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World Handicap System Is Here

Golf scorecard filled out

Golf’s two governing bodies, the R&A (Europe) and United States Golf Association (USGA), have announced the incorporation of a world golf handicap system, coming into effect next month.

For many, including in Australia, the World Handicap System came into effect at the end of January 2020 and the November introduction will have little effect. For much of the rest of the world, including the UK, the WHS comes into effect on November 2 and features significant improvements. Both the USGA & R&A agreed on the new system to make the game of golf more accessible to people around the world and for the uniformity that comes with a global system. firmly believes that the introduction of the World Handicap System will make the idea of travelling and playing golf much more attractive as golfers from around the world will share the same perspective. The agreement is part of a larger incentive that saw the R&A and USGA work with all major world handicapping authorities to reform the great game of golf.

Golf Scorecard
Golf Scorecards will look the same, but regulations with handicaps will change

What Will Change with the World Handicap System?

It is important to know the changes, regardless of the country you live in. Australia implemented the changes in January 2020 but in-case you missed it, the changes are multifaceted.

Soft Cap – New Regulation

There are caps in place (soft & hard) based on a player’s lowest Handicap Index in a one-year period to ensure handicaps don’t spike due to a bad spell. This may be useful in bouts of bad weather or if your golf goes downhill in winter due to poor conditions. The hard cap of 5 strokes has not changed. The GA Handicap will continue to increase at the current rate of 100% of the “8 of 20 scores” calculation until it reaches 3 strokes above its best point from the previous 12 months. Once in this Soft Cap zone, a player’s Handicap will only increase by 50% of the calculated amount until it reaches the Hard Cap.

Changes to Daily Handicap

The daily handicap formula will include an adjustment when the Scratch Rating is different to the Par. Your GA Handicap is currently used to calculate your Daily Handicap based on the slope of the course you are playing. When the Scratch rating is 75 and Par is 72, your Daily Handicap will increase by 3. Likewise, when your Scratch rating is 69 and Par is 71, then your Daily Handicap will reduce by 2. This will make 36 Stableford points the universal measure of whether a player has played to their handicap, regardless of the course or set of tees.

New Regulation – Bonus Reduction for Exceptional Net Score

Your handicap system (Australia: GolfLink) will apply an automated extra reduction to your GA Handicap for any net score that is at least 7 strokes better than it. If a player’s score is at least 10 strokes better than what their GA Handicap was a the time the round was played, then an automatic additional reduction of 2 strokes to their Handicap applies. To establish whether or not a score is exceptional, the player’s GA Handicap at the time the round was played will be compared with the number in the ‘Slope Played To’ column for that round.

Transfer of 0.93 Multiplier – Changed Regulation

The 0.93 Multiplier will be transferred out of the GA Handicap calculation and into the Daily Handicap calculation. This change will have no overall impact on the handicaps players actually play off (i.e. Daily Handicaps). This is because the slight increase it’ll cause to GA Handicaps will be exactly the same as the decrease it will cause to Daily Handicaps. 

Maximum GA Handicap under the WHS is 54.0 for both men and women – Changed Regulation

Many clubs will operate Daily Handicap limits lower than 54 (for example 36 for men and 45 for women for any/all competitions). 

–   For most golfers, the only change that will have any effect on GA Handicaps is the shift of the 0.93 Multiplier which will cause an increase of about 7%.

–  Key Benefit: Comparing results in multi-tee and mixed-gender competitions will be made simple. The change will help to drive game participation and engagement initiatives.

What to Take Away from the World Handicap System

While not much is changing about the game, the new World Handicap System encourages greater participation for new golfers and increases accessibility for average golfers. Due to Covid-19, the scoring system for many golf clubs around the world has gone online and will only increase post-Covid. Registered players with an official handicap will be able to play with 100% accurate handicapping and scoring through the automated system, and they will be able to use that same system worldwide which is seen as a great asset for international golf travel. Perhaps the best takeaway is that cross-gender participation is more accessible under the new Handicap system: 36 Stableford points will become the universal measure of whether a player has played to their Handicap. See our How-it-Works page to start your journey & take your crew with you!

Have another question? See our ‘FAQ‘ Page to see frequently asked questions or ask your own question.

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