USGA, R&A release World Handicap System details, target 2020 debut


USGA, R&A release World Handicap System details, target 2020 debut


USGA, R&A release World Handicap System details, target 2020 debut

Golf will soon be getting a unified handicap system.

The U.S. Golf Association and R&A announced Tuesday details for the proposed World Handicap System, which would provide golfers everywhere with a consistent measure of playing ability.

The World Handicap System is designed to encourage all golfers to carry a handicap, enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.


The new system is scheduled to be implemented in 2020 after a two-year transition period.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA CEO Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

Here are the details of the World Handicap System, per the USGA’s release:

  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.
  • A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a
    recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.
  • A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries.
  • An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.
  • Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.
  • A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only).
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

Currently, there are six different handicapping authorities: the USGA, Golf Australia, Council of National Golf Unions, European Golf Association, South African Golf Association and Argentine Golf Association.

Under the proposal, the new system will be governed by the USGA and R&A and administered locally by national associations around the world and the six existing authorities, which represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a handicap.

“We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible and more enjoyable as a sport and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said. “We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

According to research done in 15 countries, 76 percent of the 52,000 respondents supported the new system while just 2 percent were opposed.


More Golfweek