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whs changes 2024

Potential or ability – what does your handicap index really mean?

Is it a figure that shows how good you are, or how good you could be? We ask England Golf for a definitive answer on what a World Handicap System index reveals
 

You all know you’ve got a World Handicap System index, but do you really know what that number represents?

We’ve had more than 30 months to get used to our decimal points and the figure we see when we open our digital apps but there is still some confusion, when you factor in course and playing handicaps, about what those digits actually stand for.

I’ve been asked in the past, for example, if I could really class myself as a single figure handicapper if my course handicap was in double digits.

And while most of us knew our CONGU handicap was a measure of our potential, of what we could do out on the golf course if we had a good day, is that the same for WHS? Or is it all change?

I asked James Luke, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, to give us the lowdown on what our World Handicap System index means.

“Within the Rules of Handicapping, it’s about your demonstrated ability – simple as that,” he said. “The former CONGU system was about potential. We used to say, ‘if you play to your handicap three times a year then you’ve had a good season.

“With WHS, it’s about your demonstrated ability and the shots that you need to get around a golf course. If you fall short, then you haven’t played to your demonstrated ability for that round.

“And that’s really where the eight out of 20 scores comes in – because that’s what is producing your average score differential.

“While a lot of people like to say it’s like the American System, in truth there are elements from all the previous handicap systems around the world.

“It has been a big change for our clubs and golfers, as all scores have predominantly been competition focused and still now 90 per cent of our rounds are competition based, so it’s a big culture shift for us.”

What do you think about your World Handicap System index? Let me know with a tweet.

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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