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The World Handicap System - Golfers Have Their Say

By: | Fri 30 Jul 2021 | Comments


THE World Handicap System was introduced last year in an attempt to simplify matters and make golf a fairer game for everybody who plays it. 

It came into force in Great Britain in November 2020 amid fears that it would actually cause more confusion. Many club golfers felt that the existing handicapping system was just fine and should have been left alone.

We recently conducted a survey designed to find out what Golfshake subscribers make of it all. Unsurprisingly, we got a real mixed bag of results. Some of you believe it is a fairer system, others still cannot make head nor tail of it, while others still struggle to understand why things were changed in the first place.

These were the key findings:

The WHS has yet to provide a universal system for golfers to use everywhere

  • Only 25% of golfers playing in competitions using Index away from club.
  • Only 26% of golfers submitting all cards for Indexing.

More education is required on WHS but providing fair level of ability

  • Only 48% of golfers say they understand the changes with 15% saying that they don’t.
  • Similarly, 17% still don't fully understand course index when visiting other courses.
  • 57% say their course Index is about right with only 16% saying it is too high or too low - although 29% still say it hasn’t reduced occurrences of competition issues.

World Handicap System

We asked the following questions:

Do you understand the handicap changes that have been implemented in relation to the WHS? 

  • Yes, 48% - figure is 54% for club members.
  • Sort of, 37%.
  • No, 15% - the figure is only 11% for club members.
  • 22% of non-club members said no, with only 36% saying that they understand it.

Since the introduction of the WHS, do you feel your handicap index is a fair representation of your playing level?

  • Yes, 59%.
  • Not sure, 25%.
  • No, too high, 9%.
  • No, too low, 7%.

Do you understand how your handicap index is adjusted when visiting other courses?

  • Yes, 57% - this was higher at 64% for club members.
  • Sort of, 26%.
  • No, 17% - only 13% for club members.
  • 26% of non-club members said no with only 42% saying yes.

Has the new system reduced occurrences of trophy hunters and bandits?

  • Not sure, 64%
  • No, 29%
  • Yes, 7%

Since the introduction of the WHS have you played in a competition away from your home club using your 'Course Handicap'?

  • No, 65%.
  • Yes, 25%.
  • Will in the coming months, 10%.

Are you submitting all cards to your club to update your handicap index?

  • No, just in competitions I play, 52%.
  • Yes, 26%.
  • Yes, as long as I play in a focused way, 22%.

World Handicap System

There are a number of worrying trends from our survey findings:

Many of you still believe it is too complicated. 

Here are just some of your views:

"It is unnecessarily complicated - a proper average would be better to know and understand. As golfers we are too hung up on handicaps because they are needed for the thousands of irrelevant tournaments taking place every single week! Play golf for fun!"

"Calculations of shots received for various formats on top of the adjustment for course handicap is far too complicated. It is a put-off for new entrants to the game."

"It is very confusing."

"It is far too complicated. 95% for this, 85% for another format. Ridiculous."

"I find it very confusing, especially when it comes to mixed competitions."

"I enter all my cards after each game, so my handicap should reflect truly on my level, but I am a little confused at times."

"I was very happy with the old system and now at my age I have to learn a new system which I feel is very complicated."

"It's strange to stand on a tee, in a fourball, and nobody really knows their handicap."

Perhaps more worrying is that many of you simply hate the system:

"Absolute waste of time. Why change what worked fine before?"

"Absolute rubbish."

"I play in several societies on different courses every month and they have all agreed to ignore WHS and carry on as before."

"Complete and utter waste of time. No benefit to anyone."

"It's absolutely bonkers. I’ve been a single figure player since 1976. It confuses people and puts them off. Most people don't play elsewhere, they play on their own course so it's fairly irrelevant and just massively over complicated - try and calculate a mixed match with men and ladies from different clubs playing off tees with a different index."

Some of you believe that it is open to manipulation:

"Bandits are throwing in high scores on stableford and single bogey comps ready for medals, cups and matches."

"I think the WHS is a true reflection of your golfing ability over a reasonably short period of time so therefore it is current and accurate. My concern would be that using the apps currently available for casual golf make it easy to manipulate by entering only your good or bad scores depending on how you want to skew your handicap."

"If cards had to be put in after every round and players made to do it in, then it would be fairer but if not in the long run you would still find people cheat and put in bad scores to help towards winning competitions."

There remains a perception that it is benefitting higher handicap golfers:

"For the majority the handicaps are now far too high, and they get even more shots off some tees. If you earned your old handicap on the regular course you played, how should you now be higher or lower than what it was? Should have started the system with the handicap you had and then applied the WHS going forward from that point, not in retrospect. The whole system is a disaster. As a low handicapper there is just no point in entering comps as extremely low chance of coming anywhere."

"If someone needs 40-plus shots I believe he should be looking at playing another game. No pleasure for a low handicapper to play with a very high handicapper in a comp and then probably lose as well. 28 was high enough in my opinion and if you struggled to play to it, you had an incentive to improve. Not so now when you just keep getting more shots."

"Handicap allowances are far too high, at the expense of good players who have committed to the game for years. I am all for a fair handicap system, but not one that puts all odds in favour of the poorer players."

"Handicaps are too high. I have finished in the first three in competitions in the past month and been beaten by people getting at least 30 shots."

"Have seen no sign at my club that WHS prevents the same high handicappers winning. Seems to still penalise the lower handicap players."

"Higher handicappers have benefited greatly and are winning everything, particularly where your club doesn't have divisions. Lower handicappers don't stand a chance and it’s not the best golfers who are winning, but those with the most number of shots to play with. WHS implication is a joke and doesn't take into account how things happen in the real world. Handicaps do not get changed overnight as sometimes it is several days before the scores are inputted into the computer."

"I think it gives new players handicaps which are too high as they haven't submitted 20 scores to give them a reflective handicap. We have players winning comps with 48 pts of a playing handicap of 39. Hence our club has just put in a limit of 24 shots."

"It's so unfair - how can you compete with a 32-handicap player when you’re giving them 22 shots. It is ridiculous and players with low handicap are not playing in their club comps."

"The system is a total disaster giving high handicappers far too much of an advantage in competitions. players becoming champion after scoring over 100 to get round and with just one or two pars at best. Nothing to do with being the best golfer on the day anymore, just which high handicapper plays closest to their handicap, and they have so many shots in hand it's ridiculous, and even worse when no comps at club are run in divisions as membership has declined. Entered a medal as a five handicap and I was only competitor so comp null and void. Players' old scores went missing and one player was suddenly 0.2 handicap despite being at least a 16 before WHS scheme and never shot some of the extremely low scores recorded against him when calculation done, others suddenly had no handicaps at all and are having to submit cards from scratch to get one. Total shambles."

Unsurprisingly, a fair number of you are using Golfshake to track your handicaps. Here is a perfect example of how our handicap system can work for you:

"The WHS when used correctly, as in every round is entered, not just those you want to, it is a fair reflection of how you are playing. The WHS does not work for societies as it is too volatile for those who play often and outside of society rounds. Many societies are introducing their own "Society Handicap" system to normalise handicaps and stop people working to increase their handicap in the rounds in between society competitions. Every course we go to and speak to the pro or member have issues with the new system. Personally, I really like it but I play three times a week so it’s a good reflection of my current abilities. I am a so-called "Nomadic Golfer" and therefore have to use Golfshake to calculate mine, but I love it and thank Golfshake for sorting it out for me and others. I do think the WHS "gives" golfers the opportunity to score higher than in the old system as I play off 8.8 and would have played off this at every course I went to. Now at some courses I can get two or three shots back, which means I will score more points. Some nomadic golfers will rock up at club opens with a WHS when they can have one and start taking prizes and trophies because they gain shots at that course and they can "infiltrate" the club comps, which has been difficult before now without any access to CONGU. It is a can of worms that has been opened, but there is no system that will stop the ongoing handicap arguments because the flaw in every system is that involves humans, who unfortunately in some cases are unscrupulous. So, we will forever be discussing it whatever is done."

"I belong to a large group of social golfers, who just appreciate playing and playing together. Most of us don't belong to clubs full time and could be labelled 'itinerant'. We play where we can, when we can, and enjoy the variety of courses available to us. I have a handicap through Golfshake, which I use each time I play, but I find that with many of those I play with, a handicap seems to be a matter of guesswork."

"As a society, we use Golfshake to handle WHS."

"I keep my handicap through the Golfshake index."

"It seems OK to me. I do not play in competitions so just put my cards through Golfshake."

"My society won't use it - instead, we continue to use the old handicap system via Golfshake."

Slow play remains an issue that concerns most of us, and there is a perception that the WHS has done nothing to address this. This view is typical:

"It is slowing rounds up and some players think that they are playing in The Open every time."

Some of you have chosen to ignore the WHS

"I run a society but have decided to ignore the WHS and stick with the established handicaps we already have in place. In reality the WHS is only of use when playing inter-club matches, as it allows the handicap to be adjusted accordingly. Having said that some of the slope ratings are strange and clearly subjective."

It is clear that the Slope system continues to cause confusion:

"I think the system is flawed, there are harder courses than mine in my area, but I don’t receive any more shots, how they calculate the course difficulty is flawed. 95% of courses I get two shots at the moment, even Open courses."

"I think the slope between courses is not correct, and it also slows down play when certain members playing in a four-ball players hand in cards. If it is to stop trophy hunters those people will find ways to play off handicaps they can win off."

But there are those who believe it is an improvement:

"It seems to be working pretty well for me. I don't play many competitions, but I do usually play matchplay vs my friends and the WHS seems to be leading to close matches which would suggest the index is correct."

"It’s a fairer reflection of my current ability - and adjust up / down in a regulated way. The old system was quick to cut shots after a couple of decent rounds, but it took forever to go back up. Also makes sense to adjust via the course handicap boards for easier / harder courses."

"I like it. I feel I can play most courses without feeling beaten up."

"It is a much better and fairer system than the old one. But it will take a bit of time to bed in and get everyone to understand how it works."

"It is early days, and it needs time to settle, but it does seem a lot fairer."

"All members of my golf society have seen our handicaps increase, but this has made the society more competitive. This in turn has made the competition results unpredictable and the higher handicap players now feel like they have a chance of winning."

"People don’t like change. We need to give it time to settle down and bed in."

And, of course, some of you just want to go out and enjoy your golf and play for fun:

"Just because I am a member of a club it does not mean I play competitions or submit cards for a handicap. I am a social golfer - why is it assumed club members want to play in comps or get on the rollercoaster of obtaining and maintaining a handicap. Too many clubs including my own prioritise comps and handicap chasing and ignore members like me."

So, there you have it. No surprises really that there are so many opposing views. It looks like the WHS is here to stay, however, so we are all just going to have to get used to it.


Related Content

World Handicap System - A Step Forward Or Cause For Confusion

The World Handicap System - Your Questions Answered

Are You Ready For The World Handicap System

Slope Rating - What Does It Actually Mean


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