World Handicap System - Understanding the Basics

As the world of golf moves towards a new handicapping system I wanted to put some information up for our members to have some awareness of the fundamental changes and how it will affect YOU as a golfer.

This will cover some of the basics of the World Handicap System, which will come into force on 2nd November 2020. I have written this as an easy to understand guide with the intention that everyone will know what these changes are.

Be assured we are working hard at Pottergate Golf Club to ensure that everything is in place ready for November and there is a smooth transition to the new handicapping system.

To understand the new handicapping system you need to know some basic terms. These are Course Rating, Slope Rating, Handicap Index, Course Handicap and Playing Handicap. I have provided an explanation of these terms below.

Course and Slope Rating

Every course is assessed a Course Rating and a Slope Rating.

The Course Rating is what a scratch golfer would expect to shoot on the course, much like the SSS currently is now.

The Slope Rating measures the difficulty of a course for bogey golfers relative to a scratch golfer. In other words, it measures the difference between what a scratch golfer should shoot on a course (Course Rating) and what a bogey golfer should shoot on a course.   So, where a scratch golfer playing round Pottergate may shoot 66 off the white tees, an 18 handicap may struggle to shoot 84 on average owing to the difficulty of the course, meaning that the slope is slightly ‘higher’.

All courses will have a slope rating between 55 and 155. The absolute average difficulty course where a bogey golfer (20 handicap) should shoot 20 shots above a scratch golfer has a rating of 113.

This means that if the slope rating of a course is 114 or above then you may get extra shots. If it’s 112 or below then you may get fewer shots.

Pottergate will have a rating of 128 from the White tees, 125 from Yellow and 123 from Red tees. You can find the link to Pottergate’s ratings here

Every course will have its own ‘slope rating’ and your handicap will change according to how difficult the course is. This will mean on an easier course you will be expected to go round in less strokes relative to your handicap index, and on a harder course in more strokes.

Every course is assessed in the same way and certain criteria such as length, bunkers, hazards, trees, and contours of the course (amongst other factors) all contribute to a course being more difficult for a bogey golfer.

Handicap Index, Course Handicap and Playing Handicap

There is now a difference between your actual handicap (Handicap Index) and what you will get on the course (Course Handicap).

Your Handicap Index, much like it is now, is your exact handicap to 0.1.

Your Course Handicap will be your handicap after your handicap index has been applied to a calculation to let you know how many shots you then receive. This figure will then be expressed as a whole number (the usual rounding up/down we are used to).

Every course will have a chart showing how many shots you will receive on the course, so you don’t need to do the maths every time you play! If you can’t find it, so long as you know your handicap index and the course rating you can work it out.

The actual calculation to work out your course handicap is as follows:

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

For example, a player with a Handicap Index of 11.6 at Pottergate, playing off the White tees, would calculate it in the following way:

11.6 [Handicap Index] x (128 [slope rating] ÷ 113) = 13.1398

Course Handicap = 13

Your Playing Handicap In certain competitions you have to reduce your handicap by a certain percentage, then this new figure becomes your playing handicap. This is much the same as things are now when you apply a reduction, but instead you work it out from your course handicap. Most singles stroke play competitions will now have a 95% handicap allowance.  You should check the terms of competition for allowances. You can find all of the new allowances here

Putting in a Scorecard

There is no difference with putting in a card as there is under the current system. You can put in recreational rounds so long as you sign in before you play, and there is no longer a barrier on ‘category 1’ handicaps being limited in how many supplementary rounds they can do (category handicaps will no longer exist). You must always play within the full rules if you are putting in a card and putt out on every hole.

There has been a misconception that every single round needs to have a card submitted. This is not true. Although you may want to put in cards (and we would encourage that you do) either if you are playing a serious game with a friend or playing a roll-up, it is not mandatory that every round goes in – so you can still have a friendly knock without worrying about your handicap.

Just remember the more cards you put in, the more accurate your handicap will be.

Cards need to be signed and submitted in the normal way. Please ensure you pre-register your round before you play otherwise your score cannot be counted for handicap purposes

How your Handicap Index will be calculated

Your best 8 scores out of your last 20 will be used to calculate your handicap. These will be calculated from your scores submitted under the ‘old’ system. There is no more “0.1 back”.

You need at least three scores to start keeping a handicap under World Handicap System and the more rounds you play, the more accurate it will be.

Therefore if you have not got 20 rounds, so long as you have at least 3 (i.e. 54 holes) then you will be given a handicap.

There is no time limit on how long these rounds remain valid for.

Your handicap will update overnight and your new handicap will be available from the next day. You should therefore always check your handicap before any matches and competitions.

I hope this guide has given you enough of an understanding to know what the main changes are and how the new handicap system will work. However, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask one of the Handicap Committee about these changes and we will do our best to answer your questions.

Many Thanks

Jon Pinney