Improve Your Game – New Course Handicap Formula Begins in 2020

handicap changes to world golf

Thanks to the handicap system golf can be played equitably by players of all abilities. There really is no other sport where the best player in the world can go head to head with any other golfer and as long as they have an official handicap the match will be fair.

Due to the course rating and slope numbers associated with each set of tees, course handicaps help balance competitive play and it is in this calculation that a significant change occurs in 2020 under the new world handicap system (WHS).

We currently have conversion charts which calculate our course handicap based on the slope number. When the slope number of the course being played is lower than 113, our course handicaps move down, when higher, we receive extra strokes above our handicap index. This keeps play equitable for all calibre of players.

The World Handicap System
The World Handicap System – Player Resources (Source: The R&A)

There is a significant change to be introduced under the world handicap system with an addition to the above approach. We continue to use the slope number for the first stage of the formula, then add the difference between the course rating and par. This is a formula that has been used in Europe for over twenty years and is well tested and provides the opportunity to conduct one competition for a field that play from multiple tees including both genders.

There are three key benefits of this added procedure.

  1. The change eliminates the significant complexity involved with scoring for multi-tee and mixed-gender competitions, and as a result, be beneficial from a game participation and engagement perspective.
  2. This is all that needs to happen to enable 36 stableford points to become the equivalent measure of whether a player has played to their handicap, irrespective of the course or set of tees played.
  3. It will make daily course handicaps and handicap scores more intuitive, thus eliminating the negative feedback often received for winning stableford points being in the mid to high 40’s.

We do expect some challenges initially as members understand the new calculation of their course handicap, but new conversion charts will consider the course rating and par of the set of tees being played and will be available well in advance of the introduction of WHS.

A player on 16.7, plays the white tees (course rating (CR) 69.0, par 71 (PAR), slope 120)

2019 course handicap, 16.7 x 120/113 = 17.7 (18)

2020 WHS course handicap 16.7 x 120/113 = 17.7
17.7 + (69.0 (CR) -71 (PAR))
17.7 -2.0 (Difference in CR-PAR) = 15.7 (16)

We will all need to get used to receiving less strokes if the course rating is less than the par of the tees being played, but if the rating exceeds par, then we will have a higher course handicap.

New Zealand Golf will provide education resource prior to the roll-out of the new system.

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