Are you ready for the new golf World Handicap System?

On November 2, your CONGU handicap was consolidated into a single portable index and your playing experience changes for the better. You can find your new handicap at the England Golf portal:

If you are worried about how the rules will affect you and your handicap, we are here to help.

If you do not go into all the detail and calculations, which is what the technology is there to do, it is really simple for the average golfer, but perhaps the biggest improvement is that the WHS is equitable around the world.

Here are a list of questions and answers which will help you understand the new system.

How many rounds of golf will you need to play to keep your handicap active?

There is no number anymore. Previously, it used to be three but as long as you maintain your membership at the golf club, you will maintain your handicap.

What happens if you take a break in golf club membership?

Your record will always remain, so your handicap number and scoring history will remain.

Will a player’s handicap change from course to course?

Course rating is the starting point. Every golf club is course and slope rated from every set of tees, and then there are separate ratings for men and women. This means that when you go to play a different golf club, your handicap index is actually based on a course of standard difficulty, rather than your home course. So, if you go and play, say, Woodhall Spa, your course handicap may be two or three strokes higher than your handicap index because the slope-rating value is higher than standard.

Is slope rating an indicator for how difficult a golf course is?

No. If you are comparing course A to course B, the difficulty is determined by the course rating, which was the standard scratch score. This indicates what score we would expect a scratch golfer to shoot. Whereas slope rating is used to measure the difficulty of a set of tees for the average bogey golfer (20 for men; 24 for women) compared to the scratch golfer. This number is then used to convert your handicap index into a course handicap.

Is your playing handicap the same as your course handicap under the WHS?

No. When you are playing in a competition, you will receive an allowance which needs to be applied to your course handicap to give you a playing handicap. For singles and stroke play competitions, it is 95 per cent of your course handicap and that will tell you the number of strokes you will receive. But what we want players to understand is that your course handicap dictates when you can pick up in a Stableford and when to not bother holing out in a match. You will enter golf competitions using your course handicap.

Do you have to submit all scores for handicap purposes?

You can pick and choose to some extent. If it is a competition, those scores have to go in. But if you and I are playing a social game, we can choose whether we want to submit an 18-hole or nine-hole score. However, you cannot go out, play a blinder and then suddenly decide you want to submit your score. You must pre-register prior to play.

What happens if a player submits a ‘no return’?

Technically, for handicapping purposes you cannot ‘no return’, but if you are playing nine holes, you must complete all nine holes.

If you only play five, the score is disregarded because we have not got enough holes to say this is a reflective score. If you are playing an 18-hole round, you must return a score on at least ten holes. For any holes which are not played, we will allocate a net par for every hole, plus one extra shot, which will give you an 18-hole differential to put into your record. But if you play an 18-hole round and walk off after nine, that score is going in the bin.

Is there danger that some golfers may try to manipulate their handicap under the WHS?

If a player has failed to submit a score, the handicap committee can replace that score with a penalty score, especially if it is something which keeps happening. So, depending on what the player is trying to achieve, we can counterbalance it by imposing a penalty to either increase or cut their handicap. Ultimately, we cannot build a system to avoid manipulation. That is why handicap committees and other players play a vital role in checking and challenging those individuals who are trying to gain an advantage.

Do you think the WHS is too complicated to understand?

90 per cent of golfers do not need to know what all the calculations are. What you do need to know is what your handicap index is and how you can find that out via your club’s handicap software or on the England Golf website or app, which will be launched on November 2.

Once you have that, you need to convert that number, using a look-up chart or app, into a course handicap for the course and tees you are playing. That is all you need to worry about because the technology will do everything else for you.

Is the new golf handicap system mandatory?

Yes. In Great Britain and Ireland, the current handicapping system, which is maintained by CONGU, will be replaced by one single, global system. It is designed so golfers will be able to obtain and maintain a handicap index and use this to compete on a fair and equal basis across any format, on any course around the world.

How will my new handicap be calculated?

Start with your handicap index. This will form the basis for your course and playing handicap. Every score in a player’s handicap record will be converted to a score differential. This is calculated by multiplying the difference between your gross score and the course rating by 113 and dividing by the slope rating of the tees that were played.

That figure then goes forward into a pool of your twenty most recent scores. The best eight are then selected and a simple average is taken to calculate every golfer’s handicap index.

Is my golf handicap likely to change much with the new system?

While testing the new system, England Golf found that the handicap index of most players was within one stroke of their existing CONGU handicap.

What is the difference between ‘course handicap’ and ‘playing handicap’?

Slope rating and course rating are used to determine your course handicap, which represents the number of strokes a player receives from any given set of tees prior to the terms of the competition. If a handicap allowance is applied, the adjusted course handicap is defined as a playing handicap, which represents the number of strokes a player gives or receives for the competition.

How will my course handicap be calculated?

There are a number of ‘handicap calculation conversion tables’ within the club. One is displayed on the wall outside of the entrance.

Why is the neutral slope 113?

The USGA considers this to be a course of “standard playing difficulty”, though England Golf claim the average GB and Ireland slope rating is 125.

What is a golf course slope rating?

It indicates the standard difficulty of a golf course for the “bogey golfer” relative to the scratch player. Every set of tees will have a slope rating and those numbers will vary between 55 and 155. The higher the slope rating, the greater the difference expected between the scores of those scratch and bogey golfers.

A ‘bogey golfer’ is the term used when carrying out a course rating. It represents the ability of a golfer (20 handicap for men, 24 for women) on a course of average difficulty.

Does a higher slope rating mean a golf course is more difficult?

No. A course rating, which indicates the number of strokes the scratch golfer is expected to take under normal playing conditions, is the core evaluation of a course’s difficulty. It is important to remember that the course rating affects a player’s index far more than the slope number.

How are golf courses rated?

All courses are rated under the USGA Course Rating System. There are five factors that are considered for each hole. These are:

Roll – Assessment of how far a ball will roll on fairways with various surface conditions/contouring.

Elevation – Difference in elevation between the tee and green and for a player’s approach shot to the green.

Wind – Average wind strength and direction.

Forced lay-up – Where a player is forced to play short of obstacles that cross the fairway.

Dog-leg – Where the dog-leg design of a hole does not allow a full tee shot to be played.

There are also 10 other obstacles that are evaluated on each golf hole:

Topography – Nature of the stance and lie within each landing zone and approach shot elevation to the

Fairway – The width of fairway landing zones, hole length and nearby obstacles, including trees, hazards
and rough.

Green target – Evaluation of hitting the green with the approach shot and the visibility and nature of the
green surface.

Recoverability and rough – Difficulty of recovery if the tee shot landing zone and/or the green is missed.

Bunkers – The size, depth and proximity to the landing zone and green.

Crossing obstacle – Shot length to safely carry water, penalty areas, out of bounds or extreme rough.

Lateral obstacle – The distance of obstacles from the centre of the fairway and green.

Trees – The size, density and proximity of trees to the centre of the landing zone/green, shot length to target areas, and recovery difficulty.

Green surface – Putting difficulty on a green. This takes into account green speed, surface contours and tiers.

Psychological – Evaluation of the cumulative effect of the other nine obstacle factors.

Each obstacle is given a numerical value, from 0 to 10 (0 being non-existent, 10 being extreme). The process is repeated on every hole and for every tee. Through this data, a scratch and bogey rating is achieved.

LRGC course ratings are

White tees – 121

Yellow tees – 119

Red tees – 126

Do I need to play a certain number of rounds per year?

Scores will not expire, but your handicap index will only be valid if you are a member of an affiliated golf club. To maintain an accurate handicap, it is recommended that players return at least 20 scores over a two-year period.

What if you are new to golf? How would you obtain a handicap index?

By submitting scores of 3 x 18 holes, 6 x 9 holes or a combination of both. Revisions will be daily, so once you have submitted scorecards totalling 54 holes or more, an initial handicap index will be awarded and based on an adjusted average relative to the number of scores that have been submitted. This will continue until a fully-developed handicap with 20 scores on record is achieved.

Will I be able to play off any tee?

You will be able to return scores from any tee that has a course and slope rating for your gender.

Do I have to submit my score from every round of golf I play?

It will be mandatory to submit all singles competition scores, but you will have the option to submit social/recreational scores, as long as they are pre-registered and conform to the Rules of Handicapping and Rules of Golf. Each time a score is submitted, your handicap index will be recalculated and updated for the next day of play, or soon after.

Will I use my handicap index or course handicap for competitions

Competition entry (eligibility) will be based on your handicap index. The committee in charge of a competition may set eligibility conditions within their terms of the competition. For example:

  • A maximum handicap index limit for entry
  • A maximum course handicap limit
  • A maximum playing handicap

Will we still have a competition standard scratch (CSS) score?

No, but a playing conditions calculation (PCC) will adjust score differentials when abnormal course conditions cause scores to be unusually high or low. This will be based on how players have performed compared to their expected performance on that golf course.

The PCC can only take place if at least eight acceptable scores have been submitted by players with a fully-developed handicap index of 36.0 or below. It is then applied retrospectively, after your score is posted, within the calculation of score differentials for all players.

  • A 0.0 adjustment means the course played as expected.
  • A -1.0 adjustment means the course played easier than normal.
  • A +1.0, +2.0 or +3.0 adjustment means the course played more difficult than normal.

But what happens if the weather is different in the morning and afternoon? Only one PCC calculation will take place, so both sets of conditions will be taken into consideration, similar to the existing CSS calculation.

Will buffer zones and annual handicap reviews still exist?

Annual reviews will, but buffer zones will not.

If I submit a ‘no return’ (NR), will I get a 0.1 increase on my handicap?

There are no 0.1 increases under the WHS. Failure to submit your card after a bad round will not just land you with a bad reputation. The Handicap Committee will have the option to apply penalty scores, reset a handicap index, consider disciplinary action, or withdraw a handicap index for an agreed period. Even more reason to front up and accept that everyone has a bad day.

Exception: If you complete more than 10 holes but less than 14 holes in an 18-hole round, nett par plus one stroke must be added to the first hole not played.

What would happen if there is a delay in a score being returned, either due to tardiness or technical problems?

Scores should be entered before midnight on the same day. Any scores not entered before that time will still be acceptable but will not be used as part of the PCC.

We are looking to enable players to enter their score via the ClubV1 app.

How will the WHS prevent handicap manipulation?

A soft cap or hard cap will be applied to limit any extreme movement of a player’s handicap index within a 365-day period. A soft cap will suppress movement by 50 percent after a 3.0 stroke increase over a player’s low handicap index, whereas a hard cap will restrict any upward movement above 5.0 strokes. Annual reviews and exceptional scoring reductions will still apply.

For multi-round golf events such as a club championship, will I use my initial handicap index for each round?

The WHS recommends that the handicap index at the start of the competition is used for each round of the event; however, this must be stated in the terms of competition, and your committee will have the final say.

Will there still be exceptional scoring reductions (ESR)?

Yes, but only if a player submits a score that produces a score differential that is seven strokes or more below their handicap index.

  • If the score is 7.0 – 9.9 strokes better: A -1.0 handicap index adjustment will be applied
  • If the score is 10.0 or more strokes better: A -2.0 handicap index adjustment will be applied

How much is my handicap likely to increase or decrease under the World Handicap System?

There is no limit by which a player’s handicap index can decrease, but a soft cap will “suppress” any increase when the difference between a player’s newly-calculated handicap index and their lowest handicap index in the last 12-month period is greater than three. This will work by reducing the value of any increase over 3.0 by 50 per cent, so a player’s handicap index will better reflect their underlying ability, rather than a bad run of form. As a second safeguard, a hard cap will then limit any “extreme upward movements” to five strokes.