R&A and USGA Introduce Single World Handicap System

By: Golfshake Editor | Wed 21 Feb 2018 | Comments

Golf's two governing bodies, The R&A and USGA have presented the new World Handicap System, which is set to provide all golfers with an internationally consistent method of calculating their sills.

Last year, an extensive review of existing handicap systems was administered by Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the United States Golf Association (USGA). Now, the various organisations have come together to create this System that will be brought into practice from 2020. 

Features of the World Handicap System (from the R&A Statement)

The new system will feature the following:

  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability. 
  • 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 handicapping authorities or National Associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.
  • 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 previous 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, 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.”

Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, added, “For some time, we’ve heard golfers say ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,” or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernising Golf’s Rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

Golfshake's Derek Clements Praises the World Handicap System

Outlining the key objectives of the World Handicap System, the R&A's statement notes: The tenets of the new system focus 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 and equitable 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.

So, it's a major change to the method from which handicaps are calculated, but it is one that allows for consistency and greater levels of accessibility, which is something that the various bodies in the game have been hoping to achieve.

Find out more on how to get a golf handicap and how to calculate your golf handicap:

Get a Golf Handicap Online


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