Everything you need to know about the new World Handicap System

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 29, 2020 07:45

The new World Handicap System (WHS) is set to be launched in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on November 2 and will replace the current CONGU handicapping system. It will be part of a system used by over 15 million golfers in around 80 countries worldwide.

Here’s everything you need to know about it (this article is written by England Golf):

What is the WHS?

Developed by The R&A and USGA, the WHS will, for the very first time, unite six handicapping bodies across the world under one standardised system.

The new system combines both the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating system and is designed to attract more players to the game, whilst making handicapping easier to understand and giving players the opportunity to use their Handicap Index on any golf course across the globe.

With only a few weeks left until the implementation of the WHS, England Golf’s educational campaign, ‘Know the Score’, is helping golf clubs educate their members on everything they need to know about the WHS before November.


Why has the WHS been created?

The main reason for the new WHS’s implementation is to make it easier for golfers to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index.

It aims to reduce the barriers of entry into the sport by allowing players to transfer their Handicap Index onto any course around the world and be able to compete, or play recreationally, fairly regardless of where they play.

The objective is to make golf a more inclusive and equitable sport.

How does the WHS work?

All players who currently hold a CONGU handicap will automatically receive a WHS Handicap Index.

WHS software will automatically create a new Handicap Index by calculating the average of the best eight scores from a player’s last 20 rounds.

For those new to the sport, they will need to submit scorecards totalling to 54 holes to their golf club’s handicap committee.

From there an initial Handicap Index will be created. This will then be transformed into a fully developed Handicap Index once 20 scores have been submitted.


How is a player’s Handicap Index calculated?

A player’s Handicap Index is the most important element to the WHS.

It is calculated from an average of the best eight scores from a player’s last 20 rounds.

As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update at the end of the day’s play to the most recent 20 scores and will be ready to use the following day.

The maximum possible Handicap Index is 54 and all players must be a member of a golf club to obtain and use one.


How to safeguard your Handicap Index?

To limit any extreme movement of a player’s Handicap Index, a ‘Soft Cap’ and a ‘Hard Cap’ will be implemented based on a player’s lowest Handicap Index within a 365-day period.

If a player’s Handicap Index goes three shots above the low index, further movement will be suppressed by 50 percent (Soft Cap).

If a player’s Handicap Index goes five shots above the low index, it will not be allowed to rise any further (Hard Cap).

How are golf courses rated?

Two calculations are needed to be made – Course Rating and Bogey Rating.

Course Rating is used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course by measuring how many strokes a scratch golfer (a player who can play to a ‘Course Handicap’ of zero on all rated golf courses) should take on any given course.

It assesses two main types of challenges – The playing length of the course and the obstacles that a player will encounter (such as size of green and hazards).

Bogey Rating is the measure of playing difficulty for a bogey golfer (a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female).

Knowing these two ratings allows the WHS to assess the difficulty of the course for all other levels and to produce a Slope Rating for each set of tees which allows golfers to work out how many strokes they will receive on any given course around the world – Course Handicap.

113 is the Slope Rating value where all players play from their Handicap Index (that is the course is equally hard for both scratch and bogey players).

How to calculate your Course Handicap?

Before any player starts their round, they must convert their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap.

All golf clubs will be provided with Course and Slope Rating tables.

Golfers simply have to choose the set of tees they are playing off that day and cross reference their Handicap Index with the tables to find out what their Course Handicap is.

Course Handicap can be calculated by dividing the Slope Rating by 113, before multiplying it by the Handicap Index.

What scores / formats will be acceptable for submission?

Pre-registered general play ‘social’ scores and all individual competition rounds, both nine and 18 holes, whether played at home or away, can be submitted for handicap purposes.

All recreational rounds must be pre-registered before teeing off, otherwise a score cannot be submitted.

Also, all scores submitted must be completed over a minimum number of 10 holes and with at least one other person, as well as on a course with a current Course and Slope Rating.

Where to find out more about the WHS?

A new education campaign ‘Know the Score’ has been launched by England Golf to give golf clubs the best possible opportunity to educate their members about the new system.

A WHS toolkit has also been sent to all golf clubs in England, which contains a number of resources that can be downloaded and used as part of the educational process.

England Golf has issued an updated World Handicap System (WHS) educational toolkit for golf clubs.

The release of ‘Toolkit 2.0’ coincides with many golfers in England being able to view their projected Handicap Index via the newly launched England Golf WHS Platform, My England Golf.

Toolkit 2.0 includes several updated and fresh resources to download, such as new example Slope Rating and Playing Handicap allowance tables, alongside an introduction to the England Golf WHS Platform and a transition timeline that outlines the process of clubs moving from the present system (CONGU) to the WHS over the coming weeks.

England Golf has also unveiled two new initiatives in Toolkit 2.0; the WHS Challenge and WHS Gurus. The WHS Challenge is an event concept created by England Golf to engage with golf clubs across the country following the launch of WHS.

Clubs are being encouraged to re-name any planned competitions on the weekends of 7/8 and 14/15 November as the ‘WHS Challenge’ via the England Golf website, with the best finishing male and female players at each club being entered into a prize draw to win tickets to the 2021 Open Championship.

The WHS Gurus initiative encourages golf clubs and their handicap committees to nominate a member from their club to be the voice of the WHS for its members. A WHS Guru will become proficient in their knowledge on the WHS and be on hand to field any questions that golfers will have about the new system.

They will also ensure that the educational resources from Toolkit 2.0 are being used, alleviating pressures from Handicap Committees during the busy times following the adoption of the WHS.

Speaking on the updated toolkit, Gemma Hunter, head of Handicapping & Course Rating at England Golf, said “Everyone at England Golf has been delighted with the uptake of Toolkit 1.0 following its introduction earlier in the summer. To see the number of clubs downloading the educational resources, posting them on social media and engaging with England Golf has been fantastic.

“Toolkit 2.0 has been updated to help golf clubs educate their members further on the key elements to the new WHS, and provide them with an opportunity to take part in exciting new initiatives such as the WHS Gurus and WHS Challenge. These have been created to build anticipation for the launch and provide local support for handicap committees at what will be a busy transition period for us all.”

For more information about the WHS, visit englandgolf.org/whs or follow England Golf on social media

Facebook – @EnglandGolf

Twitter – @EnglandGolf

Instagram – @england.golf

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 29, 2020 07:45
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  1. GolfMak October 30, 07:16

    Excellent start, but one huge error. It says,

    “The maximum possible Handicap Index is 54 (OK) – (BUT) and all players must be a member of a golf club to obtain and use one.”

    Please get rid of that part of the ‘member’ statement. At least replace it with, ‘member of a recognized, or affiliated association’

    Keep in mind 90% of the world’s golfers don’t belong to any golf club. Why exclude 90% of all the world’s golf players. Don’t portray yourselves as a closed group. Instead, figure a way to invite all golfers into your ‘club’.

    You and your board need a serious meeting over this subject.

    Mike (in golf since the 1950s)

    Reply to this comment
  2. David October 29, 20:27

    How are pairs or team competitions effected by the new handicap system?

    Reply to this comment
  3. JDarby October 29, 19:25

    Interesting times ahead

    Reply to this comment
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