World Handicap System

Launch date November 2nd 2020

The all new WHS 2020 comes into operation on 2nd November this year. There are many changes, and all of these will be explained via information sent to us by England Golf via TV screen in the bar, social media, our new website, emails and our Facebook page.

What is the WHS?

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 current system is it combines the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.

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

England Golf Logo
Why has the WHS been created?

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 (Social Graphics_Facebook)

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.

Course Rating

Understanding How Course Rating Works

Having completed the overview of the WHS, we will now look at Course Rating.

Golf Course Rating = The playing difficulty of a golf course.

Course Rating will be used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course. It measures how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (a player with a handicap index of 0.0) should take on any given course. It does this by assessing two main types of challenges which, when combined, result in a common base from which to compare players’ abilities:

• The playing length of the course

• The obstacles that a player will encounter (e.g. size of green and hazards)

All Course Ratings will be determined by highly trained teams, with all findings checked and verified prior to being published to ensure consistency and equity across England.
Another important factor to establish in the rating system is Bogey Rating, which is the measure of playing difficulty from a set of tees when played by a Bogey Golfer (a player with a handicap index of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female).

Knowing the Course Rating & Bogey Rating established by the Course Rating teams allows the WHS to assess and rationalise the relationship between the two. From this, the difficulty of the course for all other levels of ability can be deduced.

Course Rating Key Features Video from the R&A and USGA

Slope Rating
Slope Rating

What is Slope Rating?

Slope Rating is the number which indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers, compared to Scratch Golfers.

It is the difficulty comparison between a Bogey Golfer and a Scratch Golfer from the same set of tees.

Slope Rating Graphic
(In simple terms it is the combination of the Course Rating and the Bogey Rating, which allows us to calculate the Slope Rating of a set of tees)

The use of Slope allows a player’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and country to country. It also enables acceptable scores from any rated golf course in the world to be submitted for a player’s handicap purposes.

The Slope Rating is a key component in calculating the number of strokes each player receives to play a particular golf course.
Each set of tees will have a Slope Rating value between 55 and 155.

The higher the Slope Rating, the more additional strokes a Bogey Golfer will need to be able to play it. The lower the Slope Rating, the less strokes a Bogey Golfer will require.

The Slope Ratings are gender specific and the tee which a golfer plays from must have a Slope Rating for each gender.

113 is the Slope Rating value where all players play from their Handicap Index (i.e. the course is as equally hard for both Scratch and Bogey players).

Slope Rating Key Features Video from the R&A and USGA

Course & Slope Rating Table Example (link to download)

Course Slope Rating Table Example

What is a Handicap Index?

Handicap Index

Golfers will consider the Handicap Index to be the most important element of the WHS.

The Handicap Index will:

• Measure the ability of a player

• Be portable from course to course

• Allow players to compete fairly and therefore promote inclusivity within the game

A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from the last 20 rounds.

As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to the most recent 20 scores. A player’s Handicap Index will update promptly overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and be ready before the next time they play.

How to obtain a Handicap Index?

When the new system comes into play most golfers can have a Handicap Index generated, based on their existing records.

For new golfers to gain their Handicap Index they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes). Their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes and continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved.

IMPORTANT: The maximum Handicap Index for any player is 54. To obtain a recognised Handicap Index a player must be an affiliated member of a golf club.

How to safeguard a Handicap Index?

A Soft Cap and Hard Cap will be implemented to limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period. This has been introduced to act as a safeguard to prevent any handicap manipulation.

The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a 3.0 stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index (see glossary of terms later in this toolkit). For clarity in this instance, a Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index a player has had during the previous 12-month period.

The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement on 5.0 strokes over the Low. Handicap Index.

Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability.

IMPORTANT: Caps only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their record.

Handicap Index Key Features Video from the R&A and USGA

What is a Course Handicap?

What is a course Handicap?
What is a course Handicap?

What is Course Handicap?

The Course Handicap will determine the number of strokes a player will receive for any set of tees on a course.

An easy way for a player to remember the WHS, is to think HCP!


1 Handicap Index
2 Course Handicap
3 Go out and Play

For new golfers to gain their Handicap Index they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes). Their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes and continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved.

How to work out a Course Handicap?

England Golf will provide Course & Slope Rating tables to all golf clubs (as per the example shown above). Tables will be positioned in conspicuous locations around the club to make it simple for golfers to find prior to beginning their round.

Golfers simply have to choose the tees they are playing off that day and cross reference their Handicap Index on the Course & Slope Rating table to ascertain their Course Handicap. It really is as simple as that – they’re then ready to get out on the course and play!

In time, Course Handicap Tables will be available via an App and club handicap software so golfers can view their Course Handicap remotely prior to a round. Should any golfer wish to calculate their Course Handicap manually the formula is as shown to the right:

Course Handicap Video from the R&A and USGA

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.

Keep an eye out for information released by the Competitions and Handicap Committee across all platforms over the coming weeks!

Course-Slope-Rating-Table-Example-Resource-scaled