Who or what is CONGU?

CONGU is an acronym of the Council of National Golf Unions Limited, which is a company incorporated in England that is limited by Guarantee.

The objects of the Company are to hold the licence for the World Handicap System, to licence the National Governing Bodies to use the World Handicap System in their jurisdictions only, to undertake such duties as shall be allotted to it from time to time by the National Governing Bodies, and maintain contact between the National Governing Bodies.

The Board of Directors, who are Guarantors, comprise of two representatives from each of the Bodies representing England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales together with two representatives from the R&A Rules Limited. In addition to this there is an appointed Chairman and a Secretary.

Whilst the Board has overall responsibility for the Handicap Licence, much of the detailed work is carried out by the National Governing Bodies, and by the Technical sub-Committee and Course Rating sub-Committee of CONGU.


First Steps

On 14th February 1924 The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Andrews convened a conference in York attended by representatives of the four Men’s Golf Unions of Great Britain and Ireland. The outcome was the formation of The British Golf Unions Joint Advisory Committee, an organisation that later became The Council of National Unions, with the objectives of formulating a definitive system of calculating Scratch Scores and designing a uniform system of handicapping based on Scratch Scores.

The Committee duly prepared The Standard Scratch Score and Handicapping Scheme in 1925 and it became operational in Great Britain and Ireland from 1st March 1926 for male golfers.

The Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) was formed in 1893 with one of its major objectives being to provide a national system of handicapping for ladies. Its handicapping system operated from then until 2004 and during that period the Ladies’ Golf Union was the Handicapping Authority for ladies in Great Britain and Ireland and for affiliated Overseas Unions and Associations.

Milestones and changes

On the 21st March 1960 the Committee’s name was changed to the Council of National Golf Unions (“CONGU”) comprising representatives of The English Golf Union, The Golfing Union of Ireland, The Scottish Golf Union, The Welsh Golfing Union and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews
In 1983 CONGU introduced a new handicap scheme which drew on some aspects of the Australian system. The revision of 1989 introduced the concept of the ‘Competition Scratch Score’ (CSS) to adjust the Standard Scratch Score (SSS) to take into account variations in playing conditions, better or worse, on any competition day.

In the 1990’s the USGA Course Rating System was adopted by three of the four men’s Unions. The GUI, SGU and the WGU used it to rate their courses while the EGU opted to develop its own Course Rating system which remains in use although England Golf will start to rate courses for men under the USGA system from 2014. Other developments in the 1990’s included the Handicap allowances for Match Play. These had previously been included in the Appendices to the Rules of Golf but became part of the handicapping system. CONGU gave the Unions discretion to make the recommendations mandatory, which the GUI and SGU then did. They are now mandatory for all forms of golf recognised within the Rules of Golf. The variable buffer zone of one, two, three or four strokes, depending on handicap category was also added in the 1993 revision. In the 1997 revision the Stableford Points Adjustment (Clause 19) was introduced (for handicap purposes only) to deal with scores which were adversely affected by one or more particularly bad holes. Initially Unions were given discretion to apply this change but in 2001 it became mandatory for categories 2, 3 and 4.

The original LGU system was based on an average method rather than the incremental one of CONGU. In 1998 the Ladies’ Golf Union introduced a new handicapping system more similar to the system used by the men, the basis of which was that a player’s handicap should more closely reflect current playing ability and potential. In 2001, CONGU and the LGU agreed to work together, resulting in the emergence of the CONGU® Unified Handicap System (“UHS”). It was passed by CONGU in September 2003 and by the LGU in January 2004. The joint system for men and women became effective from 1st February 2004.

2004 to Present

The Constitution of CONGU was amended in 2004 to include the four Ladies’ Home Associations and the LGU, reflecting the joint system. On 1 January 2008 CONGU’s operations were transferred into a Company limited by guarantee, The Council of National Golf Unions Limited (“CONGU” or “CONGU LTD”). Golf is changing with the times and the traditional model of weekend club competitions for men and weekday/evening competitions for women is not sustainable in a modern society with increasing demands on family time. Recent changes to the CONGU® UHS have focussed on giving clubs the tools to enable them to offer their membership more opportunities to submit scores for handicapping purposes and to encourage clubs to adapt their club fixtures to reflect the changing golf environment and demographic trends. Supplementary Scores are now an integral part of the CONGU® UHS and Nine-Hole Qualifying Competitions are proving very popular in many clubs popular in many clubs particularly with senior golfers and within some women’s sections

The detail of the CONGU® UHS is copyrighted and the acronym CONGU is a registered Trademark in connection with all aspects of golf handicaps calculated and administered by the System.

Only Clubs and Organisations affiliated to one of the National Unions or Associations that govern amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland (and other approved overseas organisations that have Affiliate status) are permitted to issue and maintain CONGU® Handicaps.

Overseas Affiliates

The following Countries/Organisations have elected to use the CONGU Unified Handicap System:
Kenya Golf Union, Ivory Coast Golf Federation, The Fajara Club – Gambia, Malta Golf Association, Tanzania and Zambia Ladies, British and Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels, Uganda Golf Union, Mauritius Golf Federation, Bahrain Golf Association, Sudan Golf Association, Saudi Arabian Golf Federation, Ghana Golf Association, Egypt Golf Federation, Qatar Golf Association, Botswana Golf Union.