The new World Handicap System

Handicaps in the UK are changing on November 2 with the implementation of the World Handicap System, but what does that mean for you?

The World Handicap System will come into force in the UK on November 2, bringing players’ handicaps in line with the rest of the world in a new global network. The change is a big one for club golfers used to having a handicap which has tracked a lifetime of playing golf. There is a lot of change happening in one go, so we’ve brought together the main points along with key information from England Golf over these four pages. You will receive further information from your home club and more detail is available at

The World Handicap System has been developed by The R&A and USGA, supported by the world’s handicapping authorities including CONGU in Great Britain & Ireland, to encourage more people to take up the game, to make golf easier to understand, and to give all golfers a handicap which can be used worldwide.

The good news is club golfers won’t need to do anything to facilitate the switch to the World Handicap System – the change will be seamless with information being distributed by clubs regarding players new Handicap Indexes.

The biggest change under WHS is the way handicaps are calculated.

For regular golfers, the system will use the average of the eight best scores from their last 20 rounds. New golfers will have to submit scorecards totalling 54 holes (in any combination of 9 and 18 hole rounds). For those between those two options, an adjusted average is calculated based on the number of rounds in your record. From there, all players will be provided an initial Handicap Index. That Handicap Index will take into account the adjusted Gross Score (Score Differential); the Course Rating (which replaces Standard Scratch); any Playing Conditions Calculation (which replaces Competition Scratch Score) adjustments; and the Slope Rating of the tees played.

New Course Ratings and Slope Ratings have been produced by skilled teams of assessors around the world to create a standardised ranking of the difficulty of golf courses. Each course has a Course Rating and a Slope Rating which takes into account the length of the course and the obstacles a player will encounter. The Course Rating indicates the number of strokes the scratch golfer is expected to take from a set of tees under normal playing conditions while the Slope Rating indicates the difficulty of a golf course for the bogey golfer relative to the scratch golfer.

As well as moving to an average-based system, the WHS replaces the system of adjusting scores based on Standard Scratch in favour of calculating a player’s Course Handicap before play. This calculation will be made easy by conversion tables available at every club and a new app – though you can also work it out using this formula: Handicap Index X (slope rating ÷ 113) = Course Handicap. While a Handicap Index is calculated to one decimal place, a Course Handicap is always a whole number. It’s a simple three-step process – your Handicap Index is converted into a Course Handicap and then you play.

As well as being used for competitions, the World Handicap System will allow general play scores to be recorded on a player’s record, in line with current rules regarding acceptable formats and the requirement to register the intention to submit a score before starting your round.

The system is protected from manipulation or large swings based on a period of poor play by the Soft and Hard Caps. These are based on a player’s lowest Handicap Index in a one-year period. If a player’s handicap goes three shots above the low index, further rises are reduced by 50% (known as a Soft Cap). If a player’s handicap moves 5.0 strokes above the low index in a 12-month period, it cannot rise any further (known as a Hard Cap).

Those are the key changes to the handicap system you’ll see from November 2. All the WHS information can be found online at