8 = 17.6875
is it 17.6 or 17.7

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In going into the GHIN system and using the course handicap calculator.... I found that the par from different tees at our club ranges from 71 to 72... when the par for the course regardless of tee selected is 72... I'm not sure what this mean and why it has changed....... I do understand how it is used in the new calculation. The reduction in "PAR" makes our #2 tee handicap less for me than our #3 tee handicap.... that doesn't make sense... thanks

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I travel frequently for work, and play golf whenever I find the time on these trips, which means I often play solo. I actually resent the implication that I would fudge my score for either a vanity or sandbagger handicap. I don't play "mulligans", nor do I award myself any "gimme putts" on the green. I take the required strokes when I hit into a penalty area ( and even though no one is watching, I fix my divots and repair my own ball-marks on the green-and usually 3-4 others that were left un-repaired). I count all my shots simply because it is the ONLY true measure of improving, though, for handicapping purposes I don't go above double on any one hole.
Additionally, if I do get paired up with other golfers, how are they supposed to attest to the scores I enter? I realize that there are a lot of golfers who may be less than honest when submitting scores for handicap purposes, but I feel slighted and pissed off at being lumped in with that type by the USGA. I've seen people (groups) cheat in a scramble just to get a $10 pro shop gift certificate, and I don't like the governing bodies to assume that I am one of those people (I refuse to call them Golfers). So, rules being rules, I no longer enter solo rounds, which typically cuts my entered rounds in half.

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Agree completely. I would encourage you to keep posting scores digitally. No one will know under what conditions you are posting.

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Thank you. That answer is encouraging.
P.S. I enjoy your articles on this site, and those of your fellow writers.

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Since scores can be entered online I don't understand how this rule about not entering solo rounds could ever be enforced anyway. Seems like a strange way to make rules.

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Isn’t that the first check on honesty? If you’re willing to skirt the first rule, then the rest were open to a lack of enforcement as well. It’s the basic difference in golf from other sports.

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I agree with the notion that the purpose of the Handicap System is to level the playing field in groups that wish to compete against one another whilst having a variety of abilities and experiences. That purpose can work if the members within that group have an equal understanding of how that system works as well as a shared attitude to a consistent and honest application to applying the rules of that system. In my small group of seniors, neither one of those situations is present.
As a result, those that keep a handicap do it privately(exclusive of this small group) in order to compare themselves with others who are like minded. All well and good, assuming everyone using the system applies the rules in a similar manner. One small problem consistently occurs in my group and it surfaces during the post round reporting over drinks in the lounge.Those that report what they actually shot in the round are being compared to those who report what they will be posting for the purposes of the handicapping system.

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To simplify for the individual who gave the double bogey at 90 and triple bogey at 108 he indicated that any thing over a double bogey wouldn’t count but you would add a stroke/s to your score if you got a handicap stroke/s on that hole. If you shot a 7 on a par 4 and it was a 1 stroke handicap hole you would record a 7. If it was a 2 handicap hole and you shot a 8 you would record a 8

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My course is semi-private and Par 72 -- so if I shoot Bogey on every hole, I would have a 90 -- if I shoot Double Bogey on every hole, I would have 108 -- if I shoot Triple Bogey on every hole, again I would have 108 because the most I can enter on any one hole is a double bogey. Sorry but I am an old guy and don't think as well as I did when younger, so if I am wrong, please tell me how. Also if I am on a Par 5 and laying 7 on the green, should I just pick up?...because I have to record a 7 on my card anyway??

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You didn't mention your handicap. The control is NET double bogey.
But you only have to enter the gross hole score. WHS does the rest.

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Sorry but I guess I am both old and dumb! In our Golf Canada Handicap System, their PREFERRED system is that we enter our scores HOLE BY HOLE and NOT just one Overall total. … So as an 18 Handicap -- on that Par 5, and I enter an "8".... that score is AUTOMATICALLY backed down to a 7 because at my handicap level, a 7 is the most I can record on any hole -- it dumps down to the 7 EVEN BEFORE I can record my gross on the NEXT hole -- so I STILL don't understand how anyone can be a 40+ handicap -- Am NOT trying to be a "S@#& disturber"...simply trying to understand the new 2020 system!

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The Max handicap under the new rules is 54 or 3 shots per hole. The most you can score on any one hole is a NET double bogey which for a 54 handicapper computes to an 8 on a par 3, a 9 on a par 4 and a 10 on a par 5. In other words you add your handicap back to the GROSS double bogey score for each hole to calculate the NET double bogey. Hope this explains.

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I was not aware of the Golf Canada details.
Just take the WHS
For an initial handicap allocation the player submits 54 holes. The lowest gross of each 18 is taken and the course rating is subtracted. And then a further -2 applied. That will be the initial handicap index. The result could well be over 54. As more scores are returned the index will be reduced if scores are returned with a differential less than the index. Until 20 scores have been returned, the the normal 8/20 kicks in.

ofwoth of scoressimple gross

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hi

im a uk golfer and am hoping this new system can incentivise the individual golfer that improving and getting a lower handicap is the object of the amateur game !!

not keeping a higher one to walk off with the prizes , something these days with the commercialism available has become a very lucrative to do

especially when these are usually matchplay based or 4 ball betterball with no handicap consequences.

if the new system doesn't deal with these then it will be waste of time generally

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If the highest score posted for handicap purposes on an individual hole cannot be greater than double bogey, how does anyone end up with a handicap as high as 54? Shouldn’t it be closer to 36?

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The net double bogey limit does not apply when playing for an initial handicap allocation. So gross score only for each hole is used.

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Because it's a NET double bogey.

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not for initial allocation

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I'm with Bob, if the net scores are used to calculate the handicap, you'll never get above 36, right?

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Not allowing solo players to post scores is not in the best interest of growing the game. Either inflating or deflating ones handicap would end up having negative consequences for the players. One of the great pleasures in golf is going out alone and enjoying the game and the surroundings.

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I always considered a solo round as PRACTICE. Hitting multiple shots and putts is inevitable. imho

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Here's what the new World Handicap System means for you