The New Rule For Course Handicaps

world handicap changes

In April New Zealand Golf introduces the new world handicap system (WHS) which brings some change to the system we currently use. WHS is mainly based on the USGA system currently in operation but it introduces some new features which will help competitions become even more equitable.

I have always considered that our handicap system makes our sport unique and very special and we are fortunate that players of all ages and abilities can compete together and have a fair match.

The change that I believe will be the most talked-about amongst our members is the new course handicap that we will all experience. A handicap index is our measure of ability and no matter where we are a member, indices of the same number represent the same ability player.

When we play, our index is adjusted based on the slope number of the set of tees being played and if over the average of 113 our course handicap moves out and if under we move down.

I like to use the example of a scratch golfer and an 18 handicap golfer touring the country and playing a match on different courses. Before we introduced slope, no matter what course or set of tees played the scratch golfer would always give his opponent 18 strokes for the round.

Regardless of whether the course was 4,500 metres long or 6,500 metres. But slope helps keep the competition equitable, so if they play a course with a slope number of 135 the higher handicapper will receive 22 strokes but on a course with a slope number of 100, the difference will be 16 strokes.

The introduction of WHS adds another layer of calculation to the course handicap formula. The first stage is just as we have now with the slope number in use, however, the next calculation considers the difference between the course rating and the par of the course.

The result will be that if we play a set of tees with a course rating two strokes less than the par, then the course handicap will reduce by two. If the course rating is two higher than the par, then the course handicap will be two strokes higher.

There are two results from this new calculation which will benefit play. The first is that 36 stableford points represent playing to your handicap. Currently, on a par 72 with a course rating of 69, the accurate result when playing to your handicap is 39 stableford points.

But the real benefit of this change in the course handicap formula is the inclusivity that it will provide. A Golf Club could run one stableford competition for all members, with multiple sets of tees being played.

The elite in the club could play the back tees, the veterans the forward tees, the women the yellow tees and one competition can be fairly contested. New conversion charts will consider slope number, course rating and par and will be posted in a prominent place just as they are now.

Along with the course handicap change, the key WHS changes are:

  • The best 8 of your most recent 20 scores will be used
  • There is a new method of reduction for exceptional scores which stays part of your calculation for the next 20 scores to be entered
  • There is a limit on the outward movement of a Handicap Index, with the maximum change an increase of 5.0 over a rolling 12 months
  • The maximum Handicap Index for both genders will be 54.0
  • The new Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) is a daily analysis of scores and may move a course rating up or down based on scores that would normally be expected and, if applicable, is applied in calculating the scoring differentials of all players
  • Handicaps are updated daily
  • 9-hole scores will be scaled up to an 18-hole score for handicap purposes
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