The new World Handicap System is still on track for a 2020 start – but we will have to wait longer than some to start playing off our new marks.
The R&A and USGA brought golfers up to date with the latest progress on the new system, which is designed to bring the game under a single set of rules for handicapping and provide a “more consistent measure of players’ ability between different regions of the world”.
Launching a new social media campaign to remind golfers of the key features of the system – which will see us move from an aggregate to an averaging system that will calculate handicaps based on the best eight out of the last 20 rounds – the two governing bodies said many countries will be ready to transition to the new system early next year.
But CONGU (the Council of National Golf Unions in Great Britain and Ireland) will not be among them – with the start date anticipated to be towards the end of the year instead.
NCG understands the likely implementation date for the World Handicap System in areas covered by England Golf would be November 2020.
That is because moving to a handicap system that relies on USGA-style course ratings and slope requires completely new handicap computation software that is being built from scratch.
Authorities want to make sure that it is error proof and fully tested before committing to moving over to the system.
For authorities such as the USA and Australia, which already use slope as part of their current handicap rules, they are obviously much further down the line.
The R&A and USGA, who have launched a new World Handicap System website to provide national associations with a library of materials to support their education efforts, said significant progress had been made in preparing for the roll out of the new system.
The countdown to the World Handicap System is on! The R&A and @USGA are starting to release materials, including an animated series of videos, to get associations, clubs and players ready for implementation from 2020. #GolfWHS2020 https://t.co/KRoST25upw pic.twitter.com/BMnndqVJj5
— The R&A (@RandA) April 30, 2019
National associations are, and in the case of England Golf have been for some time, busy ensuring their courses are rated in accordance with the USGA Course Rating System and are working to “update local software platforms so they are ready to apply to the new Rules of Handicapping”.
Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, said: “We have always said that we would not be going on January 1 and, for Great Britain & Ireland, the likelihood is that we would be looking towards the end of the (2020) season.”
The WHS is being developed to focus on three key goals: to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap, to enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to take their handicap index to any course around the world and compete on a fair basis and to indicate “with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.”
Martin Slumbers, R&A chief executive, said: “There are many ways in which it is important for golf to modernise and become more appealing for people thinking of taking up the sport and handicapping is clearly one of them.
“The World Handicap System is a major new initiative for the sport, which all establish a clearer and more consistent handicapping process for golfers throughout the world.
“We are working closely with national associations, as we do across all our core activities, to ensure they are fully prepared for the introduction of the new system as soon as possible after it becomes available for implementation.”
World Handicap System key features
- WHS will use the USGA course and slope rating system – your handicap will change depending on the difficulty of the course and the competition conditions
- A minimum of 54 holes will be required to gain a handicap but that can come from any combination of 9 or 18-hole scores
- Handicaps will be calculated using the best eight of the last 20 scores. The 0.1 increase will disappear
- Both competitive and recreational rounds will be able to count for handicap
- CSS will be replaced by a new system known as the abnormal course and weather conditions adjustment