For many of you, this is the most annoying thing about the World Handicap System. But why does it apply in a singles medal and Stableford? We asked an expert

You get your course handicap and then, depending on the format you are playing, there’s an allowance to come off.

We may be familiar with losing bits of our handicap for 4BBB or pairs match play. It was baked into the old CONGU ways. There was that handy little chart on the back of the scorecard.

Under the World Handicap System, though, there’s also an allowance for individual strokeplay and Stableford competitions in the Playing Handicap. You play off 95 per cent.

But why? We’re going to endeavour to give you the answer…

World Handicap System explained: Our expert says…

Now, you could listen to me waffle on but, in a recent Hot Topics webinar held by the Golf Club Managers’ Association, Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, was asked this exact question.

She went into it in some detail, so fix your eyeballs on this page for a minute or so as she explains.

“95 per cent, or the allowance that you get for competition play, is about equity. It’s about ensuring that, when all players are playing together in a field, every player has got the equal chance of success and gaining success in that competition.

“Now if you can imagine a player off scratch, the variation between their best score and their worst score is relatively tight.

“They might have a bad round but their bad round is five over. If they have a good round, it might be two or three under. It’s not going to be eight or nine under, or 10 or 11 under, or shooting 25 over.

“It’s going to be relatively tight, in terms of their expected score, whereas a player off 28 is going to be very different.

“They’re going to be able to have a really good day. A 28 handicapper might actually play to 22 one day, or 20, but they might also play to 45.

“Their expectation is also quite wide, so the higher the handicap the wider the tolerance for their scores.

“If you played everybody off 100 per cent, the high handicap golfers, statistically, always have a better chance of winning – because they could shoot six or seven below, or eight or nine below, quite easily.

“What 95% does is it basically reduces that down – so by taking more shots off the higher handicap players, and fewer shots off the lower handicap players, it means there is a better distribution of success across the field.

“Believe it or not, it might sound like saying you’re saying ‘well, that’s great but why introduce this now?’

“It’s actually always been built within the CONGU system. It was just built in a way that was hidden. You didn’t see it. It was part of the way that a handicap was calculated, and why you only went up point one and you came down by a certain value depending on your handicap category.

“It’s nothing unusual. It’s just it’s now public facing. It’s not just us, the rest of the world are doing it as well. So it’s a global thing. The USGA have a great name for it. They call it Bonus For Excellence, which basically means, the better you are the less impact it has on your score. That’s why it is there.”

Does that help? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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.

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