What the new World Handicap System means for you

Golf’s governing bodies, the R&A and USGA, have announced that a new ‘World Handicap System’ is set to come in to play for 2020, designed to eliminate "sandbaggers" and create a more ‘consistent measure of playing ability’, including using your best 8 of the last 20 scores.

BOSTON, Mass – By now you’ve heard the news – and it’s not fake news.

The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient – golf’s two ruling bodies – are up to their old tricks again, fiddling with the rules of golf.

This time the powers-that-be are tinkering with your handicap. Yes, that precious number that puts money in your pocket in side bets; puts pro shop credit on your account and the magic number that is key to winning assorted side bets with golf buddies is the target.

Your handicap will change starting in January 2020, after you honestly start posting new 18-hole scores. Key word -honestly!

The World Handicap System will completely change the way handicaps are calculated in the United States and the world, with the goal of providing a more accurate representation of your current playing ability.

In recent years cheaters and sandbaggers have completely poisoned the handicap system. There is more cheating now in golf than at any other time in history. Honesty and honor to post accurate scores has been replaced by deceit, dishonesty and inflated egos in an attempt to win-at-all-costs.

The biggest adjustment from the USGA system is that the highest score a player can take for any given hole is net double bogey, regardless of their index, and will prevent Indexes from jumping up artificially.

Most handicap committees at private clubs do nothing to monitor the blatant sandbaggers, who typically average about a hard-core dozen at every club. The current honor-system of posting accurate scores, or in most cases not posting low scores, has failed. Unfortunately, fair and equitable has evolved into “padding,” the process by which players post a high score to try to offset their lower round, with the end result trying to prevent a decrease in handicap.

Golf legend Bobby Nichols once quipped: “Nothing goes down slower than a golf handicap.”

As you know the current USGA handicap system calculates handicaps based on the best 10 of your last 20 rounds and has a slope rating system which can make your handicap fluctuate prior to your round depending on the difficulty of the course.

In the changes which become official in January 2020, competitive and recreational rounds will count towards your handicap, which will be revised daily according to the course and weather conditions. In theory, this should make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap, provide fairer competitions and temper expectations if you’re playing a brutally hard golf course.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers, ” explains R & A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers. “Having a handicap which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf more enjoyable.”

So what does the World Handicap System will mean for you?

➤ A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender.

➤ A players’ handicap will be average-based from the best eight of the past 20 scores (both competition and recreational scores will count, although you’ll still need a card marked). This means that the more you play, the more accurate your current playing ability and handicap is at the time.

➤ 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. This means that if you are playing a harder course determined by slope rating, you may get extra shots, and if playing an easier course, get less.

➤ Daily handicap revisions, taking into account a new course and weather conditions calculation.

➤ Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes. However, a mechanism will prevent extreme upward movement in your handicap.

➤ The minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and nine-hole rounds.

➤ A limit of a net double bogey on the maximum hole score for handicap purposes only. This is one aspect of the current handicap system we use already so you can score a 10 on a par-four, but if you’re handicap is 18 it will only count as a 7 for handicap purposes.

The tenets of the new World Handicap System focus on three main objectives:

(1) To encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap.

(2) To enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and compete on a fair basis.

(3) To indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.

Time to be reminded of Golf’s Golden Rule: “When the Great scorer comes to write against your name, He writes not whether you Won or Lost, but how you played the Game.”


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