The new World Handicap System (WHS) is now in operation.

To get an overview please watch the following slideshow, or for more detail scroll down to the detail explanation. Scroll further to see short video's explaining each element and scroll to the end to see the Course Handicap Chart.

The World Handicap System explained


Firstly, the most important factor of the new system is Handicap Index, as the WHS is centred around calculating a player’s Handicap Index, which provides golfers with an accurate measurement of their golfing ability. Remember also, the WHS has been created with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly, creating a more inclusive and equitable system for golfers worldwide. For golfers that play regularly, their Handicap Index will be generated by calculating an average of their best eight scores from their previous 20 rounds. For new, and more sporadic golfers, their Handicap Index will be calculated once scorecards of 54 holes (3x 18 holes, 6x 9 holes or any combination of 9 and 18 holes) have been submitted to their golf club’s Handicap Committee. After a player has achieved 20 scores, a ‘fully developed’ Handicap Index can be calculated to provide the most accurate representation of their ability. To ensure a player has only one Handicap Index, the golfer will nominate a home club. The home club is determined by the player, but for practicality it is recommended this is where the player typically submits the most of their scores.


Course Rating

Course Rating replaces the old SSS and is used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course. It measures how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (a player with a handicap index of 0.0) should take on any given course. It does this by assessing two main types of challenges which, when combined, result in a common base from which to compare players’ abilities:

  • The playing length of the course

  • The obstacles that a player will encounter (e.g. size of green and hazards)


All Course Ratings have been determined by highly trained teams, with all findings checked and verified prior to being published to ensure consistency and equity across England.


Another important factor to establish in the rating system is Bogey Rating, which is the measure of playing difficulty from a set of tees when played by a Bogey Golfer (a player with a handicap index of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female). Knowing the Course Rating & Bogey Rating established by the Course Rating teams allows the WHS to assess and rationalise the relationship between the two, this is the course slope. From this, the difficulty of the course for all other levels of ability can be deduced. Hopefully, this provides you with a good understanding as to how Course Rating is established, and why it is important for the WHS.


Handicap Index

We now move into the first part of the most important area of the new WHS, Handicap Index

Handicap Index will:

  • Measure the ability of a player

  • Be portable from course to course

  • Allow players to complete fairly, therefore promote inclusivity within the game

A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from a players last 20 rounds. As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to the most recent 20 scores. A player’s Handicap Index will update promptly overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and be ready before the next time they play.


How to obtain a Handicap Index?

When we adopt the WHS in England, most golfers will have a Handicap Index generated based on their existing records. However, for new golfers to gain their Handicap Index they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes).

Initially, their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes, and this will continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved. The maximum Handicap Index for any player is 54, and in order for players to obtain a recognised Handicap Index a player must be an affiliated member of a golf club.

Hopefully, this provides you with a good understanding as to what a Handicap Index is, how golfers will obtain one, and why it is so important to the new system.


How to safeguard a Handicap Index?

With Handicap Index being calculated by working out an average of the best eight rounds from a player’s last 20, golfers might be apprehensive that the change in their Handicap Index may be volatile. However, through the implementation of a Soft Cap and Hard Cap, the WHS will limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period, therefore, protecting against handicap manipulation.


The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a three-stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index. For clarity in this instance, a Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index a player has had during the previous 12-month period.


The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement of five-strokes over the Low Handicap Index. Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability. It is important to note that caps will only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their record.


What is Course Handicap?

A Course Handicap will determine the number of strokes a player will receive when playing from any set of tees on a given course. Before any player starts their round they must convert their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap.


The Course Handicap calculation is:       Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113) = Course Handicap.


But don’t let this calculation concern you because working out a Course Handicap has been made simple. England Golf will provide Course & Slope Rating tables to all clubs ahead of the new System launching in November. These Tables should be positioned in conspicuous locations around the club to make them easy to find prior to beginning a round of golf.


Golfers will simply have to choose the tees they are playing off that day, and cross reference their Handicap Index on the Course & Slope Rating table to ascertain their Course Handicap. It really is as simple as that - they’re then ready to get out on the course and play!


World Handicap System - Privacy Notice
England Golf take the principles of Data Protection very seriously and are committed to being transparent about how they collect and use members’ data. This privacy notice is an important part of that commitment. Click to download.
WHS privacy notice.pdf
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