World Handicap System – WHS Winter Golf

World Handicap System 2020 – WHS Winter Golf

The approach suggested by the World Handicap System is that acceptable scores for handicap purposes should be posted throughout the year.

However, this is not really feasible when winter courses are in play, especially courses which are not sand-based; the advice is that when course conditions are poor then it is not reasonable to be submitting qualifying (Acceptable) scores.

Regardless of the season, acceptable scores can only be submitted on a rated course (which would include a temporary rating where necessary).

If a Club does not have such a course (for whatever reason) then clearly such scores cannot be submitted.

Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping is solely for when there are temporary adjustments to a course for reasons such as emergency maintenance on a tee etc. and does not include a winter course.

So, if a club wants to offer Acceptable Scores during the winter period when winter tees are in use, then the course being played needs to have a rating, whether that is a full rating or a temporary rating.

A Club must apply for this rating and it is up to the appropriate County to provide this service (albeit at their convenience – they are all volunteers!).

Whilst the aim is to allow submission of Acceptable Scores all year, a level of realism is required on courses that are clearly sub-standard due to weather conditions (as they would have been in previous years).

This situation may not just be for winter, it would not be unreasonable, even in the Summer playing season, that a club could prevent the return of Acceptable scores (competition and social/General Play) if the course is not in a good condition – examples of this could be when the greens have been hollow-tined or heavily top dressed.

To sum up:

Acceptable Scores – Winter Competitions

To run Competitions and want scores to be acceptable for Handicap Purposes:

  • Competitions must be run over 9 or 18 Holes.
  • Rounds must be played in accordance with Rule 2.1 of the Rules of Handicapping Page 26.
  • Preferred lies are allowable under the guidance below.
  • Scaling up is allowed in accordance with Rule 3.2 of the Rules of Handicapping (Page 36/37).

If a Club cannot run Competitions that are acceptable for Handicap Purposes, it can still run Non-acceptable Competitions that can be set up using Club Software or Manually to record Scores and Winners.

The following procedure is quite permissible, and several Clubs are following similar ones.

Non-Acceptable Scores – Winter Competitions

To run Competitions where scores are not acceptable for Handicap Purposes, but where results can be processed, a neutral slope of 113 and a Course rating equal to the Par of the holes being played can be used.

This will mean a Chart to generate the Course Handicap is not required (i.e., your Course Handicap is your rounded Handicap Index).  The scores cannot be Acceptable for handicap purposes, but it does allow non-qualifying competitions to be run during this period (lockdown notwithstanding).

    • If your Club uses Software to run the competition you can follow the guidelines within the software to cater for unrated courses.
    • If your Club runs its competitions manually, you can use the Handicap Index as the basis for the calculation of a Course Handicap and/or Playing Handicap which should then be adjusted relative to the number of holes being played.

In answer to the questions that I put to CONGU regarding guidance for clubs running ‘non-qualifying’ rounds during adverse weather conditions CONGU say:

‘As this is not for a qualifying round, CONGU will not provide such advice – indeed, going forward, CONGU as an organisation will be changing and any handicapping advice/directions will be provided by each Home Union.  This reflects the change from the CONGU system to the WHS and no longer having the role of managing and changing/updating the handicapping system.

The sensible approach would be for clubs to have their winter course rated.  Clearly that will not happen quickly, but they might be able to speak to their County and have a temporary Slope Rating generated.

In terms of what might be appropriate, it is not possible to make a suggestion as each course will vary.’

So, what can we learn from these comments?

  1. Clubs ought to have their Temporary/Winter courses rated.
  2. Clubs, which do not have winter/temporary tees rated, however, are being left to their own devices when it comes to running ‘non-qualifying’ competitions during the winter period or other periods of adverse weather conditions.
  3. In many respects, as long as a club feels comfortable with the approach it takes in running these competitions, it really doesn’t matter to anyone else – the scores will not be used for handicapping, no handicaps will be reduced/increased, you simply get a competition result.

So, how are some clubs coping with Winter Tees?

I have come across several solutions that clubs have adopted to deal with running competitions over non-rated courses and list them below.

  1. Use Course Rating, Slope Rating and Par of tees rated for each gender closest to your club’s Temporary/Winter Tees.
  2. If you think these values are too generous, then you can adjust Handicap Allowances for a format being played, e.g., for individual competitions consider changing the 95% allowance to:
    1. 75%, when Winter/Temporary Tees and normal Putting Greens are in use
    2. 65%, when Winter/Temporary Tees and 4/5 Temporary Putting Greens are in use.
  3. Compare the yardages of your Winter/Temporary Course with your normal Course yardage and adjust the Slope Rating accordingly. E.g., if the course changes from 6000 to 5400 yards, that would represent a 10% reduction in length.  If the Slope Rating was 126, you could reduce it by 10% giving 113ish.  That might be too much, so perhaps reduce the percentage to 5%?
  4. Use 113 as the Slope Rating, keeping the Course Rating and Par of tees rated for each gender closest to your club’s Temporary/Winter Tees. One advantage of using 113 as the slope would be that players simply play from their Handicap Index (rounded of course) which would reduce the calculation issues.

A point, also, to remember, is that in Mixed Tee competitions, even if players tee-off from the same Winter/Temporary tee, if there is a difference in the Course Ratings or Points to play to Par, then a Handicap Adjustment MUST still be made to Player’s Handicaps who are playing the higher rated course.

England Golf have also issued guidelines on Winter Golf – England Golf Winter Golf Checklist:

You can download a copy of the England Golf Winter Golf Checklist by clicking on the Download Button below:

Guidance on the Preferred Lies Period

Preferred Lies – Model Local Rules E-2 and E-3.

In England, Wales and Scotland the Preferred Lies Period runs from 1st October to 30th April while in Ireland, the Preferred Lies period is from November 1st to April 30th.

Clubs can run competitions where scores are acceptable for handicapping purposes during this period when both Model Local Rule E-2 and E-3 are in force.

It is recommended that a Local Rule permitting preferred lies in the general area outside of the preferred lies period should be used only in extreme circumstances where scores will not be accepted for handicapping purpose (WHS Guidance document Appendix H).

The purpose of preferred lies as described in Model Local Rule E-3 is to protect areas of the course cut to fairway height or less.  This Model Local Rule allows players to lift, clean and place the ball within six inches in the General Area cut to fairway height.  It is recommended that the ball should be marked before lifting, although this is not necessary under the Rules of Golf  The ball must be placed in the relief area within six inches of the reference point.

However, it is not recommended that this Rule is routinely adopted for the General Area as a whole because it could give a player an unfair advantage by offering her/him free relief from an unplayable lie, e.g., a ball located behind a tree or under a bush.

There is another Model Local Rule, E-2, that may be adopted which allows balls to be cleaned in the General Area when conditions such as wet ground throughout parts of the course may cause mud to stick to the ball.

The purpose of Model Local Rule E-2 is to allow players to clean the ball in the general area (which would include the Rough) when conditions throughout parts of the course cause mud to stick to the ball.  This allows the ball to be cleaned and replaced and should be limited to those parts of the course where needed, not to the whole course. The ball MUST be marked before lifting and cleaning, unlike ‘Preferred Lies’,  and must be replaced on its original spot before playing.

During the Preferred Lie period scores may not be returned for handicapping purposes if any of the following local rules or restrictions apply: –

    1. Preferred lies in the general area or where the relief area exceeds 6 inches.
    2. The ball is lifted from the fairway and placed or dropped in the semi-rough
    3. The competition is over less than 18 holes but is not a 9 hole competition
    4. If the competition is played using winter tees or greens and a temporary modification to the course and slope ratings has not been approved by the area authority
    5. Where the use of fairway mats does not follow the rules provided in the WHS Guidance document Appendix H GH/2.

You can download a copy of this advice by clicking on the Download Button below: