Steve Carroll has put together a handy guide explaining what the World Handicap System is all about and how it affects you

It could be putting in a score for your handicap at an NCG Top 100s venue, or just making that summer evening 9-hole knock count, the World Handicap System (WHS) changed everything for club golfers when it came into force towards the end of 2020.

But if you’re still confused about what it all means, or just simply want to touch up your knowledge of some of the basics, here are the key things you need to know…

Why did handicaps change?

We play under one set of rules but, prior to the birth of WHS, there were six different handicap systems operating around the world. The World Handicap System unified these into one.

How does it work?

All of us now have a World Handicap System index. That is an average-based calculation, worked out using the best eight scoring differentials out of our last 20 rounds.

A key part of the new regime is the Course Rating System. A Course Rating evaluates the difficulty of a playing course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions, while a Bogey Rating does the same for bogey golfers (usually measured around the 20 handicap for men and 24 for women) under the same conditions.

The Slope Rating is a number that indicates the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers, compared to scratch golfers.

It’s a combination of the Course Rating and the Bogey Rating that allows the calculation of a Slope Rating for a set of tees. You can find out much more about Slope here.

When we turn up to play, we measure our handicap index against the slope of the course from the tees we are playing and that gives us a Course Handicap.

For equity to be achieved among two or more players, in a competition or match for example, a Course Handicap is then converted into a Playing Handicap, which is determined by the format being played and the handicap allowance applicable to it.

How do I get a handicap index?

If you’ve been a member of a golf club in the recent past then you’ve almost certainly already got one – regardless of whether or not you’ve taken a break from the game. Hand over your CDH number to your club and you’ll be added to their system. Previous CONGU handicaps were converted to a World Handicap System index when the transition to the new ways took place.

If you haven’t got a handicap, you’ll need to put in scores for 54 holes. That can be from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds.

Handicaps are revised daily – usually shortly after midnight. The maximum World Handicap System Index you can have is 54.0.

What scores can I put in for handicap purposes?

Any round that’s an authorised format of play, over a minimum number of holes, that’s played to the Rules of Golf, is in the company of at least one other person or player, and is certified by a marker prior to submission, is classed as an acceptable score.

So that’s competition or social scores from medal, Stableford, par/bogey and maximum score – as a single golfer.

You can’t use foursomes, scrambles, or rounds where a minimum number of holes have not been played.

Do I have to record all my scores?

No. But you can pre-register and submit scores from social games played under the Rules of Golf.

A key part of the WHS is that the greater the number of scorecards submitted, the more accurate a player’s handicap index is. At this stage, though, you are not compelled to enter a score every time you play a round.

The aim is that your handicap is truly portable – allowing you to put in a score that counts wherever you are playing in the world. So if you’re playing a special course and want to make that game count for your handicap, you can do so.

Need more information on the World Handicap System?

Visit our dedicated WHS page where you will find everything you need to know and details of how to contact us if you have any more questions.

Subscribe to NCG