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The R&A and USGA have announced the first update to the World Handicap System (WHS) as part of an ongoing review of the Rules of Handicapping and Course Rating System

The revisions, designed to improve “accuracy, consistency and equity”, will come into effect from January 1, 2024.

One of the biggest changes is a reduction in the overall length requirements for Course Rating.

A set of tees on an 18-hole course may be as short as 1,500 yards to be eligible for a Course Rating and Slope Rating, with a set of tees on a nine-hole course allowed to be as short as 750 yard.

This change is intended to expand the WHS to thousands of shorter length courses, including par-3 courses, and enable more golfers to obtain and use a Handicap Index.

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Improvements have also been made to the method used to handle holes not played, which will now be based on a player’s expected score rather than a score of net par.

This new method will produce a nine-hole or 18-hole Score Differential that more accurately reflects a player’s ability.

As golfers across the world are playing more nine-hole rounds, an expected score can also be used to convert a nine-hole round into an 18-hole Score Differential.

For some countries, this means that nine-hole scores will be considered in the calculation of a player’s Handicap Index immediately after the day of play, rather than waiting to combine with another nine-hole score.

Elsewhere, the Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) has been modified to increase the likelihood of an adjustment for abnormal playing conditions, whilst a new recommendation has been made for handicaps committees to conduct reviews regularly, or at least once a year.

New reporting tools have been developed that national associations can incorporate into their handicapping software to assist Committees in conducting the review process effectively and consistently.

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Claire Bates, Director – Handicapping at The R&A, said: “We have made good progress in the early stages of the WHS but we know there are always areas that can be improved as we gather more data and information on the system from around the world.

“Conducting a regular review process is important in terms of good governance and enables us to examine some of the key areas in which we have received feedback.

“We will continue to work with the handicapping bodies and national associations around the world to ensure that the WHS is providing golfers with a system that provides a sensible balance between inclusivity and integrity, making it as easy as possible to get a Handicap Index, subject to meaningful safeguards.”

Steve Edmondson, Managing Director – Handicapping & Course Rating at the USGA, added: “The game of golf continues to evolve and the WHS has embraced those changes in a dynamic way to help all golfers, everywhere they play.

“It is a monumental time in golf, and improving both the accessibility of obtaining a Handicap Index and leveraging powerful data and technology to easily and accurately track performance is a great step forward.”

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael has also authored three books. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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