World Handicap System

General Club Noticeboard : World Handicap System

The new World Handicap System (WHC) is due to come into effect in 2020. In conjunction with this, there was a preliminary measuring exercise done on the course on July 3rd. There will be a fuller assessment done towards the end of July to determine the course ‘Scratch Score’ and ‘Slope Rating’.

 Some of the features of the WHS include:

  • Social rounds counting towards handicap
  • An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of 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.

 You can read more details below and on the Golf Monthly website including a video that explains more:


World Handicap System

The R&A and the USGA have announced details of the new World Handicap System (WHS). It is designed to welcome more players, to make golf easier to understand and to provide all golfers with a handicap which is portable all around the globe. The system is expected to be launched in January 2020 and its features will include: 

• A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap

• Allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes so a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of current ability

• 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. The system will also be able to ‘remember’ good scores, even when they have dropped out of the last 20. 

• A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions 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 and so increase their enjoyment of the game

The USGA Course Rating System is used to determine the Scratch Score (equivalent to the current SSS). The USGA Course Rating System is very objective in nature taking into account all the factors that affect the playing difficulty of a course. It requires numerous specific measurements to be taken on each hole of the golf course, which assists in the consistency of application by course rating teams.

The system is designed to differentiate playing difficulty of all courses relative to each other, which requires a consistent application by all the course rating teams.

The USGA Course Rating System takes account of the actual measured length of a golf course, factors that can affect the playing length and other challenges that influence the playing difficulty of each hole (obstacle factors). 

The factors that can affect the effective playing length of a golf course are:

  • Roll – assessment of how far a ball will roll on fairways with various surface conditions/contouring
  • Dogleg – where the dogleg design of a hole does not allow a full tee shot to be played
  • Wind – assessment of average wind strength and direction
  • Elevation – difference in elevation between the tee and green and for player’s approach shots to the green
  • Forced Lay-up – where a player is forced to play short of obstacles that crosses the fairway 

The ten obstacle factors that are used to determine the playing difficulty of a golf course are:

  • Topography – nature of the stance and lie within each landing zone and approach shot elevation to the green
  • Fairway – the width of fairway landing zones, hole length and nearby obstacles – trees, hazards and punitive rough
  • Green Target – evaluation of hitting the green with the approach shot – visibility and nature of the green surface
  • Recoverability and Rough – difficulty of recovery if the tee shot landing zones and/or the green is missed
  • Bunkers – size and depth of bunkers and their proximity to landing zones and greens
  • Out of Bounds / Extreme Rough – depth and nature of punitive rough and proximity to landing zones and greens
  • Water Hazards – shot length to carry water hazards, proximity of water hazards from centre of fairways and greens
  • Trees – size and density, proximity to centre of landing zones/greens, shot length to target areas, recovery difficulty
  • Green Surface – putting difficulty on a green – green speeds, surface contours and tiers
  • Psychological – evaluation of the cumulative effect of the other nine obstacle factors

Slope Rating

And if you are really interested, a quick idiots guide to Slope Rating!!

The Course Rating is the score it is deemed that a 'scratch' golfer would shoot on the course (the difference between the Par and Course Rating gives an indication of whether the course plays harder or easier than its given Par layout), i.e. this is directly analogous to the UK SSS.

The Slope Rating is a USPGA invention which, is an additional 'rating' for the Course (i.e. in addition to the Course Rating) and seeks to level the playing field for 'Bogey' golfers. The USPGA Slope Rating is awarded based on a separate review team which look at the course from the eyes of a 'bogey' player (typically 18 handicap). This team may look at a Par 4 and say an 18 handicapper can't play this as a Par 4 because there is a lake in front of the green which means you have to drive 250 yards off the tee to give you a chance of attacking the green (which an 18 handicapper is not deemed to be able to do). So for the 18 handicapper this is really a Par 5. So having taken all this into consideration they award the course a Slope Rating which is then used to alter a Playing Handicap for this course.

Slope rating of 113 is 'neutral' i.e. your Playing Handicap for this course is the same as your Handicap. More than 113 and you get extra Handicap allowance. Less than 113 and you get a reduced Handicap allowance - the actual calculation is

As an aside there are courses in the US which have a Slope Rating of 155 meaning that if you are normally an 18 handicapper, for that course, you would play off 25

Under the England Golf system you will count your playing handicap with this formula:

Playing Handicap = Exact Handicap x (Slope Rating / 113) + (Course Rating - Par)

The US version lacks the (CR - Par) adjustment.

So playing a course from the forward tees might give a 10 handicap player a playing handicap of 6 but he could be 14 from the back tees. Thus the player could shoot 8 shots worse from the back yet his net score would be just as good.

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