World Handicap System – Overview and Time-frame

World Handicap System Overview and Time-frame

The World Handicap System (WHS) is ready to be launched in January 2020 and will provide golfers with a unified and more inclusive handicapping system for the first time.

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.

Developed by the USGA and the R&A in close coordination with existing handicapping authorities, the WHS will provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.
The table below lists the estimated implementation time-frames for a selection of countries:

Indicative Time Frame*Country
JanuaryArgentina, Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, Republic of Korea, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela
February – March - AprilHong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden
May - June - July – AugustPortugal
September - October – November – DecemberGreat Britain and Ireland

The WHS has two main components – the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.

The Rules of Handicapping are encompassed within seven Rules to inform administrators and golfers on how an official Handicap Index is calculated and administered, with some flexibility given to national associations based on how the sport is played and enjoyed in their region.

The Course Rating System, based on the USGA Course Rating System first adopted nearly 50 years ago and already adopted on nearly every continent, sets out a consistent method of determining a course’s difficulty.

Together, these components become the foundational elements in determining a golfer’s Handicap Index.

The game of golf is transforming to meet the needs of the modern-day golfer; modernizing the Rules this year was an important step forward in that regard and the World Handicap System will be another.

Rules of Handicapping books are being produced and will be translated and delivered through national associations.

In addition, the USGA and the R&A have developed a series of golfer-focused materials, including videos, infographics and posters, which can be used by national associations and shared with golf clubs for the benefit of golfers.

The World Handicap System includes a number of new terms and quite a lot of mathematics.

You do not need to worry too much about that, your Club’s Handicap Software will do everything for you.

You will, however, need to know what you have to do when you want to play a game especially under competition conditions.

Purpose of the World Handicap System

The purpose of the World Handicap System is to enable as many golfers as possible the opportunity to:

    • Obtain and maintain a Handicap Index
    • Use their Handicap Index on any golf course around the world
    • Compete, or play recreationally, with anyone else on a fair and equal basis

The whole purpose of the system is to provide equity for all players by creating a level ‘playing-field’ – enabling players of all abilities to have a fair and enjoyable game, with or against any other players.