Key WHS changes for 2024

The World Handicap System has been updated in Great Britain & Ireland – here’s what you need to know…

Since its introduction in January 2020, the World Handicap System (WHS) has completely changed how amateur golfers track their performance and compete.

Backed up by four years of data – and more than 100million rounds of golf, including more than 30million from England alone since January 2021 – the first four-year review of the Rules of Handicapping came into effect in England on April 1, 2024. While the vast majority of scores will simply be handled by the digital scoring platforms as normal – with players tasked with simply inputting their gross scores – handicap boards at clubs will also be updated so players can work out their Course Handicaps quickly and easily.

Here’s a rundown of the key things which have changed and how they will affect you…

Course Rating minus Par

GB&I is moving in line with most of the rest of the world by incorporating Course Rating minus Par into the Course Handicap calculation. Where previously your Course Handicap was worked out by taking your Index and multiplying it by Slope Rating/113, from April 1 the calculation will be: Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113) + (Course Rating – Par).
This means, in short, if the Course Rating is higher than the par for the course, players’ Course Handicaps will increase. If par is the higher number, their Course Handicap will decrease. The change means players will now play to par, rather than the Course Rating, meaning a score of 36 stableford points is level with your handicap once again.

Fourball Matchplay handicap changes

The way handicaps are worked out in fourball matchplay is changing. In betterball, rather than all four players working out their Course Handicap then reducing this to 90% before working out how many shots they received from the player with the lowest Playing Handicap, players will now calculate their Course Handicap, then work out how many shots they receive from the lowest golfer. This difference is then reduced to the 90% allowance. This returns the calculation to the one used before WHS was introduced. In foursomes matchplay, the handicap is simply 50% of the difference between the teams’ combined Course Handicaps. Golfers and event organisers are advised to use their competition software to run these events.

Fourball betterball scores may count for handicap

WHS will now track players’ performance in fourball betterball events when specific criteria are met. Fourball betterball formats – including strokeplay, stableford and bogey – can now be used for handicap purposes when: the total score of the pair is at least 42 points (or six under-par), one player in the pair scores on a minimum of nine holes, and the individual player’s upscaled score (which is calculated based on any holes not completed being awarded default points) is at least 36 points. If all these requirements are met, your scoring software will calculate a score differential for the player and this will be added to their handicap record. Scores that do not meet the criteria will still be added to records but will not be used in calculations. All this work will be done by competition software, which will now be used for these types of competitions.

Expected scores

The way scores are calculated when players do not start a hole is changing, with the introduction of Expected Score. Rather than using nett par or nett par plus one on holes not started, an improved prediction of the player’s performance has been introduced to more accurately reflect a player’s ability. An Expected Score can also be used to convert a nine-hole round into an 18-hole Score Differential. Don’t worry, players are still not allowed to not start a hole without a good reason (such as injury, lightning or if a hole has been closed) and submit the card for handicapping purposes.

Other changes to WHS:

Option to introduce one set of pars – The updated rules make it easier for clubs to standardise the pars for each hole from different tee sets – with England Golf advising clubs to standardise these by gender. This change can simplify scorecards and means holes can be the same par even when they are shorter from a different tee set. Each club can make their own decisions on this.

Recording a score on a shorter course – Shorter golf courses can now be measured and have a Course Rating, meaning players can return scores for handicapping purposes. A set of tees on an 18-hole course may be as short as 1,500 yards, while a set of tees on a nine-hole course may be as short as 750 yards.