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World Handicap System

We played on day one of the World Handicap System – so how different was it?

Steve Carroll and Dan Murphy wasted no time putting their new handicaps into action and posted an away score. How did they find it? And were there any teething problems? Let's find out
 

The flurry of attention around the newly installed board just outside the doors of Ganton’s pro shop told you this was no ordinary day.

Fingers rolled down numbers as players lined up their new handicap indexes and tried to work out the Course Handicap from which they’d be playing for the very first time.

The World Handicap System has finally arrived and we were out there on day one as the new global order got its first day in the sun.

One of the key elements of the new arrangements is the ability to put in a round that counts for your handicap record at any layout that has a course and slope rating.

So Steve Carroll and Dan Murphy swapped their usual surroundings of Sandburn Hall and Alwoodley to take on the challenge of Ganton’s renowned course and put their brand-new WHS indexes into action for the first time. Here’s how the day went…

World Handicap System

Why Ganton?

Steve: It’s a privilege to have one of Britain’s best courses on my doorstep – well, 45 minutes away – and there are few championship tests to match the former Ryder, Curtis and Walker Cup hosts. Ever since WHS was announced, I’ve been fascinated by the chance to play a round that would have a material effect on my handicap at a course that would demand my best game. Ganton’s perfect in that respect.

Dan: What Steve said. We wanted to play somewhere that would be in great condition at this time of year so that we could submit a meaningful score. Ganton is so good as a winter course – even after all the rain there wasn’t a hint of water underfoot and the greens were still firm.

World Handicap System

How easy was it to find out your Course Handicap?

Dan: Easy enough – it’s just a case of reading a table. A bit like working out when the next train leaves. Not that many of us do such a thing anymore. But the kind of thing that will quickly become second nature to regular golfers.

Steve: The chart is very straightforward – line up your index and look across to your Course Handicap. And there were plenty of boards around Ganton to find this out. But I have to admit a pretty epic fail here. I misread the table and actually put down a handicap that was a shot less than it could have been. The irony was, by the time I submitted my score, my index had changed on the handicap software and I’d been playing from the right number the whole time!

What did you do before you teed off?

Dan: Having established our Course Handicaps, we went into the pro shop to announce our intentions to submit a score for handicap purposes. You must do this – in some way, shape or form depending on the club in question – before you tee off. It’s a bit like saying ‘I do’ at the altar. Once you’re in, you’re in.

Steve: We carefully considered which tees to play from, and this is new. In my case, my Course Handicap exactly remained the same regardless of whether I played from the whites or the yellows. Given there was around 300 yards of difference between the two, I was very keen on moving a bit further forward. Previously, I would have just always headed for the whites. Now, it feels like there will be a bit of study and a decision to make before settling on the ‘correct’ markers.

World Handicap System

Did it make any difference to the way you played your round?

Steve: Once the first ball was struck, it was business as usual. I had a handicap and I played to it. Having said that, my mark didn’t really fluctuate from where it had been before the start of the World Handicap System. I imagine if I had fewer shots than expected then, psychologically, I would have felt somewhat different about it.

Dan: A little bit because normally I associate competition rounds with a little more pomp and ceremony. Here, it was just Steve and I. On the one hand, we weren’t playing the usual friendly stableford or matchplay game. On the other, I wasn’t at my home club on competition day.

Like all these things, though, you quickly get attuned to what you are doing and in this case having card in hand and holing out and all the rest of it.

world handicap system

What did you do when you finished?

Dan: In theory, we would have punched our scores in at Ganton and then awaited our handicaps being updated overnight. With some Day One teething problems, we are both going to take our cards back to our home clubs to be processed. I guess it will take a little longer than usual.

Steve: I rode by the home club to get it in the system (just couldn’t wait) and – given what I was reading on social media – was pleasantly surprised to see my score accepted immediately and my record update pretty quickly. This might be the only time I’ve had three handicaps in one day, though.

World Handicap System

Will you continue to put in scores from social rounds?

Dan: I definitely will. I am an odd case (in more ways than one) in that I play lots of golf at lots of different courses but almost no competitive golf. So I hope to get in the habit of submitting scores, which will give me a more accurate handicap. Any handicap system is only as good as the data you put in it.

And right now, the knowledge that only eight of my most recent 20 scores are going to count feels pretty generous and will allow me still to enjoy a round at a great course even if I have just carded a snowman on a par 3.

Steve: I play a lot of competition golf so it will be interesting to see whether I have the same appetite to hand in a score during a casual knock at my home club. I have my doubts. What I will do much more, though, is put in an acceptable score when I’m playing at different courses. The idea of playing a handicap round at the likes of the Old Course is utterly intoxicating.

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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