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World Handicap System

WHS explained: Why has my handicap been cut so heavily?

Put in a really good score and you might have noticed an axe has been taken to your handicap. Confused? Let us explain
 

There has been a steady trickle of messages into my inbox since competitions really kicked off at the start of the month.

Although the exact circumstances vary, the sentiment of each email has been the same.

The story of woe is as follows: ‘I’m an X handicapper. I had a good score at the weekend. I’ve was surprised to have been cut by X number of shots. How has this happened? Why has my handicap been cut so heavily?’

Now, there isn’t a catch-all response but in investigating some of the queries a common theme has come up and so, if you find yourselves in this situation, this might be an answer for you…

World Handicap System explained: Our expert says

The question I’ll usually ask is: ‘How many scores are on your handicap record?’ Remember that your World Handicap System Index (the numbers that usually have a decimal point in there) is calculated by averaging your best eight scoring differentials from your last 20 scores.

When you hit 20 scores, that’s known as a complete record.

But lots of people don’t have that number on their record and this is where the fun and games start.

Your handicap will continue to develop until it contains those 20 scores and the number of score differentials that are used to calculate it varies according to the number you’ve played.

Here’s a handy chart from the R&A and USGA that should hopefully help explain it a bit better.

World Handicap System

So, let’s say you have four scores in your record. Only the best scoring differential will count towards your handicap (with an adjustment of -1).

Hopefully, you’ll now begin to see what happens if you’ve got limited scores to draw from and you go out and have a great day.

You may think you’re a 24 handicapper, but if you shoot 12 over and it’s the only score that counts towards your calculation, it shouldn’t be a surprise you’ve been heavily cut. (You also probably aren’t a 24 handicapper but that’s maybe one for the Angry Club Golfer…)

You’re going to see wide variability in your WHS index until you’ve put in enough scores that clearly demonstrate your ability over a period of time.

This doesn’t just affect the higher end of the scale, either. A colleague of mine, a handicap of three in the old days, was in plus figures on WHS D-Day last November because his record only contained a handful of scores and there was a very good number in there.

The lesson here is to put as many scores in as you can – whether that’s in competition or general play – to make sure your handicap can accurately reflect your game.

Once you hit the magical 20 number, you should find that it won’t vary as sharply and should start to reflect the ebb and flow of your form.

What do you think about the World Handicap System? Has it affected your handicap? How did you find Slope? 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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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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