World Handicap System: 7 key questions answered

US golfer Phil Mickelson checks his scorecard on the 16th hole during his first round 63 on the opening day of the 2016 British Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland on July 14, 2016. Getty Images

World Handicap System: 7 key questions answered

Golf

World Handicap System: 7 key questions answered

The USGA and R&A announced a proposed World Handicap System.

Here are some questions and answers about it, via the USGA:

1. What is the World Handicap System (WHS) all about?

Golf already has a single set of playing Rules, a single set of equipment Rules and a single set of Rules of Amateur Status overseen by the USGA and The R&A.  Yet, today there are six different handicap systems used around the world.  Each is well developed and successfully provides equity for play locally, but each of the different systems produces slightly differing results.  The WHS will unify the six systems into a single system that will:

  • Enable golfers of different ability to play and compete on a fair and equitable basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world;
  • Be easy to understand and implement, without sacrificing accuracy; and
  • Meet the varied needs and expectations of golfers, golf clubs and golf authorities all around the world and be adaptable to suit all golfing cultures.

2. How will existing handicaps be used for the World Handicap System?

Existing scoring records will be retained and, where possible, be used to calculate a handicap under the WHS. For most players, their handicap will change only slightly as they will be coming from systems which are generally similar to the WHS. This will be dependent on many factors – including the number of scores available upon which the calculation of a handicap can be based.

3.  Will the World Handicap System impact the way the game is played in my country?

It is not our intention to try to force a change on the way that golf is played around the world or to try and remove the variations. The cultural diversity that exists within the game, including different formats of play and degrees of competitiveness, is what makes the sport so universally popular.

4. Does the World Handicap System have the support of all the existing handicapping authorities?

Yes. Each of the six existing handicapping authorities have recently gone through their own internal approval processes, and all of them have confirmed their support for the new system.  While the USGA and The R&A will oversee the WHS, the day-to-day administration of handicapping will continue to be the responsibility of the existing handicapping authorities and individual National Associations.

5. Have you consulted with golfers and golf club administrators about the World Handicap System?

We have solicited the opinions of golfers and golf club administrators all around the world via an online survey, to which we received over 52,000 responses. We have also conducted focus group sessions in five markets throughout Europe, the U.S. and South America. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive; for example, 76 percent surveyed are supportive, 22 percent undecided at this stage and only 2 percent opposed.

6. What is the timeline for implementation of the World Handicap System?

We are planning to make the WHS available for implementation by National Associations beginning in January 2020, after an extensive schedule of testing, communication, promotion and education. The education roll-out is scheduled to commence in January 2019.

7. What other details of the World Handicap System can you share?

Golfers will be able to obtain a handicap after returning a minimal number of scores – the recommendation being as few as three 18-hole scores, six 9-hole scores or a combination of both to comprise 54 holes. Handicaps will not lapse after a period of inactivity and the maximum handicap will be 54.0, regardless of gender. These elements are designed to clear a pathway into the game, enabling players new to the sport to feel more welcomed into the golf community.

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