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World Handicapping System - What you need to know

Hot on the heels of the major rule changes of 2019, the R&A and USGA are making a big shift to the World Handicapping System (WHS) at the close of 2020.

In a bid to further simplify a game that seems so complex to the uninitiated, the WHS is intended to unify the six handicapping systems currently in use into one comprehensive system world wide.This will allow handicaps to be truly portable and make for a fairer and more equitable system of accurately calculating a golfer’s current playing ability.

The principal aim is to make handicapping easier to understand and transferable to any course anywhere in the world. It also aims to make it easier for players to obtain and maintain a handicap and to enjoy a level playing field, wherever they play whether in recreational games or in competition; the objective being to grow the game.

So how do they hope to achieve this?

The WHS has more in common with the system currently in use by the NGAP and Federation of Golf Clubs than with some of the other handicapping systems that it will replace. Course ratings will be expanded and will serve as the foundation for handicap index calculations under the WHS. The course rating, which indicates the expected score for a scratch golfer from a given set of tees, and the slope rating, which expresses the difference in difficulty of play from a given set of tees between a scratch golfer and a bogey golfer, will figure prominently in the calculations.

While our current system uses the ten best scores from our last twenty scores to calculate our handicap indices, the WHS will use the eight best of the last twenty. This means your index could move up or down without any additional scores. Good rounds will receive more weight and your handicap should more closely reflect your ability on one of your good days.

The WHS will also include an allowance for the effects of weather on your score. A "Playing Conditions Calculation" will potentially adjust your score for abnormal weather. 

The WHS will have a feature that prevents a player's handicap from rising too quickly. Your lowest handicap in the past 12 months will be used as a factor to cap your handicap and prevent it from rising too quickly if you have a spell of poor play. The system will also automatically adjust if a single low score is more than seven shots below your current handicap index, triggering an "exceptional score reduction" that will lower your handicap to more closely reflect your ability.

Under the new system, the maximum handicaps for men and women will be raised to 54, a huge difference from our previous system. Also, the highest allowed score on any hole will be net double bogey, replacing the equitable stroke control method used in our previous system.

Further, a golfer can now turn in a 9-hole score which will count towards your handicap, unlike the previous system which only counted 18-hole scores.

The effect of the WHS on our handicaps should probably result in a difference of plus-or-minus one stroke from our current handicap. Expect your handicap to move more quickly as compared to the previous system.
Also, expect the number of strokes you get on a given round to change. Previously, your course handicap represented the number of strokes you got based on your handicap index in relation to the course rating.Now course handicaps reflect the strokes you get in relation to par,a more intuitive measure for most golfers.   

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