It’s only a few months before it comes into place in GB&I. But if the hype has passed you by, here’s what the World Handicap System is all about

It could be putting in a score for your handicap at the Old Course, or making that summer evening 9-hole knock count, the World Handicap System (WHS) will change everything for club golfers when it comes into force towards the end of this year.

But if you’re worried about what it might mean, or have been the proverbial ostrich with your head in the sand, here are the key things you need to know…

Why are handicaps changing?

We play under one set of rules but, prior to this year, there were six different handicap systems operating around the world. The World Handicap System (WHS) is unifying those into one. It’s already come into effect in some parts of the globe. D-Day for England is November 2, 2020, with other home nations moving between September and November.

How will it work?

Our handicaps are currently worked out using an aggregate system, but that’s going to change to an average-based calculation – taking the best eight out of the last 20 scores.

Key to 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 will measure our handicap index against the slope of the course from the tees we are playing and that will give 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 converted into a Playing Handicap, which is determined by the format being played and the handicap allowance applicable to it.

How will I get a handicap index?

If you’re a member of a club you’ve probably already got one and the transition to WHS, which will take place later this year, will convert your existing handicap into its new handicap index.

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

Handicaps will be revised daily, taking into account the playing conditions you face on the day, and the maximum limit will be 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, will be 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 won’t be able to use foursomes, scrambles, or rounds where a minimum number of holes have not been played.

Will I have to record all my scores?

Enter your competition scores as normal and you’ll also be able to pre-register and submit scores from social games played under the Rules of Golf (the same as you do now with supplementary scores).

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

The aim is that your handicap will be 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’ll be able to do so.

Will I still pick up a .1 for a bad day?

No. There will be no 0.1 increases under WHS. So you can relax when you’re playing. Your score will only count towards your handicap index if it is one of the best eight of your most recent 20.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Click here to find out how WHS will use a cap to limit handicaps from rising too quickly, or find out more how the World Handicap System might affect your handicap. You can also visit our dedicated World Handicap System page.

If you’ve any questions about WHS, feel free to post them in the comments below or tweet me.