A brave new world

The World Handicap System is coming into force later this year – here’s an introduction to the new system

The World Handicap System – or WHS – comes into effect in the UK at the end of 2020. Already in place in parts of the world, it marks a major change in how handicaps are calculated and applied in the UK. There’s a lot to take in, and far more detail than we can cover here, but here’s a quick introduction:

When will WHS come into effect?

In England, the switch takes place on November 2, 2020.

Why has the WHS been created?

The whole world plays to one set of Rules of Golf, but before WHS six different handicap systems oversaw amateur golfers, including CONGU in the UK. By the end of 2020, one handicap system will cover every player.

How will it work?

Under CONGU, handicaps are the sum of your playing career – taking into account reductions for good play and .1 lifts for poor play across all of your past Qualifying scores. Under WHS, only your last 20 scores are taken into account. Of those 20, the best eight will be used to calculate an average and give you a Handicap Index. For day one of WHS, a Handicap Index will be calculated for each player, this Raw Handicap will remove the degree of difficulty of your home course to level the playing field.

How will my Handicap Index translate into my handicap on a given day/course?

This is arguably the biggest change for golfers in the UK. WHS introduces a Slope Rating into the calculation. It starts with the Course Rating, which evaluates the difficulty of a course from a set of tees for scratch golfers under normal course and summer weather conditions. Next, a Bogey Rating does the same for bogey golfers (roughly 20 handicappers for men and 24 for women). The procedure is repeated for each set of tees and a course ends up with a Scratch, Bogey and Slope Rating for each set of tees. The tee specific Slope Rating is the difference in difficulty between the Scratch and Bogey ratings. On any given day/course, your Handicap Index will be used to determine your Course Handicap for the tees you are playing. If it’s an official competition, the computer will carry out the calculation. If it’s a social round, you’ll need to check your Handicap Index against the published data for the tees you’re playing and work it out yourself. In competitions, Course Handicaps will then be converted by the handicapping software into a Playing Handicap, which is determined by the format of the competition. It’s important to note that each day’s conditions will also play a part in the calculation, similar to the way CSS works in the CONGU system. Don’t worry though! In competitions, all this will be done for you by the club’s handicap system. For social rounds, everything you need to know, including the calculation, will be displayed at the course you’re playing. It will also be available on a new app, making the process easy to use every time you play.

How will I know what my new handicap is?

Your handicap will automatically update overnight when the new system comes into effect. As with the current system, only members of an affiliated club will have handicaps under the WHS.

Will I only be able to play in competitions for my handicap?

No. There are a few things you need to do before a round can count towards your handicap – like playing a minimum number of holes, having at least one playing partner and registering your round before teeing off, but generally more rounds will be acceptable for handicap purposes than under the CONGU system.

There is a lot more detail in the new system, including exactly how the calculations work, and you can find everything you need to know at www.whs.com/#learnmore