World Handicap System: Your questions answered

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 10, 2020 17:14

The World Handicap System (WHS) is set to be launched in Great Britain and Ireland in November. A number of golf club managers have sent in questions to us about it – and here to answer them is Gemma Hunter, head of Handicapping & Course Rating for England Golf.

Why has the new World Handicap System been created?

The new World Handicap System has been developed to unite six handicapping authorities around the globe and create a handicap index that is fair, equitable and portable anywhere in the world.

It will also provide a truer reflection of a player’s current playing ability. WHS will be launched in England and across the whole of Great Britain and Ireland on November 2, 2020.

How does the new WHS differ from the old CONGU system?

The two systems have some similarities and some differences. The biggest difference is that the CONGU system is an incremental system, where your handicap is adjusted based on your last returned score.

WHS bases your Handicap Index on the average of the best eight from your last 20 scores. This means it considers your overall ability rather than simply your last performance.

Given the slope adjustment, should the opportunity have been taken to create an all-encompassing, non-gender-based handicap system to promote inclusivity?

The WHS makes no reference to gender. The only element that contains a gender calculation is Course Rating and this is necessary as there are too many physical differences between men and women.

It would not be equitable to use the same processes for both genders. The WHS, like the CONGU system, does allow competitions to be played from different tees.

This could be men playing a range of tees to suit ability or a mixed competition with men and women.

As part of the new WHS, are golfers allowed to have two handicap indexes?

No, WHS states that players should have only one index and one home club.

Will golf clubs have to pay for the new course signage as part of the WHS or will England Golf be covering the costs using a club’s affiliation fee?

England Golf has partnered with Eagle to provide a discount on course signage related to WHS. We understand that every club might want something different.

Some clubs have three sets of tees, others may have six. Some clubs have space for a free-standing board, while others would need something that fixes to a wall or existing signage. By partnering with Eagle, clubs have the option to purchase what is right for them.

England Golf’s Head of Handicapping & Course Rating, Gemma Hunter

A new WHS toolkit has been launched by England Golf, how do you plan to use it to educate golf clubs and their members?

The toolkit is designed to allow clubs to continue to educate their members on the new WHS system.

Many club officials attended WHS workshops prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and this toolkit builds on the knowledge gained at these events. It will allow clubs to help educate members on the changes that are coming.

The toolkit takes a step-by-step journey through the new WHS and comes with downloadable resources for clubs to put out to members via their own channels of communication. C

lubs can also adhere to a timeline for the education of members, which will coincide with national media campaigns on the key elements of the WHS.

As part of the toolkit, England Golf has introduced a new education campaign called ‘Know the Score’. How will this campaign work and why has it been created?

The ‘Know the Score’ campaign aims to do exactly that – educate golfers on how their handicap index is calculated and how to apply this when playing the game. ‘Know the Score’ is a simple way for golfers as yet unfamiliar with the basics of the new WHS to understand how the three key elements (Handicap Index, Course Rating and Slope Rating) combine to produce their course handicap on any given day on any given course.

What impact did the pandemic have, if any, on your education process and the seminars you were giving to golf clubs?

Fortunately, we started the process of educating clubs and counties on WHS with a series of workshops from October last year.

We had to cancel a few workshops near the end of our planned run, but the impact has not been too disruptive, and we made sure everyone enrolled in a cancelled workshop was sent the presentation, so that they could look over the details for themselves.

Are there any key timings golf clubs should adhere to when trying to educate their members on the WHS between now and November 2nd?

Included within the toolkit is a timeline which will clearly set out to clubs when they can expect further communications on WHS and how they should schedule educational material they already possess.

Golfers can also access information on WHS at any time by using the England Golf website and also the online hubs provided by both The R&A and USGA under whose auspices the new system has been introduced.

How do you think the new WHS will be received by golfers in England?

The feedback we have had at many of our workshops from the clubs has been really positive. Of course any change to a system we have all used for years can be a little daunting, but once golfers understand the system and the benefits it will bring then I’m sure they will soon be in the swing of things.

It’s important to remember that this does not change how we play or enjoy the game, just how our handicap is calculated, and the computer does most of the work.

What are some of the most important aspects of the WHS that golfers need to know about?

The most important aspect of WHS for golfers to understand is the stages they need to follow in order to turn their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap for the venue they are playing at. This will soon become second nature.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 10, 2020 17:14
Write a comment


  1. Ivan H August 13, 18:53

    As a member of a club in South Africa I already have a WWH – when will you be releasing course slop rating so we can enter correct scores.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Macker. August 10, 18:52

    Can you show us a typical example for an average handicapper.

    Reply to this comment
    • AKS August 13, 11:01

      If at the moment a players handicap is say 17.0 after having 20 cards in the last 2 years when under CSS in competition or SSS for supplementary cards they lose 0.3 per stroke under, and 0.1 increase when outside the buffer zone there likely course handicap will be the same 17 as all the WHS does to change a current handicap to a handicap index is nett differential x 113/slope rating.
      When looking through around 200 records the difference in strokes received will be -3 to +3 for current members due mainly to fewer than 20 rounds in their records.
      All the WHS does is take the last 20 scores so the movable average of the 8 best rounds may or may not change a handicap index.
      Players themselves as it is now just rely on the club pc to tell them what their handicap is, so no change really. And players only need to read a simple chart when going to play at any course. The difference in difficulty course to course, tee to tee will not be that dramatic and be similar to the sss difference as it is now.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Daihenry August 10, 13:57

    Can I play off any tees in my Club competition.I am 81 yrs old and would like to play off the shortest tees to avoid long carries

    Reply to this comment
    • Golfer2307 August 10, 15:08

      That would depend where your club tells you too tee off from, I believe that all clubs should have different markers for different ages

      Reply to this comment
      • Chatrac August 10, 22:21

        I have played under this system in another country where they piloted this and it works great. Back tees the higher your handicap. Forward tees the lower your handicap. Additionally, playing easier courses reduces your handicap and vice versa

        Reply to this comment
  4. Billsy August 10, 11:34

    Questions youve asked yourselves to paint the changes in a positive light. How do weather conditions affect a handicap in competitions? Are general play revisions still allowed? How will returning scores in a social game whilst playing in a four ball affect pace of play

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*

Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

To advertise in the magazine or online, contact:

Tel 020 7803 2453

Twitter Timeline