The R&A introduces new World Handicap System

Scorecard

The way golfers around the world calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by The R&A and the USGA, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability.

The new World Handicap System will come into force in 2020 and follows an extensive review of systems administered by the six existing handicapping authorities, including CONGU in Great Britain and Ireland.

The key features of the new system are as follows:

• Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability;

• A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction;

Golf Clubs

• A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries;

• An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control;

• A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day;

• Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation;

• A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only);

• A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

Martin Slumbers

Research was conducted in 15 countries around the world, through which 76% of the 52,000 respondents voiced their support for a World Handicap System.

It was followed by a series of focus groups, in which more than 300 golf administrators and golfers from regions around the world offered extensive feedback on the features of the proposed new system.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible and more enjoyable as a sport and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new system focuses on three main objectives: to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap; to enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and compete on a fair basis; and to indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions. 

To provide feedback on the new World Handicap System or for more information, visit randa.org. Golfers are encouraged to follow and join in the conversation on social media by using #golfwhs2020.

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