The World Handicap System

What is the World Handicap System (WHS)?

Developed by The R&A and USGA in collaboration with existing handicap authorities, the benefit of the WHS over the o system is it combines the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.

It is designed to:

• Attract more players to the game
• Make handicapping easier to understand
• Give all golfers a Handicap Index that can be transferrable from club to club

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Why has the WHS been created?

To allow as many golfers as possible the opportunity to:

• Obtain and maintain a Handicap Index and reduce barriers of entry
• Use their Handicap Index on any golf course around the world
• Compete, or play recreationally, fairly regardless of where they play

With golf being centered around one standard set of rules governed by The R&A and USGA, it makes sense to unify the previous six different Handicapping systems, making for a more inclusive and equitable sport.

The WHS was therefore developed with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly.

With all golfers only initially required to submit scorecards for 54 holes to acquire a Handicap Index, the new WHS is less formidable for new players.

How does the WHS work?

For golfers in England, calculating a new Handicap Index will be front of mind when adopting the WHS. The process will begin in the same way throughout the world – by accurately measuring a player’s golfing ability.

For regular golfers, this will be done by:

• The WHS Software calculating the average of the eight best scores from the previous 20 rounds

For new golfers, they will have to:

• Submit scorecards of 54 holes (3×18 holes, 6×9 holes or any combination of 9 and 19 holes) to their golf club’s Handicap Committee

From this they will be provided an initial Handicap Index. After a player has achieved 20 scores, a ‘fully developed’ Handicap Index can be calculated to provide the most accurate representation of a player’s 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.

What do I need to do?

All Club handicaps will now start with an assessment of your last 20 games, played in an official Club competition, from the whole 2019 season up to and including, what is left of this season. The best 8 of the 20 scores submitted will be selected and the average of these best 8 will form the start point, which is called your Handicap Index.

Other factors then come into play, but the submitted qualifying scores are the most important starting point for all players.

The 8 chosen cards are designed to reflect the true average playing ability of each of us, and these scores can be made up of multiples or 9 or 18 holes. The importance of Qualifying scores becomes evident when the following parameters are observed.

If you only have 6 cards submitted, then the calculated Handicap Index will be the average of the lowest 2 scores, with a figure of Minus 1 adjusted to the average.

For 5 cards, the lowest score is taken.

For 4 cards the lowest score is taken with a further Minus 1 adjustment.

For 3 cards, lowest 1 score, together with a Minus 2 adjustment.


England Golf will have the sole responsibility for calculating this part of your new handicap, together with other adjustments which will become apparent in due course.

To properly reflect your average playing ability, and not to have an any adjustments which will not properly reflect that ability, you are urged to input as many Qualifying cards in Club Competitions as possible.