World Handicap System 2020 – FAQs

The New World Handicap System FAQs Updated December 2019


When does the New World Handicap System come into force? Though many countries are planning to adopt the new system in January, the system will go live in other parts of the world throughout the year to accommodate different implementation plans and variations in the golf calendar. GB&I are scheduled to go live on 2nd November 2020

The table below lists the estimated implementation time-frames for a selection of countries:

Indicative Time Frame Country
January Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, Republic of Korea, US, Uruguay and Venezuela
February – March – April Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden
May – June – July – August Portugal
September – October – November – December GB&I – 2 November 2020
How Does the New System Work?  The new World Handicap System will be average-based, using the best 8 of the last 20 scores on your record.
What will happen to my existing playing history when WHS comes into effect?  The scores you currently have in your record will be used to calculate your new WHS Handicap Index which will automatically transfer across for day one of WHS.
Will handicaps change on 1st January 2020?  2020 will be a transition year as countries adopt the WHS to meet their golfing season and administrative requirements.

The exact change-over date for GB&I will be 2nd November 2020.

Is my handicap going to change (significantly)? The amount your handicap may change by depends on a number of factors: consistency and frequency of play for example. During testing it has been found that most players’ new handicap index will be within 1 stroke of their current CONGU handicap.
What happens to my handicap if I am not a member of a club? Your handicap can only be maintained and used if you are a club member.
How long do my 20 scores last on the new system?  Scores will not expire.

However, to maintain an accurate handicap it is recommended that players should- return at least 20 scores over a 2-year period.

Will I be given a new CDH number?  It is highly unlikely that a new CDH ID number will be reissued. This information will be released as soon as possible.

How Do I Get a World Handicap Index?


How do I get a World Handicap Index?  Handicap Indexes are only available to those players who are playing members of an affiliated club.

Once you have found a club to join you can be allocated a Handicap Index over 54 holes if you are new to golf. If you are a returning player it may be that we can calculate an initial World Handicap Index from your previous CONGU record.

How are handicaps allocated?  A player will still need to return 54 holes worth of scores to be allocated an initial Handicap Index
How long do I have to submit my first 3 cards or 54 holes for Initial Handicap Allocation?  A new player has no time limit to return the first 54 holes worth of scores, but they won’t hold a handicap index during this time.
Once I have been given a Handicap Index, what happens as I don’t have 20 scores yet?  Following your first 54 holes worth of scores, your Handicap Index will be allocated, then each time you add a new score it will be recalculated using an adjusted calculation to give you an Index equivalent to that of the best 8 from 20 principle. Further information to follow later in the year.
Will it still be a mix of 9 and 18 holes and does it still have to be at my home club?  Any combination is acceptable over 9 or 18 holes. However, it will be up to your home club if they will accept scores from another venue for initial allocation.
If I can enter one of my first cards for initial handicap allocation at another club, will it still need to be certified as having been done correctly by the other club?


Yes: all cards will need to be checked and signed by another member.
How will WHS prevent handicap manipulation? Event organisers still have responsibilities to manage and administer events which are fair to all competitors. Under WHS, if a player fails to submit a score the handicap committee will investigate and take appropriate action. The committee has the option to apply penalty scores, reset a handicap index, consider disciplinary procedures, or withdraw a handicap index for an agreed period (following relevant processes and procedures).
If my handicap index is calculated to one decimal point, what will be my exact handicap? A player’s handicap index is calculated to one decimal place. When the course handicap is calculated it will be rounded to the nearest integer.
What is the maximum course handicap if the maximum handicap index is 54? The course handicap will likely exceed 54.0 if playing a course with a slope rating of 114 or higher. There is no maximum course handicap.
If I think my handicap index is wrong what should I do? First of all, speak with your club as they have the option to complete a handicap review if an index is not representative of playing ability.
Do I enter competitions using my handicap index or my course handicap? Competition entry should be based on your handicap index. This will be clarified in the terms of competition.
Can I use my handicap index abroad?


Yes – you will be able to convert your handicap index to a course handicap for the tees you play from overseas. If pre-registered, these scores can be returned to your home club for handicap purposes
As a golfer who plays a very small number of competitions, I suspect I will not have 20 scores recorded over the last two years.  Can I still have a handicap index? Those players who do not have the full 20 scores at transition will have a handicap index allocated by the same process as an initial handicap would be allocated and developed. Moving forward you will be able to submit both social and competitive scores to build up a fully developed handicap record.

Players are encouraged to return sufficient scores during 2020, either in competitions or by supplementary scores, to reach the magic 20 scores. This will create a handicap index indicative of current playing ability.

I’m a member of an overseas club – where will my handicap be based/managed? You will nominate a home club to administrate your handicap as you do now. We recommend this is in the country of your main residence and where you play most golf.
For how long are my last 20 scores valid? And what happens if I have a break in membership? Scores will not expire.

Your handicap index will only be valid if you are a member of an affiliated golf club.

Do I have to be a member of a golf club to have WHS handicap? Yes – a recognised handicap index is a benefit of being an affiliated member.
My current handicap is 11.6. What will be my new handicap index?



Your transition handicap will be dependent on your ‘best eight from last 20’ scores returned from the previous two years. During the late summer of 2020, golfers will be able to see their handicap index displayed alongside their current handicap and see how it varies with each score entry. A transition calculation is available for those with less than 20 scores in their handicap record.
My current handicap is 11.6. What will be my new handicap index? Your transition handicap will be dependent on your ‘best eight from last 20’ scores returned from the previous two years. During the late summer of 2020, golfers will be able to see their handicap index displayed alongside their current handicap and see how it varies with each score entry. A transition calculation is available for those with less than 20 scores in their handicap record.
What will happen to my handicap index if I have a really good round? The score will very probably become part of the ‘best eight calculation and you will likely see a reduction in your index.

An additional ‘exceptional score’ reduction maybe applied depending on how good your score was compared to your current handicap index.

As a plus handicap golfer, how do I calculate my course handicap? Your handicap index will have a minus value and the same calculations will be applied using the tables or other resources to find your course handicap.
Who is my best contact if I have a WHS or handicap index query? The first point of contact will be your home club.  They should be able to assist as they have been educated and provided with various WHS resources. They will have access to the county handicap adviser for further advice if needed.
How do I calculate my course handicap?  Clubs will either provide a relevant table or the golfer can use a free online calculator or app.

Or you could do it manually using the formula:

Handicap Index X (slope rating ÷ 113) = Course Handicap

How do I find out who sits on my club’s handicap committee and what role they fulfil?  A handicap committee must consist of at least three people. The majority of the committee must be club members. A club secretary/manager can advise on names. It is their job to ensure WHS rules are followed and accurate handicap indexes are issued.
Will I use my full course handicap or are there allowances for different formats of play?



There will still be allowances for events which have been revised and are based on historical playing data. These revised allowances will provide for equity across all formats of play giving all participants the opportunity of success and are, within GB&I, mandatory for event organisers to follow.
I’m new to golf: How do I obtain a handicap index? Score cards totalling 54 holes need to be returned to the handicap committee (3×18 holes, 6×9 holes or a combination of both). An initial handicap index will then be awarded.
I’m struggling to play to my current handicap from white tees.  Will the new system make things even more difficult for me? Not at all. With an averaging system, your handicap will be responsive to your current ability. You should also be encouraged to play from a shorter tee set (providing it has a rating value), as the system will calculate a course handicap from your handicap index for that set of tees.

Do I Have to Submit Every Score for Every Round I Play?


Do I have to submit every score for every round I play?  No: you will have to submit all singles competition scores, and you will have the choice to submit social/recreational scores. All scores will have to be pre-registered.
What is an acceptable score?  This is the same as the current “qualifying score” under CONGU UHS. An acceptable score will be any singles competition score and any preregistered social score returned from any tee that has a course and slope rating for your gender.
What is the difference between a Supplementary Score and a Preregistered Social Score?  They are the same thing, just a new name. Under WHS Supplementary Scores will be known as “social” or “recreational scores”.
What formats are acceptable for competition scores?  Singles – Medal, Stableford, Par/Bogey
What happens if a player pre-registers a round for handicapping purposes but fails to return a card?  The score will be classed as a no return. However, should the score be known, it will be posted by the Committee. If unknown, the Committee has the discretion to apply a penalty score if no return was for the purposes of manipulating a handicap.
Can random cards that have not been pre-registered be submitted for handicap purposes?  No.
How do I register and return away scores? Through the sign-in system at the club you are visiting, you will be able to pre-register before play and submit your scores on your return to the clubhouse.
How can my work/pub golf society access and use the WHS calculations?


In short, they can’t. WHS handicap indexes will only be available to affiliated golf club members. However, if an individual playing in a society outing is also a member of a golf club that person can pre-register with his club an intent to hand in a card from an event played according to the rules of golf.

How Do Playing Conditions Affect the Score?


How do the playing conditions affect the score? The system includes a playing conditions adjustment, known as a “Playing Conditions Calculation”, and this will look at how players have performed compared to their expected performance on that golf course for that day. The calculation will take place at the end of each day’s play.

Scores from a singles competition or pre-registered social/recreational score should be entered as soon as possible at the conclusion of play on that day.

Scores should be entered as soon as possible… What would happen if a score is not returned ASAP, and what time will be allowed? 


I am thinking not just of the tardiness of players but also technical problems with computers, phone lines, power cuts etc.  

Scores should be entered before the end of the day (approx. midnight local time). Any scores not entered before that time will still be acceptable, but will not be used as part of the CCA calculation. However, the CCA calculated for the day of play will be retrospectively applied, when your score is posted.
How is the PCC calculated if only one player enters a competition or submits a social/recreational score that day?  A Playing Conditions Calculation can only be calculated if at least 8 scores from players with fully developed handicap indexes have been returned on that day.
Will there be the equivalent of the two CSS’s calculated for home/away players?  No. 

Will Parts of the CONGU System Be Incorporated in the World Handicap System?

Will there still be an Annual Review?  Yes: The Annual Review will be an important part of the system.
Will Buffer Zones still exist?  Buffer Zones will not be part of the World Handicap System.
Can my handicap lapse?  No, as long as you retain membership of an affiliated golf club designated to manage and maintain your handicap, your handicap will remain valid.
Will there still be competition status handicaps? No: a WHS Handicap Index cannot “lapse”.

Committees will govern eligibility for entry in the Conditions of Competition.

Will there still be reduction only competitions?  No. 
What about preferred lies, temporary greens etc., will they still be in use and will you still be able to run competitions whilst they are in force?  This is still being discussed but it is possible that similar rules to CONGU will be in use.
Will Standard Scratch Scores be used in the new World Handicap System?  No: the new handicap system will see the end of SSS. The USGA Slope System will be introduced instead.
What is a Slope Rating?  A Slope Rating is the difference between the course rating for a “scratch” golfer and the course rating for a “bogey” golfer multiplied by a factor. The Slope Rating indicates the difficulty of a golf course for the “bogey” golfer relative to the “scratch” player.

Note: The R&A will soon publish a monthly article featuring key elements of the new World Handicap System. Further information on Slope Ratings will be included.

What is the range of the rating values? Slope rating values range from 55 through to 155.

With a Slope Rating of 113 indicating a Neutral Course.

Where do I find the Slope Rating for a Course?  The Course and Slope Ratings for any course will be displayed at the club. Scottish Golf will soon be writing to every affiliated golf club with confirmation of their USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating.
Will the Slope Rating be Reflected in the Handicap Calculation?  Slope Rating is part of the system and will be used as part of the Course Handicap and Score Differential calculations.

More information to follow soon.

Will we have a different slope rating for each tee at our club?  Yes: Each tee has a separate Course Rating and Slope Rating.

Each tee will therefore have a different “Handicap Calculation Conversion Table” that is used for players to look up their course handicap for the day.

Questions asked by Club Committees…


When will all this come into use? We need to get more scorecards printed.  The aim is to have this in place for the first quarter of 2020.

There will be no requirement to have new scorecards printed for the launch: however, when you do get them printed in future you will need some additional information on them; such as the USGA Course Rating to a decimal point (replacement for SSS) and the Slope Rating.

Is there a Committee Checklist that we can refer to? England Golf have published a Committee Checklist that you can download by clicking on the link below.

England Golf WHS Committee Checklist

What information will clubs be required to display?  Clubs will need to show players the USGA Course and Slope Ratings, as well as giving them access to the course Handicap Calculation Conversion Tables.
When will we receive the information on Slope Ratings and Conversions to Course Handicaps?   During 2019, if there is a need to get this sooner please feel free to contact England Golf –
Should clubs wait until 2020 to redesign or reprint scorecards? We would advise clubs to wait until they have their USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating information before having a lot of new scorecards printed.
Will the club have to advertise their Slope Rating and Course Rating on their website?  This will be up to the club, but the club will be required to publish any CCA’s calculated on days of play.
Will we need to buy new software?  No: the software that is currently in use will be adapted to function with the new system. Some of the interfaces may change, but you will still need to use a licensed software provider.
How much will all this cost clubs? Will Scottish Golf help with the expense?  It is hoped that the cost to clubs will be kept to a minimum; and we are working with the R&A to ensure this is the case.
Will we still need a Handicap Committee and Handicap Secretary?  Yes: the club will still need to appoint a Handicap Committee to manage and maintain members handicaps e.g. carry out handicap reviews, adjust handicaps where necessary, and ensure that scores are being submitted.

Where possible, we would encourage clubs to try and maintain the same

committee for the next two years. This will provide continuity for education and transitional purposes.

What restrictions will you be able to place on handicaps for club competitions?  As with any competition, the Committee can have a set of Competition Conditions which may include a handicap limit. However, all players must have the opportunity to access competition golf.
Our club pro manages all the members’ handicaps as we don’t have a handicap committee:  are we OK to still do this? No – under terms of affiliation each affiliated club must have a handicap committee made up of at least three members. The majority on any committee must be golf club members. Your current situation needs resolved swiftly as it is in breach of current CONGU rules
As a club pro, can I have a handicap index? Yes – following the same WHS Rules in returning scores for handicap allocation.
As a club we are keen to inform our members about WHS.  Will England Golf provide additional WHS resources we can use? Yes. Between now and transition to WHS England Golf will provide resources, information and workshops for club representatives. They will then be able and equipped to cascade information to their members.
What is a bogey golfer?


This is a term used when carrying out a course rating. It represents the ability of a golfer (20 handicap for men, 24 for women) on a course of average difficulty.
How will WHS affect the CSS value?



A daily Playing Conditions Calculation (similar to CSS) is calculated from all scores from all tees during that day. Scores must be returned as soon as possible and before midnight. The PCC is applied to the handicap calculations for all players, not just those playing from specific tees.
As a club, do we need any special equipment or hardware for WHS?


Clubs must employ a system which allows golfers to register before play and return scores. Ideally, this should be via an online system. Conversion tables to allow a handicap index to be translated into a course handicap must be available in a prominent place.
As a competition secretary, do results need to be processed on the day of the event or can I do them later the next week? Results should be processed promptly to ensure scores have been entered correctly. However, WHS does not rely on a competition being closed to update handicap records.
What are ‘Terms of Competition’?


It is a rule of golf that every committee publishes terms of competition prior to their events. This will include dates, frequency, entry process, format of play, handicap allowance, tees used, process of deciding ties and other information. Full details are available in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, Committee Section 1B and 5A.
With WHS appearing to be much more automated, will there still be a need for handicap committees? Handicap committees at every club are vital for the integrity of any handicap system. The requirements and responsibilities of a handicap committee are listed in the WHS rules.
How long will it take our committee to calculate handicap changes? The system will automatically update at midnight.

This is done on central software, not by the club. However, handicap committees will still be able to complete relevant reviews and communicate these to members.

Will golfers retain their current CDH number?  Yes.
How do I calculate a score differential?


The system will complete the calculations.  However, England Golf will provide further details of the actual calculation method as part of the WHS workshop roll-out.
Will we still be using Systems such as Handicap Master/ Club

V1 and Intelligent Golf?

England Golf are in discussion with ISVs

(Independent Software Vendors) about licensing under WHS. It is our aim that golf clubs will see little or no disruption to handicap services.

Competing and General Play


For multi-round events such as a club championship, would a player use their initial handicap index for each round? It is recommended that the handicap index at the start of the competition is used for each round of the event. This must be stated in the terms of competition. The final decision rests with the committee.
Will buffer zones still exist? No – buffer zones will not be part of the World Handicap System.
Can players still N/R and gain a 0 .1 increase?


There are no 0.1 increases under WHS. A hole that is started but not completed will be recorded as a net double bogey. Any holes not played will be allocated as a net par. The adjusted score is added to the player’s record.
What formats of play are defined as acceptable for handicap purposes? Competition or social scores from medal, Stableford, par/bogey and max score – as a single golfer. Team and pairs formats are currently not acceptable. If other formats are played outside GB&I and are acceptable in the jurisdiction in which they were played, then they will also be acceptable for your handicap record.

Please note: additional playing history from other formats/events may be used during annual reviews by the handicap committee.

Can we continue to use Winter Handicaps outside our playing season? No. From 2 November, 2020 WHS will be the handicap index used by all golfers at all times.
What happens if I do not complete my round?


If you are playing a nine-hole round – then all 9 holes must be played for the score to be included in your record.

If playing an 18-hole round you must complete at least 10 holes for the score to be returned. Any holes not played will be allocated a net par or net par plus one, before the score is processed.

Our club only offer qualifying events during the summer months.

Will this still apply?

After the introduction of WHS, clubs may still have a recognised playing season. However, as long as the course is playing to its measured length and the rules of golf are followed, players will be able to return scores throughout the year from authorised formats.
What do I need to do when I arrive to play golf?


Register/sign in as normal.

Utilise the resources available to determine your course handicap for the set of tees being used.

Check the handicap allowance according to the terms of competition or format of play (i.e. full handicap, percentage of handicap) and calculate your playing handicap for that event. Once play is complete, return your score for processing in the system.

Do I have to record all scores? Players should submit all singles competition scores and have the ability to pre-register and submit scores from social games played in accordance with the rules of golf. Accuracy of a player’s handicap index will be improved the greater the number of scorecards submitted.
When playing other courses can I submit a score card to my home club? Yes – you can record all pre-registered scores that follow the rules of golf and are authorised formats of play.
How can my work/pub golf society access and use the WHS calculations?


In short, they can’t. WHS handicap indexes will only be available to affiliated golf club members. However, if an individual playing in a society outing is also a member of a golf club that person can pre-register with his club an intent to hand in a card from an event played according to the rules of golf.

If you would like a copy of this WHS FAQ please click on the button below to download a copy:

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