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World Handicap System

Five things you need to remember about the World Handicap System

The return of golf across the UK means it’s time to refresh your memory on the new global way forward. England Golf’s Gemma Hunter is on hand with a quintet of quick tips
 

How many of you are still struggling with terms like Course Handicap and Slope? if you’ve forgotten some of the key elements of the World Handicap System, you can find everything you need to know in our in-depth guide.

Here, though, Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, reveals five key things we need to remember as we continue to get used to the new ways…

Your World Handicap System Index and Course Handicap are not the same thing

You have two numbers you need to remember. One is your Handicap Index, which is the exact calculation of your handicap. This is equivalent to what was your CONGU handicap.

This number [usually expressed to a decimal point] is the average of the best eight of your last 20 scores – in terms of the score differential.

So if people ask ‘what’s your handicap?’ That’s your Handicap Index and that’s how we compare each other now.

Let’s look at Course Handicap. Whenever you play on a golf course, wherever you are, your index is going to change and you’re going to have a different Course Handicap.

It looks at the difficulty of that golf course for the scratch and bogey player and works out what your Course Handicap is based on the slope rating of the golf course you are playing.

Your Course Handicap can change depending on the course, or even the tees from which you are playing

As we mentioned above, your Course Handicap could be very different to your actual WHS Handicap Index depending on the course you are playing.

Let’s say you are playing your home golf course: your white tees have a slope rating of 145, your yellow tees are 125, and your red tees (for men) are rated at 95. You’re going to have three very different Course Handicaps over those golf courses.

You’re going to lose shots on the red colour, you’re going to gain a few on the yellow and you’re going to gain quite a lot on the whites.

It’s all about the difficulty for the two players – scratch and bogey – playing that particular golf course.

We’re not comparing Course A to Course B. We’re comparing the same golf course but for two players of different ability.

Your handicap is no longer based on playing one single course. It is recalculated and that’s why we call it a Course Handicap. It can change for every course you play.

There are so many different ways you can check what your Course Handicap is going to be on any particular course.

You can do it via the My England Golf app, via the club boards, or you even manually work it out if you know the calculations.

Your Course Handicap is of primary importance because that’s how we work out where you are going to get your strokes.

So, in short, you know what your Handicap Index is, you’ll choose the right tee for your game on that particular day, work out your Course Handicap, and go out and enjoy your round of golf.

You receive a Playing Handicap during club competitions but it doesn’t affect the score that goes forward for handicap purposes

The playing handicap is purely for competition purposes. You may find the score you enter into the computer, because that score is based on your Course Handicap, will be different to what is shown on the results sheet.

That’s to be expected. It’s going to be slightly less if you play a medal, for example, because that format comes with a 95% allowance.

But don’t worry too much about the Playing Handicap. It’s purely for competition results purposes.

If you’re recording your gross score, we will use your Course Handicap to work out your new Handicap Index.

Social rounds can count towards your handicap

The idea of WHS is you have more opportunity to return scores for handicap purposes. It’s not limited to competition scores. It’s not limited to scores played at your home golf club, as it was with supplementary scores.

You now have the ability to choose to return a score in general play whenever you wish – either home or away.

As long as you are playing a measured golf course, and you pre-register your intent to score before you go out and play, you can return a score from anywhere.

You can always check your handicap, and much more, on the My England Golf App

We have an app with a range of features – primarily the ability to look at your handicap record. You have full access to scores and it highlights which scores are included in your handicap calculations.

It shows you handicap trends. It has a Course Handicap Calculator, which allows you to select the golf course you’re going to play, the relevant tees, and will do the calculation for you. It tells you what the Course and Slope ratings are and reveals, based on your Handicap Index, what your Course Handicap is.

The Friends functionality allows you to set up a group of people who you might normally play with, look at their records, and send notes and messages around.

If you have any questions about the World Handicap System, contact me via email or Twitter and I’ll look into finding the answer for you.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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